With the Australian release of the Xbox 360 - and, according to Microsoft, the 'HD Era' - just around the corner, demand for displays that support high definition signals is set to sky-rocket. The ViewSonic N4060W is one such HD-ready contender vying for your bankroll. A price tag of AU$4399 makes it the cheapest 40" LCD television currently on the market, but there are a few important pitfalls to consider before committing to a purchase.
The N4060W's construction is for the most part unremarkable. The chassis measures 1015mm (W) x 755mm (H) x 280mm (D) and weighs 33kg (27.4kg without base), which is portly but similar to its competitors. On the other hand, unlike competing offerings (particularly the Samsung LA40R51B and the Sony Bravia KLV-V40A10), the N4060W and its mostly plastic bezel is fairly bland in the looks department. It's far from an eye-sore, but the issue is certainly worth considering given the amount of lounge-room space the TV consumes.
Installation of the panel is simple, since the display is already equipped with a tabletop stand, integrated speakers and a tuner. A wall mounting kit is also available as an add-on, however, the positioning of the video connectors is bound to cause problems. This is because said connectors are recessed within a compartment on the rear of the unit, which would be difficult to access if the panel was flush against a wall. Conversely, those using the tabletop stand will find the connectors easier to access than if they ran vertically across the bottom of the chassis, as seen on most LCD and plasma displays.
Irrespective of the mounting method adopted, we were disappointed at the lack of video connectors on the side of the panel, as these would allow users to conveniently hook up consoles or camcorders on an ad-hoc basis.
The remote control is fully-featured and well-designed, but we did find it to be slow to respond at times, even with a fresh set of batteries. Further, none of the buttons are backlit, which can be an issue during evening viewing.
Given the price of the unit, it'd be easy to shoe-horn the N4060W into the 'low-end' category. Thankfully, one look at the panel's specifications sheet completely defies this generalisation. Its got a hearty native resolution of 1366x768, a low 8ms response time, a 1000:1 contrast ratio and a brightness rating of 500cd/m^2. Thus, on paper, the N4060W is on similar footing with Sony's new Bravia KLV-V40A10 that currently comes at an AU$1400 price premium.
The panel is also equipped with an HDMI digital input, which is far superior to any other home theatre interface and is fast becoming a mandatory feature of HD-ready displays. Its other video connectors include D-Sub (for interfacing with a PC), 2x Composite, 2x S-Video and 2x Component.
Disappointingly, the panel is hobbled by an analogue TV tuner, so upgrading to a digital set-top box is a must. The display is more than capable of accommodating digital TV, as it supports both SD and HD signals, specifically 480i, 576i, 720p and 1080i.
Finally, those with a larger than average lounge-room should note that the viewing angle of 170-degrees horizontal and 170-degrees vertical allows for a comfortable viewing experience from multiple angles.
We ran the N4060W through a gauntlet of tests, hooking it up to a digital set-top box, a DVD player and a Microsoft Xbox games console. For TV viewing, configuring the tuner to pick up all channels is mostly painless, with the auto-scan completing its motions within around 10-15 minutes.
The default picture settings revealed some immediate image quality issues. Particularly, colours appeared to be overly saturated and washed out, an issue that's most noticeable with warm colours such as yellow, red and orange. Skin tones are also unnatural by default, and it's difficult to detect fine details in darker scenes thanks to poor contrast performance at the low-end of the colour spectrum.
Thankfully, a little tinkering with the contrast, brightness and colour settings mostly resolved these issues, albeit an optimal picture is never fully attained. Yet for most users, the N4060W's lower price should make up for the drop in image quality, provided you take the time to tweak the aforementioned settings correctly.
As far as integrated speaker systems go, the 20 Watt set offered up by the N4060W showed above-average quality in most of our tests. Regardless, if you're going to drop close to AU$4500 on a new TV, you'd do well to couple it with a dedicated sound system.
It's far from perfect, but the ViewSonic N4060W represents great value for money for those looking to jump on the HD bandwagon without taking out a second mortgage on their home.