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It was just under a year ago when I looked at Dell's first LCD TV and it was a great unit. But Dell hasn't rested on its laurels, and has built on the success of its 17in widescreen LCD and produced the W2600 - a 26in widescreen LCD TV.
There's a lot to say about the W2600, but before I get into the detail let me say that this is the best LCD TV that I've ever seen. This comes as something of a surprise considering that Dell is definitely a computer company rather than a consumer electronics one, but as Bob Dylan once said, the times, they are a-changin'.
First and foremost, the widescren LCD panel that Dell has used in this device is superb. The viewing angle is staggering and even looking at the screen completely side on doesn't result in any wash-out or hue changes. The vertical viewing angle is just as good, and the picture remains bright and colourful whether you're standing or sitting. Whether watching TV, DVD playback or a PC signal, the W2600 produces a well resolved image with vibrant colours and even lighting. High definition content in particular looks amazing on this screen, although Europe is still well behind the US when it comes to HD.
What separates this screen from a lot of other LCD TVs that are available is the native resolution. Many LCD TVs sport low native resolutions, since they're aimed at the consumer market rather than the computer user that also wants TV functionality. In fact many LCD TVs don't even offer PC connectivity. But Dell has been true to its PC roots and made sure that this screen is good for PC use as well as home entertainment duties. OK, so 1,280 x 768 isn't a super-high resolution by PC monitor standards, but it's high enough to work on and perfect for a Media Center PC.
The LCD panel is flanked on either side by large stereo speakers, which, I have to say, spoil the overall aesthetic appeal of the device. However, there is method to Dell's madness, because these speakers sound excellent, and there would definitely be no need for an external speaker set. Obviously if you wanted to get a full surround sound effect you'd want external speakers, but even at 26in, this screen is too small to be the focal point of a full-blown home cinema system, so the integrated sound hardware is pretty much perfect.
The screen and the speakers are surrounded by a thin silver bezel that enhances the overall look. There's a single Dell logo under the screen in the centre and all the controls are hidden on right side of the chasing, resulting in a minimalist look that will suit the style conscious technology junkie.
Unlike the 17in W1700, the W2600 doesn't have a height adjustable stand, but then it is a much larger and heavier screen. The stand does however allow the screen to be panned from side to side easily. The stand itself is finished in black and silver and complements the screen very well.
One of the W2600's party pieces is that it has dual analogue tuners. This means you can make full use of the Picture-in-Picture facility - allowing you to keep an eye on one channel while you're watching another. The second picture will be super-imposed into the corner of the display, and you can choose which corner you would like it to reside in. Dell has kept things tidy by putting the aerial splitter inside the chassis, so a single aerial connection will feed both tuners.
TV reception is definitely the best I've seen, and even in the poor reception area of Bracknell, the Dell managed to lock onto all the channels and produce a decent picture for all of them.
While I'm on the subject of connections, I have to say that the W2600 has the most comprehensive set of connection options that I've ever seen on a screen. For PC connection, there's both DVI and D-SUB ports with corresponding audio inputs in both twin RCA socket and 3.5mm headphone jack flavours.
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