The LCD flat-panel market is heating up, partly because of the large number of models now offered by Taiwanese manufacturers. Companies such as Chi Mei (CMO), AU Optronics (AUO) and others have entered the top-tier, full-resolution 1080p arena to compete with such well-known Korean and Japanese panel makers as Sharp, LG, and Samsung. A new player, however, has come on the scene, a US-owned company with an old and trusted name: Westinghouse Digital Electronics. Westinghouse Digital has focused on LCD TVs and monitors, and this year introduced a line of value-priced, large-panel, 1080p-capable "HDGrade" LCD monitors, the first of which—the LVM-37w1—is a 37” model with a suggested retail price of $1999. A year ago the thought of a 37” 1080p monitor at this price would have been a dream. Now it's in discount stores. When I saw one at a Best Buy (for just $1999!), I knew I had to put it through its paces. So let's see if the monitor lives up to its maker's longtime promise: "You can be sure… if it's Westinghouse."
The LVM-37w1 is an HD monitor: there is no analog or digital tuner inside, which neatly sidesteps the FCC's digital-tuner mandate requiring all analog-tuner-equipped sets with screens of 36” and over to include digital over-the-air tuners as well. A Westinghouse spokesman told me that the company is working on integrated HDTVs with built-in HD tuners, but for now they will concentrate on monitors.
I was impressed at the start with the LVM-37w1's clean modern styling, with the number of inputs and controls it provided, and with its user-friendly features, among them a remote control (not backlit) with direct-access dedicated "hot buttons" for each category of video input. The rear panel sports a VGA input plus two sets of DVI and component video, and one each of Svideo and composite-video inputs. I also like the set's straightforward and logical graphic user interface, which allowed me to change contrast in as little as 2-3 button pushes. Another pleasant surprise: Each input has its own user-control memory, a feature some very expensive brands do not include on all models.
The jet-black screen surface contrasts with the all-silver cabinet and screen bezel. Below the bezel are removable speakers for those who desire to connect to a surround-sound system. Major controls are duplicated on the right side of the panel. The LVM-37w1 includes a non-swiveling tabletop stand. There are eight screw holes in the back of the panel that appear to be intended for mounting the set on a wall bracket[ a VESA standard], but the owner's manual makes no mention of this.
I began by connecting the Westinghouse to a number of video sources, including a DVD player, HD DirecTV, and my Sencore 403 HDTV signal generator. There were a number of pleasant surprises, and a few disappointments, in the connection and setup process. My main gripe was the lack of space between the connectors and the back of the panel; plan on using a small, slender screwdriver, and not your fingers, to secure mounting screws on DVI and VGA connectors. I was pleased to discover, however, that the set could handle 1080p signals through both the VGA connector and one of the DVI inputs. While currently there are no sources with native 1080p/60 output, we expect this capability on upcoming generations of bluelaser (i.e., HD-DVD or Blu-ray Disc) recorder/players.
After hook up, adjustments were made via the user controls to obtain the best picture. In addition to the normal brightness and contrast controls, the Westinghouse includes a backlight control. This lowers or raises the ultimate black level by changing the intensity of the screen-illumination lamps. Lowering backlight levels improves black levels but reduces overall brightness, and vice versa. I found a setting of 37 gave the best compromise.
I measured the color of white at around 6800K over most of the range, which comes close to the ideal of 6500K, and found that the set produced a reasonable gray scale with slightly blue-ish blacks. As with any LCD flat panel I have seen, this unit cannot achieve a true dead black (i.e., a black without color or noticeable light). Also, the set offers no useraccessible gray-scale adjustment controls, and according to a Westinghouse spokesperson, neither does it support gray-scale adjustments through a technician's service menu. However, with room lights turned on, I found the set's black levels acceptable, except in very dark scenes, where some detail gets buried in the murk. A good example comes in the audition segment of The Aviator [Warner], where Hughes is interviewing a candidate and no lights are lit behind the actress auditioning on stage. On the Westinghouse, the fine details of the set's backdrop, which are very dark, were partially obscured.