On the upside, the TV does retain a VGA PC input, a headphone output, and a coaxial digital audio output – none of which can generally be considered dead certs on small, budget TVs.
We also had our hopes raised by the appearance of a USB input – but sadly, if hardly unexpectedly, this turned out to only be there for service use. You can’t play multimedia files through it.
In looking for further features of the AT2356, we should start by stressing that this is, most definitely, a TV, not a PC monitor. In fact, it sports a Freeview tuner as well as an analogue one. It actually carries an HD tuner, though this sadly isn’t compatible with Freeview HD’s DVB-T2 system.
As journalists, we’re taught from an early age that the word ‘nice’ is horribly wishy washy, and shouldn’t be used. But Acer has actually gone out of its way to use the word, coming up with the New Intelligent Color Engine (NICE) moniker for what is essentially a proprietary auto colour optimisation processing system.
To be fair, despite its oddly bland acronym, the NICE does seem to be a bit more involved than similar systems on other brands of TV – certainly other affordable brands of TV. Among its elements are continual assessments of the image content, and an ability to adjust contrast, brightness, sharpness and noise reduction levels based on how far you sit from the screen.
The TV also supports 1080/24p Blu-ray feeds, and carries a handy suite of picture presets (including the NICE auto control system, plus Movie and Game modes).
At first glance, we have to say we didn’t really see why Acer might have been feeling particularly confident about the AT2356’s AV credentials. For we started out with a series of dark film and game scenes, and found all of them having to appear behind some quite marked evidence of LCD technology’s ‘grey clouding’ phenomenon.
We would expect to see some evidence of greyness over parts of the picture that should look black with almost any LCD TV, of course. But the greyness is more pronounced with the AT2356 than we’re coming to expect from the latest generation of LCD TVs.
As well as leaving dark scenes looking slightly unnatural, the grey clouding also means that subtle shadow details can be pushed out of the picture, leaving the darkest corners feeling a bit hollow.
The only real positive than can be taken out of the AT2356’s portrayal of dark scenes is the fact that the backlight is at least consistently grey right across the screen. In other words, you don’t have to put up with the far more distracting situation where some parts of the picture look obviously brighter than others.