Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
Anybody who's owned a combination TV/VCR, or its multiheaded offspring, the TV/DVD player/VCR, knows that the VCR eventually breaks, and fixing it is not easy. Happily, the DVD part seems a lot more robust, which should reassure prospective buyers of the Westinghouse VK-40F580D, which is one of the few larger-screen flat-panel TVs with a built-in DVD player. In our testing, the player performed up to spec. The TV's picture quality was a pleasant surprise, with solid black levels, accurate color, and no major hiccups. Of course, the VK-40F580D will cost a bit more than a low-buck LCD and a drugstore DVD player, but the convenience of the built-in player should appeal to people, perhaps parents of DVD-addicted children, who want it all in one integrated package.
The VK-40F580D isn't going to floor anybody with its styling, but it's probably smart enough to pass wife acceptance muster. The highlight is the little disc slot on the front panel below the screen, which is accompanied only by the discreet eject key. A bezel of standard glossy black frames the screen, and surrounding the silver disc slot is a swath of perforated matte black, behind which the speakers reside. The downside of the set is the cheap-looking black plastic stand, which doesn't swivel, although it does seem sturdy enough.
Including the stand, the VK-40F580D measures 38.9 inches wide by 28.6 inches tall by 9.5 inches deep. Like most flat panels, you can mount it on the wall, but be aware that a protrusion on the rear, which is necessary to accommodate a spinning disc, brings the depth sans stand to a substantial 6 inches.
The same crowded Westinghouse remote control ships with the VK-40F580S, and we didn't find much to like. Cryptic symbols serve in place of words such as "menu" and "guide," there's no dedicated aspect ratio key, and the return key doesn't function as we expected; instead of backing one level out of the menu system, it changes channels. We did appreciate the direct-access keys to get to various input types, and the well-integrated DVD controls, which include an eject button at the top of the clicker, but that's about it.
The company did tinker with its menu system, and in general, it's an improvement. The submenus layer atop one another as you move through them, selections were highly legible, most items seem intuitively placed, and we liked the text explanations of various menu items. In typical half-baked Westinghouse fashion, however, some of the explanations were absent, displaying filler information such as "Help text for Color Stretch" instead.
The standout is the built-in DVD player. Insert a disc and it spins immediately, with the TV switching to DVD mode and playback starting without you having to press any buttons. It is a bit confusing that you have to remember to press the dedicated DVD "menu" key as opposed to the main TV menu key, but other than that, the player is very well integrated; the cursor keys, for example, default to controlling the DVD menus when you're in DVD mode. Technically, if you're keeping track, this is an upscaling DVD player since it scales the standard-definition discs to fit the high-definition screen.
Like most modern big-screen LCDs, the VK-40F580D has a native resolution of 1080p, which works out to 1,920x1,080 pixels. Of course, at this screen size you won't get much benefit from the extra pixels.
A nice range of picture controls is available, starting with four presets that cannot be adjusted and a fifth mode, called "custom," that's independent per input. There are three color temperature presets as well as another custom mode that lets you tweak white balance, although it doesn't have as many options as we'd like to see. More advanced controls are sparse, including just Dynamic Contrast and Color Stretch, and we left both turned off for best quality.
Only three aspect ratio choices are available on this set, although we were pleased to see that the principal mode for wide-screen material, called "standard," showed the entire 1080 resolution image with no scaling or overscan.
Other features include the capability to reduce standby power consumption--although there's no energy saver mode for when the TV is turned on. Since the standby "energy saver" mode is actually default, which is a good thing, we used its numbers for our the Juice Box below, but in case you're wondering, disengaging that mode increases the standby consumption to a hefty 23.87 watts, compared with 4.7 in the default position, all for a marginally faster turn-in time. The set lacks picture-in-picture but, unlike most low-buck HDTVs, it does include the capability to view digital photos stored on USB thumbdrives.
Connectivity, which the company distributes to either side of a sort of spine on the rear of the set, is fairly sparse compared with higher-end models, although we can forgive the company somewhat since you won't need to connect a DVD player. In an age when every TV seems to have three HDMI jacks, the VK-40F580D has just two. A lonely component-video input is also on tap, and there's a pair of AV inputs with composite-video--no S-Video input jacks are present on the VK-40F580D. An antenna input, a VGA-style analog PC input (1,360x768-pixel maximum resolution), an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio output round out the back-panel jack pack. No front- or side-panel connections are included.
Picture quality on the Westinghouse VK-40F580D is surprisingly solid for a low-priced LCD. We noted relatively deep black levels and accurate color after calibration, and even the built-in DVD player performed well.
Our standard calibration took advantage of the set's custom color temperature controls, but the results were less satisfactory than they would have been if the company included full controls. The VK-40F580D's Warm color temperature preset measured extremely green although, as the Geek Box indicates below, it did hew fairly close to the 6500K standard. We were able to remove the greenish tinge with those controls, but the grayscale was not as linear as we'd like, tending toward blue green in bright areas and reddish in dark. Still, it was better after calibration since green wasn't a problem. Check out our complete picture settings for the details.
The comparison for this test involved a few similarly sized and priced models, including the Philips 42PFL5603D, the Toshiba 42RV530U LCDs, and the Vizio VP422 plasma. For our reference we also included the higher-priced Samsung LN52A650 LCD, and for our formal image quality tests we chose The Eye on Blu-ray played via the PlayStation3.
Black level: We were impressed by the depth of black the Westinghouse produced as we watched this extremely dark film. During the scene when Sydney stares out the window at night through the rain, for example, the darkest elements of the image, including the letterbox bars, the building wall in the foreground, and the wood of the window all appeared relatively deep. Only the Vizio plasma TV came close among our like-priced comparison sets, but its blacks were still lighter, and even the much higher-priced reference Samsung LCD was just a bit darker. As usual, deep blacks helped differentiate details in shadows; so for instance, the dark buildings themselves during the pullout showing the city were relatively detailed.
Color accuracy: The Westinghouse also scores well for relatively accurate color post-calibration. The grayscale issues we noted above were still apparent, for example in the reddish tinge to black areas, but that was still preferable to the obvious bluish tinge seen on the Toshiba and the Philips, for example. Sydney's delicate facial tone as she lies in the hospital bed, or when she stares at the different person's reflection in the bathroom mirror, appeared natural enough, a testament to the solid grayscale in midbright areas. Primary colors were OK as well, although we did detect a hint of bluish in intense green areas, such as the evergreen tree spouting from the floor in an office and the plants in the park. Color decoding was spot-on, so we were able to get decent saturation, which was augmented as always by the better-than-expected black levels.
Video processing: As expected, the Westinghouse resolved every detail of 1080 resolution sources. It did fail to properly deinterlace 1080i film-based sources, according to our test patterns, but as usual, it was difficult to spot this failure in program material.
Uniformity: The screen of the VK-40F580D review sample we observed exhibited average uniformity across its surface. The right side of the screen, especially toward the edge, appeared brighter than the rest, a difference that was visible in flat fields such as the shots of nighttime cityscapes. The corners were relatively even, however, and no prominent bright spots were noticeable. Off-angle viewing was better than either the Philip or the Toshiba, which both became more discolored when seen from either side, although all three seemed to lighten black areas at the same rate as we moved off-angle.
Standard-definition: When subjected to our standard tests using an external DVD player, the set resoled every detail of the DVD format, and details in the stone bridge and the grass looked relatively sharp. When it came to removing jaggies from moving diagonal lines and a waving American flag, the Westinghouse fared about average compared with the other sets in our test. Its noise reduction feature performed very well, cleaning up nearly all of the noise in shots of sunsets and skies when we engaged the highest setting. We also appreciated that 2:3 pull-down detection kicked in quickly and effectively.
PC: Past Westinghouse displays handled 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution sources via the VGA input, but the VK-40F580D does not. As the manual indicates, the maximum resolution we achieved was 1,360x768, which looked OK, but was plagued by the characteristic softness of scaling in text and other areas. Via the HDMI jack, the display delivered every detail of 1,920x1,080 according to DisplayMate, performing as perfectly as we'd expect of any 1080p flat-panel, but going digital monopolizes one of the two HDMI ports, so we'd really like to see full resolution via the analog PC input.
DVD player performance We don't think many people will expect optimum picture quality out of a built-in DVD player, but the one in the Westinghouse did well according to our tests. It performed 2:3 pull-down processing well, cleaned up jaggies nicely in video material, and passed the full resolution of the DVD format.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6070/6563||Good|
|After color temp||5915/6409||Poor|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 251K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 510K||Poor|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.647/0.331||Good|
|Color of green||0.265/0.608||Average|
|Color of blue||0.148/0.06||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Y||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Westinghouse VK-40F580D||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||246.81||96.55||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.36||0.14||N/A|
|Cost per year||$79.30||$32.79||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Poor|