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Next I moved on to testing with a DVD, played on a PC using a DVI connection. The test disc used, Stuart Little, is full of intentionally over-bright colours. The panel’s contrast ratio is given as 600:1 and it certainly seemed able to deliver a good range of tones. The screen proved almost too sharp though, as close up you can really see the MPEG2 compression having to work hard with brightly coloured static backgrounds.
Where the screen really impresses though is when you feed it high definition footage. Though you can’t receive it via broadcasting in the UK, you can however, easily download some in either Microsoft WMV format or in DiVX HD. We played some trailers in the latter format and the picture quality was nothing short of stunning. The DiVX trailer for ‘Meet the Fockers’ has a resolution of 1,280 x 720 and is a near perfect match for the actual pixels on the Acer. While Ben Stiller and the rest of the cast were trying to make me laugh, the picture quality was so good, I was almost weeping. Watching HD on a display like this makes even DVD look ordinary.
The final test, was one that would really put the 16ms response time through its paces – gaming. To make the most of this large screen, I fired up Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source. This has a widescreen mode and offered up aresolution of 1,280 x 768. To get a smooth frame rate I was hooked up to an Evesham system we have in for review, powered by two nVidia 6800GT graphics cards in SLI configuration. My impression of the image was actually slightly disappointing initially – it looked very grainy. I soon realised that I’d turned up anti-aliasing to 6x in the game, which isn’t actually supported by nVidia. Dropping to 4x kicked anti-aliasing into gear and made for a jaw droppingly good image. Playing Counter-Strike: Source on a large widescreen display, with silky smooth frame rates and surround sound is pretty much the definition of gaming nirvana, and I must admit it kept me glued to the testing seat for hours. You could also enjoy proper widescreen gaming from all the modern consoles.
As for sound, the built-in speakers do a good job with various modes to play with. Volume levels are decent and the SRS Wow mode did enhance the sound, as did the Tru Bass mode. The surround mode widens the sound stage but if you want to use this for serious movie watching a dedicated surround set is the way to go.
It’s pretty clear that I was very impressed by the Acer AL2671W. True, its design is marred by awkward access to some connections and the looks are reasonable but I couldn’t complain about the image quality. The most amazing thing about it though is the asking price – with a street price of around £630, it’s about £280 less that the recommended Dell W2600 that offers the same screen size. True the Dell does also offers an optional memory card slot, offers two sets of component inputs, supplies a DVI cable and shades it on image quality, but when you compare the price there’s no contest. The biggest potential issue for prospective buyers would be the uncertainty over HDCP support, which could severely limit the screens future-proofness. (I am currently waiting to hear back from Acer regarding this issue and as soon as I have confirmed this with Acer, I will update the review).
There’s no getting away from the fact that the Acer AL2671W is a fantastic display. It’s smart, easy-to-use, and delivers great picture quality. The caveats are having only two Scart connections, the lack of six-pin S-Video inputs, and the uncertainty over HDCP support. However, considering the fact that you’d normally expect to pay at least £200 more for an LCD TV of the same size, you’ve nevertheless got a product that offers astonishingly good value.
It's taken a while but Acer has contacted us to confirm that the AL2671W's DVI port is indeed HDCP compliant, which is good news for anyone in the UK wanting to watch HDTV from Sky in 2006. Acer now just needs to get the manual updated to make this clear.
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