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Editors' note (March 4, 2010): The rating on this product has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of 2010 models. The review has not otherwise been modified. Click here for more information.
Much like Vizio, budget TV brand Westinghouse has decided to capitalize on the usual energy-efficiency of small-screened LCDs. Its "greenvue" line, which includes the SK-H640G series, is said to surpass Energy Star by 20 percent. That's not a very high standard yet, however, and according to our tests, the 32-incher, while among the most efficient of its kind, will save you at most a few bucks a year over similar TVs. Compared with those TVs, it also came up a bit short in the picture quality and features departments, but simple its design and control scheme could appeal to bargain hunters fed up with a typical HDTVs' complexity.
We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 32-inch Westinghouse SK-H640G, but this review also applies to the 26-inch Westinghouse SK-26H640G. According to their specifications, the two models are identical but for screen size, so they should exhibit very similar picture quality.
Despite the "green" marketing, the Westinghouse SK-H640G series comes dressed in only glossy black, although a small gray strip along the bottom edge does provide a subtle accent. The set is more compact than many of its low-buck brethren, and we also approve of the looks of the oval-based stand, although sadly it doesn't swivel.
The little remote seems cheap, and its loose battery cover fails to alleviate that impression. The buttons are grouped somewhat logically, but ease-of-use is spoiled by their small size and cryptic icons. One saving grace is the ability to directly access different input groups via dedicated buttons.
Speaking of cryptic icons, Westinghouse made the unusual decision to base its menu system around a row of often arbitrary symbols along the top of the screen, thankfully supplemented by yellow text names. Our favorite is the almost whimsical tube of mercury that represents, yes, color temperature (it's blue in the above image to signify "cool"). We wouldn't mind this simple arrangement, which seems more appropriate to an entry-level TV than the complex systems found on many competitors' models, if the company had included actual numbers along with the bar graphs representing levels for items like contrast and brightness. As it stands there's no easy way to dial in a particular setting, aside from counting pips on the bar.
Like most entry-level LCD TVs the Westinghouse has a native resolution of 1,366x768, or 720p, as opposed to the 1080p resolution found on step-up models. Of course, at this screen size the benefits of 1080p are negligible, except with computer sources, so we don't consider this feature omission a big deal. Nonetheless it's worth mentioning that unlike most 720p LCDs we've reviewed, the SK-H640G series cannot accept 1080p sources (although it can handle 1080i; see Performance for more details).
That wacky menu system hides a sparse selection of picture controls. Five presets are available but you can only adjust the one labeled Custom, which is not even independent per input. Worse is the fact that changing a parameter (like Brightness) when you're in another mode causes the set to revert to Custom, which erases whatever custom settings you have. This arrangement, combined with the Westinghouse's lack of numeric indicators as mentioned above, makes it one of the least-friendly TVs to adjust that we've encountered in a while.
Westinghouse neglected to include a slider for the backlight, instead restricting its control to three positions labeled Bright Room, Medium Room and Dark Room. Aside from the three color temperature presets, no advanced picture controls are available. Most sets in this price range, by contrast, at least offer controls for noise reduction and film mode, and most have significantly more.
Four aspect ratio controls are available for both standard- and high-def sources. The "1:1 mode" option with HD sources minimizes overscan, showing as much of the picture as possible, so we recommend using it unless you notice interference along the extreme edges.
The Westinghouse offers standard connectivity for the entry-level breed, with two HDMI and one each PC and component-video jacks, in addition to an RF input, and an optical digital audio output. The side panel adds an AV input with composite video.
The Westinghouse was certainly not among the best-performing LCDs in its class, exhibiting light black levels and issues with both standard- and high-def video processing. On the other hand, despite a paucity of controls, its color remained a strong point.
As we mentioned above there isn't much you can do with the Westinghouse from a calibration standpoint. As a result, the Dark Room power setting and Movie picture preset weren't very far from what we could achieve by tinkering with the available controls and the Custom setting. Color temperature in the Warm preset came quite close to the standard--a good thing since no further such controls are available. Our adjustments did improve gamma slightly (to an impressive 2.28 overall, versus the goal of 2.2) but otherwise we didn't change much.
We compared the Westinghouse directly to a few other entry-level LCDs we had on-hand, including the LG 32LH20, the Panasonic TC-L32X1, the Samsung LN32B360, the Sharp LC-32D47UT, the Sony KDL-32L5000, the Toshiba 32AV502U, and the Vizio VO302E. We also employed our trusty Pioneer PRO-111FD as a reference--obviously, it shouldn't be compared to any of these LCDs. Our Blu-ray of choice for most of the image quality tests in this comparison was the superb-looking "Baraka" played from our Sony PlayStation3.
Black level: In dark scenes it was obvious that the SK-H640G couldn't deliver the depth of black seen on most of the other sets in our comparison. The eclipse in Chapter 20, the letterbox bars throughout the film and the black background of the credits at the end all appeared lighter on the Westinghouse than on any of the others aside from the LG and the Panasonic--although the Vizio was pretty close. As always the differences became less obvious in the dark areas of brighter scenes, but we could still make them out.
In its favor the Westinghouse managed a respectable level of detail in shadows, as evinced by the relatively natural-looking shaded temples in Chapter 21, for example. Of course shadows and dark areas still looked less realistic overall thanks to the lighter blacks.
Color accuracy: In brighter scenes the Westinghouse performed well in this department, with natural-looking skin tones from the subway riders and the tattooed bather, for example, and primary and secondary colors that hewed close to the standard. Green was the one exception, as seen in slightly blue-biased jungle brush in Chapter 7, but the difference wasn't nearly as drastic as we saw on the Sharp, and wouldn't be apparent outside of a side-by-side comparison.
The set's biggest color miscue came from the blue cast to black and very dark scenes. Only the Panasonic and LG had it worse.
Video processing: Westinghouse tripped up a bit in this area. We noticed jagged edges along some lines, a moire pattern of crossed lines in the stairs of Tiananmen Square in Chapter 18, and minor flashing in the base of a pillar in Chapter 20. The Toshiba and Sharp TVs showed similar artifacts, but none of the other sets did. The problem only occurred in 1080i mode, so we recommend that SH-H640G users set their HD output devices to 720p mode instead. As we mentioned above, 1080p sources are not an option
The Westinghouse doesn't perform much overt processing, such as such as the dejudder seen on higher-end LCDs, and since it has 720p resolution our motion resolution test isn't valid. We expect it would perform about the same on that test as other 60Hz displays, however, and as usual we didn't notice any motion blur in our viewing.
Uniformity: The Westinghouse's screen remained relatively even across its surface, but its off-angle performance was near the bottom of the pack. When seen from positions other than the sweet spot, the SK-H640G series washed out about as quickly as LG and the Panasonic and more quickly than the others.
Bright lighting: Like most matte-screened LCDs, the Westinghouse performed well under bright lights, attenuating ambient light admirably. It was no better or worse than any of the other sets in our lineup, which all have similar screens.
Standard-definition: The Westinghouse was among the worst TVs in our comparison at processing standard-def sources. It managed to deliver the full resolution of the DVD format, but details in areas like the grass and stone bridge on our test disc looked softer than on any of the other displays. It also had issues removing jaggies from some of the moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag. Alone among the TVs in our comparison the SK-H640G series lacks a noise reduction control, and while it appeared that some sort of automatic NR was at play in our test--the video noise in the skies and sunsets was slightly reduced on the Westinghouse compared to the "Off" NR settings of the others--there was still plenty of noise and, in any event, we prefer to have some control. In the plus column, it did handle our 2:3 pull-down test.
PC: Via both HDMI and VGA the Westinghouse performed as expected, delivering the full resolution of 1360x768 sources. Our one complaint was the difficulty in finding the right balance between slight softness and minor edge enhancement via VGA; we ended up with a touch of the latter.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6047/6496||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||154||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.641/0.331||Good|
|Color of green||0.27/0.592||Average|
|Color of blue||0.146/0.057||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Pass||Good|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of the 26-inch Westinghouse SK-26H640G, but we did test the 32-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Westinghouse SK-32H640G.