This is the best that LCD has to offer—and it’s nothing to sneeze at
August 28th, 2008 -- by Scott Wilkinson
Source: The Perfect Vision
The onscreen menu system is called up by pressing the + or – button; these buttons also cycle through the menus. Once the desired menu is displayed, the UP/DOWN buttons select the parameter, and the RIGHT/LEFT buttons open a submenu with the relevant settings. Fortunately, each menu includes an indication of which button (RIGHT or LEFT) needs to be pressed. All menus but one disappear after a user-defined period of inactivity; the only exception is the IMAGE menu, which stays on the screen until you press the ESC button. Speaking of the menus, they are relatively well-organized and easy to get around once you learn the quirks mentioned above.
It was clear from the start that this particular sample had been calibrated before it got to me. For one thing, the color temperature for most of the inputs I used was set to USER, and the RGB values were not all defaults. (Interestingly, I discovered that this is the only way to affect color temperature; the servicemenu calibration controls are available only to factory technicians.) Also, before I measured the RGB points and grayscale tracking, the color just looked right. Inexplicably, however, the brightness, contrast, and backlight were all way too high, especially for my small, black theater room. Once I brought them under control, it was time for some serious viewing.
With HDTV, the picture looked uniformly spectacular. In December 2005, HDNet broadcast a holiday concert by Barenaked Ladies, which was gorgeous with razor-sharp detail—so much so that I could easily make out the circuitry in the performers’ in-ear monitors during close-up side shots. HBO’s highdef series Rome also looked stunning, though the HTL40’s black-level limitations did become evident during the many dark scenes in that show.
Discovery HD Theater’s new series Sunrise Earth is not exactly a spine-tingling thriller, but it does provide excellent fodder for evaluating HD displays. Each episode is a series of static shots taken at sunrise in various serene settings, such as farms, parks, and other beautiful locations. No actors, no sets, no dialog—it’s quite meditative, almost mesmerizing. Of particular interest to me was the episode from Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, which features sweeping vistas of glaciers that encompass many subtle shades of white. The HTL40 reproduced them all beautifully with nary a hint of clipping.
Switching over to terrestrial ATSC, I watched New Year’s Rockin’ Eve on ABC. Dick Clark has never looked better— well, at least he’s never looked so finely detailed—though he has certainly sounded better. (After a massive stroke last year, he developed a serious speech impairment, leading to a public debate about whether he should have been on the air at all.)
Another beautiful example of ATSC programming was the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, also on ABC. The HTL40’s superb detail was clearly evident on the panning shots of the audience, which looked positively threedimensional, as well as the sinuous trails left by the skates in the ice. The movement of the skaters and cameras was completely unblurred, testifying to the lack of lag in this LCD display. Here, too, was more evidence of the set’s exceptional white rendition as seen in the various shades in the ice.
When I measured the horizontal resolution of the HTL40 with a high-def signal generator outputting 1080i, the most detailed part of the test pattern was pretty obscured, especially with a component connection. This affected the tiniest details in 1080i component signals; for example, the buildings in the fake L.A. skyline behind Jay Leno on NBC's The Tonight Show have some fine detail and exhibited some artifacts when the camera panned across the set. But this level of detail is relatively rare; most 1080i pictures, such as Law & Order: Trial by Jury, also on NBC, looked great.
Moving down the food chain to DVD, I played HQV Benchmark from Silicon Optix, which includes various test patterns and video clips designed to test video-processing quality. Feeding a 480i component signal to the HTL40, the processor did a fine job on all tests. Detail was excellent, and there were few if any jaggies to be seen. With noise reduction turned off, there was a marked increase in noise, especially in flat blue skies, so I left noise reduction on at a level of 5 out of 9. All cadences were picked up quickly and handled well, including 3:2 pulldown, and mixed film/video material looked great.
Conventional DVDs looked wonderful for the most part, especially those of the anamorphic variety. (The lower resolution of letterboxed DVDs was evident when they were expanded to fill the screen, but this was not overly objectionable.) Troublesome scenes such as the diagonal ramp in the desert at the beginning of The Fifth Element and the hay and village rooftops in the opening of Star Trek: Insurrection were rendered without difficulty.