How low can flat-panel prices go? The WinBook 46D1 answers that question--at least as it pertains to 46-inch LCD-based HDTVs--with a $1,300 price tag, beating just about everything in its size range (this week at least). You've probably never heard of WinBook, and if you have it's because of its PC business, but the company applies its brand to LCD TVs now, too. The 46D1 may skip a few features and cut a few corners, especially in the styling department, but it has everything most HDTV watchers will need. Against the competition, the WinBook 46D1 outperforms the better-featured Vizio GV46L HDTV, for example, and represents a compelling bargain.
The look of the WinBook 46D1 comes across as more generic than many other competing HDTVs. The black frame around the picture is matte as opposed to glossy--which is fine with us but does cut down on pizzazz a bit--and the rounded-off corners lend the cabinet a more-pedestrian look. A silver border rings the all-black face of the TV, with perforated black plastic below the screen that extends around to the sides and top. A WinBook logo and a blue LED are the only accents on the front.
WinBook includes a matching silver stand with the 46D1, and you can of course detach it for wall-mounting. With the stand attached, the 46D1 measures 46.1x33.7x9 inches and weighs 82.9 pounds; without the stand, the TV itself is a relatively chunky 5.3 inches deep. The WinBook 46D1 uses the same remote as the Vizio HDTVs, although a couple of the keys are labeled differently. It's as cluttered as ever, and again we wished for some kind of illumination and more differentiation between keys. Worse, the remote control was quite unresponsive; we had to press keys more than once to get a response in many cases, which became annoying really quickly. The Input key is nonfunctional, but we were able to select inputs using the direct-access keys on the remote.
The WinBook 46D1 lags a pace behind many other HDTVs in the features race. A native resolution of 1,366x768 enables it to resolve every detail of 720p HDTV sources; all sources, whether HDTV, DVD, or computer are scaled to fit the native resolution. As a bargain model, the WinBook lacks the 1080p resolution that's becoming common nowadays.
An ATSC tuner for grabbing over-the-air high-definition broadcasts anchors the 46D1's list of conveniences. There's no picture-in-picture mode, however--in a classic case of misplaced jargon, the manual indicates that the nonfunctional PIP view and Zoom keys are "reserved for future use." We were disappointed to find that the set wouldn't change aspect ratio modes with high-definition sources; it does allow you to cycle through four choices with standard-definition sources.
The 46D1's picture adjustments do not include any preset picture modes--such as "sports" or "vivid"--but we did appreciate that its picture memories are independent for each input. As with many newer LCDs, you can control the backlight (and as usual, the backlight control is not independent per input) to achieve a better depth of black. There are also three color-temperature presets, of which we found Warm surprisingly close to the 6500K standard. Unlike the Vizio LCDs, the WinBook doesn't allow fine control of color temperature. There's also an item in the Settings menu labeled "Power Management" that offers a choice of Normal and Energy Saver, but we couldn't detect any difference between the two, so we left it in the default Energy Saver position.
Around back, the WinBook 46D1 uses the same input design as Westinghouse's LCDs: a column on the back of the set with about half the ports on either side. There are a few less ports than on many Westinghouse HDTVs, although connectivity will still be ample for most users. The biggest missing link can be found in the number of HDMI ports: the 46D1 has just one, whereas most big-screen LCDs have two. There are two component inputs, however, along with a PC input (1,360x768 recommended resolution), one A/V input with composite and S-Video, an RF antenna input, an analog audio output, and an optical digital audio output. Strangely, there are nooks to either side of the panel that seem designed for side-panel jacks, but they only contain blank plastic inserts.
We were surprised (in a good way) by the quality of the WinBook 46D1's picture compared to other big-screen LCD TVs we've tested recently. Its depth of black was solid, and its color was mostly accurate. It certainly had its faults, like an overly blue grayscale after adjustment, substandard off-angle performance, and disappointing PC-monitor performance, but they seem easier to overlook at this price.
As we set up the WinBook 46D1's picture for optimal performance in our dark room, which entailed reducing its light output from a blinding 150+ footlamberts to our standard 40, we noticed a few things. In its Warm preset, the color temperature of the WinBook 46D1 came very close the NTSC standard of 6500K. Unfortunately, when we attenuated light output the image became somewhat bluer, although it was still fairly close (we did not perform a service menu-level calibration since we expect few buyers in this price range to spring for one). We also noticed that, when setting the sharpness control, any setting below 5 resulted in too much softness with 720p material, whereas 5 and up introduced edge enhancement. We preferred the look of the sharper, albeit edge-enhanced image, but we wish we didn't have to choose between two evils. For a complete list of our picture control settings, click here or check our the Tips & Tricks section.
During setup, it also became apparent that the 46D1 didn't perform as well with 1080i sources as it did with 720p. Via the HDMI input, we noticed some instability in still 1080i images; onscreen graphics and menus from discs, for example, vibrated slightly. 1080i also looked softer on the WinBook than 720p did; the difference was noticeable in The Wild Blu-ray disc, for example, during a zoom out of the jungle canopy when the leaves in the trees appeared somewhat softer than on the other sets in the room. We chose to do our evaluations in 720p and recommend that 46D1 owners set their output devices to 720p as well.
After setup, we sat back to see how the WinBook handled Tears From the Sun at 720p from our Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player. (While The Wild, a Disney animation, looks spectacular on just about any HDTV, we always evaluate with live-action films because they can be much more demanding.) We had a few like-sized, albeit more expensive, flat-panel HDTVs on hand for comparison purposes: the Vizio GV47LF HDTV, the Panasonic TH-50PH9UK, and the Pioneer Pro-FHD1.
Our first impression of the picture with program material instead of test patterns was a good one. Compared to the Vizio LCD, the WinBook was definitely capable of producing a deeper color of black. The difference was most apparent in the letterbox bars above and below the picture, but we also noticed in numerous other shadowy scenes, such as the nighttime jungle at the beginning of Chapter 2. The WinBook's depth of black wasn't as good as either of the two plasmas, but for an expensive LCD it was certainly up to par. We also noticed it outperformed the Vizio in terms of shadow detail. When Bruce Willis silences the girl at the beginning, for example, the WinBook revealed more of the texture of his black glove and more definition around the wrinkles on his ash-covered knuckles than the Vizio did. Both of the plasma TVs were better than the WinBook, however.
The WinBook 46D1 did get bluer when we reduced light output, which hurt its otherwise accurate color. The blue grayscale was most evident when we looked at skin tones. During a close-up of one of the aid workers in Chapter 3, for example, her skin looked noticeably paler and washed-out compared with on the other sets. Her white shirt also took on a blue tinge. On the other hand, we appreciated the 46D1's accurate primary colors; the green jungle and the men's matching fatigues looked quite natural. Color decoding was also very good.
Signs of the edge enhancement that we noticed on test patterns also appeared in program material, although they were subtle. On one of the soldiers' uniforms, for example, the mesh stood out more than on the other displays, with harder edges that appeared a bit less natural. The difference was more visible with text, such as the disc's menus or its Korean subtitles, which evinced more exaggerated edges.
The WinBook's picture appeared less impressive than many LCDs when seen from an angle as opposed to straight on. It washed out, becoming lighter, and when we moved beyond a certain point, the color also shifted to become redder. Uniformity, on the other hand, was fairly good on our review sample; the sides of the image looked a bit brighter than the rest, but there was no blotchiness or other major issues we've seen from some LCDs. We also appreciated the relative lack of false contouring.
With standard-definition sources, the WinBook 46D1 turned in a pretty good performance judging from our standard suite of tests from the HQV disc. It resolved every line of the DVD source--although we did detect some flicker with still images--and did an excellent job of smoothing out jagged edges in diagonal lines. It also engaged 2:3 pull-down detection quickly. In the negative column, the stone bridge looked pretty soft until we increased the sharpness control to about 5, a point at which we observed some unwelcome edge enhancement. Though the 46D1 lacks a control for noise reduction, it did eliminate some of the noise in the difficult, low-quality sky and sunset scenes. It fared worse on noisy scenes with motion, such as HQV's roller coaster, and overall we'd definitely prefer to have a control we could adjust according to the quality of the source.
We also tested the WinBook 46D1 as a PC monitor and the results were a bit disappointing. On the plus side, the panel handled the recommended resolution of 1,360x768 well, with no overscan, but everything looked soft, especially text. Checking out the patterns in DisplayMate, we confirmed that the 46D1's PC input wasn't resolving nearly as much of the horizontal detail in the signal as it should. The 46D1 will serve as a monitor in a pinch, but if you're looking for stellar PC performance this shouldn't be your first choice.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6719/6492||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 76K||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.644/0.328||Good|
|Color of green||0.273/0.599||Good|
|Color of blue||0.145/0.053||Good|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Y||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||N||Poor|