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On the front part of the fascia you’ll find a strip of dark plastic akin to that found at the end of a remote control. Behind this are five illuminated icons that give the user a guide to the functions of the vertically mounted buttons mentioned earlier. The first two are for adjusting the volume level as well as navigating through the various OSD menus, the middle indicates the power status, the fourth fires up the OSD and is used to activate or deactivate the various adjustment function, and the last is an auto-adjust button for automatically setting the screens position and clock and phase when an analogue signal is used. It also doubles as a menu exit button.
OSD navigation is quite self-explanatory, and the interface has been well designed and covers all the settings you’ll typically need. Notable settings include user-adjustable independent RGB channels as well as focus for sharpening up the screen when it’s fed with an analogue signal.
Now although there are some design features that I’d liked to have seen, I can’t complain so far, and I haven’t mentioned the performance of the panel yet. The AL1721hm uses a 6-bit, TN+ active matrix TFT-LCD with a decent response time of 16ms. Under tests using Displaymate, colour scales showed distinct colour blocks with no evidence of unevenness between each step despite the temporal dithering that is employed in a 6-bit panel in order to produce a full 16.2million colour gamut.
Greyscales were also very smooth, although there was some ever so slight evidence of banding in the 256-level greyscale test screens. As for evaluating our test images, I have to say that I was very impressed with the overall colour balance. Colour highlights were not over pronounced and the overall tone of the pictures was quite neutral. Skin tones looked true, and DVD playback was more or less smear free with only some slight compression artefacts when the scenes are dominated by similarly toned areas. Detail in dark sequences was also lost at default settings, but a boost to the brightness and contrast helped with this. The only real weaknesses were the viewing angles, which appeared to be narrower than the stated angles of 140 degrees in both planes. Contrast and illumination both fell dramatically at about 50 degrees from centre. However, at the end of the day few of us work at our screens at such a viewpoint and the Acer AL1721hm is certainly a fine display, especially considering its price.
Despite the narrow viewing angles, the AL1721hm comes complete with a digital and analogue interface, a height-adjustable swivelling neck, built-in speakers, good picture quality and a price tag that won’t break the bank.