If you want to stay abreast of the news even as you work at your computer, you'll appreciate Sceptre's wide-screen X7SV-Naga LCD. Thanks to its picture-in-picture (PIP) capability, the Naga can overlay a window from one source on top of another window from a different source. For example, it can show one from its built-in television tuner on top of whatever your PC is displaying. As a result, the LCD is perfect for multitaskers who need to keep an eye on CNN while poking around in a spreadsheet. Better yet, the Naga's 1,280x768 resolution and wide-set stereo speakers let you kick back and soak up a movie from a DVD player or a VCR in theater-style letterbox format. At less than $750, this wide-screen, television-enabled, flat-panel display is a really big deal. Sceptre's X7SV-Naga model LCD sits wide and squat. With 1,280x768 WXGA resolution and stereo speakers that poke out from the sides like ears (set far enough apart that stereo effects and sounds come across loud and clear), there's no mistaking that the 17-inch panel in its 22-inch-wide, silver bezel is intended to display TV and letterbox-format movies, as well as Microsoft Word documents. A stable, heavy black base holds the bezel with its top edge only 13.5 inches above your desk, so even if you're short, you can look slightly down at the screen--just the way your neck likes it.
The panel tilts from a couple of degrees forward to 25 degrees back, and it swivels 30 degrees left and right on a lazy Susan-like wheel, which makes it easy to reposition the screen as you move around at your desk or in your easy chair. You can also remove the panel from the base for mounting on an arm or a wall bracket. (Sceptre doesn't sell arm- or wall-mounting parts, but the panel complies with industry standards, and it should work with products supplied by Ergotron, Innovative Office Products, and other vendors.)
The Naga supports most common video sources. In addition to analog and digital (DVI) ports for your PC, it has ports for a coaxial television antenna, satellite feed, or cable; video and audio input ports for data from a VCR or a DVD player; and ports to send audio out to headphones or your PC's subwoofer. The ports line up in a depression at the back of the panel, but in contrast to the common LCD design, they're set far enough out from the panel that you can loosen or tighten the thumbscrews without skinning your knuckles. Sceptre packs the Naga with five cables for most of those connections. Heavy plastic flaps snap in place over the ports, and you can run the exiting cables through a thumblike hook built in to the base to keep everything tidy. The Naga's television tuner can also scan your cable or satellite feed to determine what channels are available, and it can tune in as many as 125 channels. Cool.
CNET's testers always keep their eyes peeled for product-design weaknesses, but in this case, we have only one aspersion to cast: very tall people might find the screen too low and wish the Naga could telescope--that is, slide up and down on its base.
Setting up and running the Naga is simple. Plug it into your PC's analog or digital port, plug in the cables for other sources that are handy (VCR, DVD player, or TV, for example), and flick on the power. You can then use the monitor's onscreen display (OSD) menus or the remote control to activate and swap between feeds. To operate the panel, use the Function left and Function right arrow buttons on the bezel to find items in the onscreen display menus, then use the Adjust plus and Adjust minus buttons to change the settings. You'll find the same buttons on the included remote control, which also has keys for adjusting the volume, changing channels, and so on. The Video Options menu has a System setting that switches between NTSC, PAL, and SECAM, useful if you've collected videos from various parts of the world. (However, Sceptre doesn't consider the Naga Mac compatible, and CNET did not attempt to test it on a Mac.) Another item on the Video Options menu, the Freeze command, stops the image on a single frame so that you can take a closer look at fine cinematography.
With the picture-in-picture (PIP) feature, which overlays the image from one source with one from another source, you can adjust the size of the top window to cover one-eighth, one-quarter, half, or three-fourths of the screen. By comparison, another recent TV-enabled, wide-screen LCD, Sony's Personal Entertainment Display SDM-V72W (which has no PIP capability) lets you switch between only full-screen views of the computer or another source. (Sony's monitor costs about $250 to $300 more than the Sceptre X7SV.)
Sceptre makes some bold claims about the Naga's capabilities. For example, the specified 500-to-1 contrast ratio and 400cd/m2 (nits) brightness--especially in concert with response times of 15ms rise and 10ms fall--should make everything that the screen displays look perfect.
But we found more than one flaw in this monitor's performance. Some minor distortions appear on the Naga screen, though the problems are subtle and won't bother you in everyday use. To illustrate, in a series of progressively paler shades of gray, a few shades at the top of the scale appear white. And in a similar series of color shades, transitions between shades don't appear perfectly smooth. In tests that contrast very bright areas adjacent to very dark areas, some light "leaked" into the darker pixels. Also, on a broad area of a single color, we noticed some pixels brightening and darkening as if they couldn't decide what shade to settle on, but that situation is rare.
When you work with the screen, you'll notice that text is a bit marred by barely noticeable grayness or fuzziness, but graphics and DVDs look bright, crisp, and colorful. We tested the Naga on a DVI signal from the 128MB Nvidia GeForce4 Ti 4600 graphics controller in CNET's 730MHz Dell Dimension 4100 test bed. We also looked at the screen displaying the same test bed's analog signal, which creates somewhat richer colors but also seems to slightly increase the fuzziness around text.
17-inch LCD image-quality test (Longer bars indicate better performance)
CNET weighted score
Dell UltraSharp 1702FP
Samsung SyncMaster 172B
Brightness in nits (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Sencore CP500 Measurement
In general, Sceptre offers decent support for the Naga, but there is one glaring shortcoming: You get only one year of warranty coverage. Most LCDs, including some other Sceptre products, offer three or even five years of warranty coverage.
Although Sceptre says that its lifetime, toll-free, telephone tech support is available weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. PT, we called several times and were always shunted off to voicemail. Instead of leaving messages in the void, we tried e-mailing tech support, but we never received a reply. Monitors don't require a lot of support, but still, it would be comforting to know that someone was there in a pinch.
On the bright side, Sceptre has one of the most generous bad-pixel policies in the industry: just three dead or stuck pixels qualifies you for an exchange. The Naga's printed manual provides unusual depth of information for a display manual, covering setup procedures, how to operate the controls, and how to adjust rarified features such as clock and phase rates for fine-tuning pixel alignment and focus. In our opinion, too many displays come with just a two- or four-page flier covering a few technical issues, such as cable pin-outs. Unfortunately, the company's Web site has only a cursory FAQ on LCDs, and the download pages don't yet have documentation or drivers for the Naga line.