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.