Sony, Toshiba, Samsung, Panasonic, Acer - which one is the odd one out? If you're in the market for a new TV, it won't be hard to work it out. The thing is, while consumers are happy to place down large amounts of cash to buy expensive TVs from the big brands, many would be reticent about doing the same from a company known mainly for PCs and notebooks.
Of course, this isn't just a problem for Acer. Many big names from the PC space are trying to become known as consumer brands as well, and the issue of brand awareness is something they all face, whether it be HP and Microsoft, or Relisys and Viewsonic. It's one thing for the likes of Sony to move into PCs, but it's much harder to do it the other way round.
Acer is at least known for its range of PC flat panel monitors so that might count in its favour. But the Acer AL2671W is much more than just a big monitor. When I reviewed the Samsung 730MP I pondered whether it should be considered primarily as a monitor with a built-in TV, or the other way round. There's not really any need for debate here. What you get for your money is a widescreen 16:10 aspect ratio panel with a viewable diagonal size of 26in, a built-in analogue tuner and a native resolution of ‘only’ 1,280 x 768 – there’s no doubt that this is a TV. If more proof were needed, in the box, you'll also find a Scart lead, and a Component to Scart cable as well as an analogue D-Sub cable.
The native resolution of the screen is of course significant as it conforms almost exactly to the HDTV 720p standard, though to get content of that quality in the UK, you’re not going to be using the in-built TV Tuner, at least not for another decade or so. Rather you'll be using the screens DVI connection, from a next generation follow up to DVD, whether it turns out to be HD-DVD or Blu-ray. However, while Sky is broadcasting HDTV from 2006, it has confirmed that to watch, displays will require HDCP (High Bandwidth Content Protection) support, via HDMI or DVI.
HDCP is actually an Intel conceived technology designed to encrypt digital signals and has been widely adopted across the consumer electronics industry. From the specs available for the Acer, there’s no indication that it is indeed compliant, unlike the recently reviewed Viewsonic N3000W. One would imagine that if it did support it, Acer would shout it from the rooftops. The web page for the organization that licenses HDCP provides a list of licensees at http://www.digital-cp.com and Acer isn’t listed. Then again neither is Viewsonic so it may be a red herring.
The absence of HDCP support would be a big shame as while the format battle between HD-DVD and Blu-ray goes on, it’s likely that Sky’s broadcasts will be the most readily available source HD content in the UK. In fact, the lack of support might well explain how Acer is able to offer the screen at such a competitive price. An HDCP licence costs money and by foregoing support Acer may be passing on the saving.
This is actually the second 26in LCD TV we’ve looked at, the first being the Dell W2600. This impressed us for its quality and its value at less than a £1,000 including VAT. The Acer here though, blows that out of the water, with street prices as low as £620. My only issue with Acer is that 26in is a difficult size for a screen. It’s really too small to act as main home cinema display and too big for use as an everyday PC monitor. However, if you want a second TV it could be just what you’re looking for.
Design wise, the Acer doesn’t look as posh as the Dell, though it’s not too shabby. As a TV it’s likely to be more on show than most monitors so aesthetics are important and Acer has done a reasonable job. The panel is surrounded by a black bezel, that helps to enhance the picture, and this is itself encased in a silver surround with the speakers integrated on either side. The Acer logo is quite subtly, and indeed tastefully, placed at the bottom centre, unlike some products which overly draw attention to the fact that they’re produced by a company you’ve never heard of. Where Acer could perhaps have done better is that the speaker grilles look a little plasticy and have too much flex in them.