We've reviewed a lot of flat-panel LCD HDTVs, and as with most products, we've noticed a consistent price gap between no-name models and name brands. The 32-inch ViewSonic N3260W is an exception. Like Dell, ViewSonic is known for its computer monitors, so people might trust one of its TVs over a brand they've never heard of. Unlike Dell's 32-inch W3201C, the ViewSonic N3260W is priced at the same level as many of the no-name brands: less than $1,000 at some online merchants.
ViewSonic's designers went the all-black route with the N3260W's exterior. The relatively thick frame around its screen has rounded-off edges and bottom-mounted speakers. The clean look is interrupted only by the prominent ViewSonic, HDMI, and SRS Surround logos, as well as a nondimmable green LED. On the right side of the set, you'll find a headphone jack and a column of buttons to control basic functions. Including the stand, the N3260W measures 32.3 by 25.6 by 9.1 inches and weighs 48 pounds.
The remote gets the job done with little fanfare, although it has a few functions we appreciate. We especially like its four direct-access buttons for inputs, a couple of which double up; selecting sources is a relative breeze. Though the button arrangement is generally well thought out, you'll find a number of apparently useless keys. A set of eight buttons atop the wand, with labels such as STB and VCR, would seem to allow the clicker to command other devices, but the manual makes no mention of programmability and lists no infrared codes. There are even useless play, record, and rewind keys at the bottom, along with two unlabeled buttons that, again, don't seem to do a thing.
The ViewSonic N3260W has all of the features we expect on an LCD TV, starting with the federally mandated ATSC tuner. There's a picture-in-picture mode with inset and side-by-side options that offers more flexibility than many we've seen, including the ability to adjust the transparency of the inset image. The set's selection of
Along with independent input memories, ViewSonic includes two preset picture modes that can't be adjusted. There are four color-temperature presets, with Warm coming closest (but not close enough) to the standard. The adjustable backlight controls overall light output, and turning it down improves black levels, but as with many other LCDs, its setting isn't saved individually for each input.
The N3260W has a fairly standard input selection, with a single HDMI jack; two component-video inputs; two A/V inputs with S-Video; a VGA-style PC input with a recommended resolution of 1,360x768; and two RF inputs (one for antenna and one for cable). Both the HDMI and PC inputs have separate audio inputs, and there's an audio output along with an RS-232 port for custom installations--a rarity among LCD TVs. Of course, we'd like a second HDMI jack, as found on the Dell W3201C, and side-panel inputs would be nice, but we don't expect either of them at this price.
In the lab, we adjusted the ViewSonic N3260W for optimum performance in a darkened room and compared it against a couple other LCDs we had on hand: the Samsung LN-S4051D and the Sharp LC-37D40U. The less expensive, 32-inch N3260W couldn't compete against the other two in terms of delivering deep blacks; the letterbox bars and shadows under the docked ship on the King Kong DVD, for example, appeared noticeably lighter than on the other two. We also saw significantly less detail in the ViewSonic's shadows; the face of the cabbie and the boxes along the dock were obscured by the darkness, while the other two sets appeared more detailed in these areas.
We were impressed, on the other hand, by the ViewSonic's relatively clean image. As the camera pans over the harbor during the ship's departure, the night sky looked smooth and relatively realistic, with natural transitions from lighter to darker areas and little of the noise or false contouring evinced by other sets we've seen.
In terms of color, the ViewSonic N3260W turned in relatively accurate primaries, but its overall color temperature was worse than that of many LCDs we've tested (see the geek box). In King Kong, the inaccurate color temperature translated into slightly off-looking skin tones and other areas. As Anne (Naomi Watts) is caught looking at Jack (Adrian Brody) in her compact, the highlights in her face and neck appeared just a bit paler than they should have, while his white shirt was significantly bluer. During a later shot aboard the ship at night, Carl's (Jack Black) black hair was also tinged too bluish.
The ViewSonic N3260W's video processing for standard-def performed relatively well, with quick 2:3 pull-down detection and sharp details, but we thought it could have used some noise reduction. In noisy shots of the sky, for example, it did a worse job of smoothing out the fuzzy-looking motes and other artifacts.
High-def sources seemed relatively impressive. We appreciated the crisp details in an ESPN2 broadcast of a White Sox game, from the clods of dirt around home plate to the bits of chalk that sprang up from the cleats of Jim Thome as he beat out a throw from the second baseman. As usual, we saw many of the same image characteristics we witnessed from the DVD, although the lighter blacks were much less noticeable, naturally, during the bright game. We paid close attention to the ball as it was pitched and didn't notice any trails or lag, but then again, we've seen few such signs of response-time issues in LCDs we've reviewed recently.
We also checked out the N3260W's 1:1 aspect-ratio mode, and indeed, it perfectly resolved the 720p resolution pattern from our HD-signal generator via HDMI. Of course, on this 1,366x768-native-resolution display, the 1,280x720 image was surrounded by black bars on all sides, so we doubt many viewers will want to take advantage of this mode. Like most 1,366x768 displays, this set is much happier with 720p sources; 1080i material appeared noticeably softer via HDMI, so we recommend you set your HD gear to 720p.
Although we wish its color was more accurate and its black levels deeper, the ViewSonic N3260W delivers an otherwise commendable picture for an LCD in this price range. Its balanced mix of features sweetens the deal, making it a compelling alternative to like-priced 32-inchers from less familiar brands.
|Before color temp (20/80)||8,898/9,400K||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||± 2,469K||Poor|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.642/0.339||Good|
|Color of green||0.265/0.619||Average|
|Color of blue||0.144/0.055||Good|
|DC restoration||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||No||Poor|