- Review Price: £998.00
Back in February, Acer’s AL2671W blew me away by offering a 26 inch LCD TV for only just over £600 – cheaper than anyone else on the market. While cheap doesn’t always mean cheerful, pleasingly enough the quality was there to make it a recommended purchase. And last week, out of the blue, its new 32in display arrived in the office for our perusal.
Featuring a 16:9 aspect ratio and a High Definition TV (HDTV) ready native resolution of 1,366 x 768, as well as a wealth of connectivity options, the specs on the AT3201W seemed impressive, especially considering the £999 including VAT asking price. Has Acer managed to pull off the same trick it did with the 26in AL2671W?
The difficulty for Acer is that at 32 inches, (or in fact 31.5 viewable diagonal), the panel is in proper TV territory, as it’s large enough to be the main display for most houses (at least in the UK). When you walk into a room and see an LCD TV you’ll normally expect to see a Sony or Samsung badge rather than that of Acer displayed on the front. But while you might not be impressed by the logo, the Acer AT3201W at least does itself a favour by looking the part. Its large screen is set in a shiny black bezel surrounded by silver grille speakers at the side. The grille continues underneath, which at first gave me the impression that it was a built-in centre speaker. This actually isn’t the case, though the two side speakers do feature SRS Wow processing. The speakers can even be unscrewed and disconnected it you wish, which might make sense if you are using a surround sound system and wanted to mount the unit on the wall.
Below the logo are seven neat silver buttons for the menu but you can also use the remote control, which is not surprisingly identical to the one supplied with the 26in screen. It’s a fairly hefty affair, with large buttons and I do like it’s look and feel in the hand, though on reflection the four thin buttons around the central button selection could be easier to use. A backlit display for use in a darkened room wouldn’t go amiss either. The display is placed on a basic but smart looking silver stand and rotates easily from side to side, which is useful as many TV don’t.
As a 32in screen, it’s little surprise that the box is large, and you’ll need two people to manoeuvre it. Once it’s out of the box though it’s not too heavy at 20.7Kg – a damn site lighter than the hernia inducing 90Kg than my 36in Sony CRT. Solid proof indeed that things have moved on in the world of displays. Also in the box, there are composite, S-Video, SCART and component cables, as well a D-Sub connector for connection to a PC. As usual there’s no DVI cable which as ever, seems a bit mean.
These obviously correspond to the connectivity to be found on the rear of the unit. Two panels cover the ports, which face out to the sides. The one on the right covers the two SCARTS, one of which supports RGB, S-Video and Composite, which the other support Component as well. Above this is the connector for the built-in analogue tuner. On the other side there are also RCA Component connections supporting Progressive Scan, along with a Composite and S-Video ins and a mini-jack headphone socket, though this would have been better placed on the front. The display can hook up via DVI to a PC, laptop or suitably equipped DVD player, and there’s an analogue PC D-Sub socket too. The manual also states that the DVI socket is HDCP compliant, so you can use this display with Sky’s upcoming HD broadcasts. The manual for the AL2671W made no mention of this, and it took some digging to find out that it did support it, so stating this from the outset makes things easier for everybody.
One issue I had was that the panel has an Auto-Off function that switches off the display when it doesn’t detect a signal. When you switch on the panel it scrolls though each connection looking for a signal but when connecting to a PC, it didn’t detect the signal over DVI until the PC had booted into Windows, with the result that it kept switching itself off, which was a little irritating espcially when you restart the PC, as you have to keep turing the screen on. There was an option to turn this off in the display but it didn’t actually make a difference.
As it’s a TV, Acer has put in some image enhancing technology you don’t find in monitors, such as a comb filter for cleaning up low quality sources and a 3:2/2:2 pull down recovery to remove judder from NTSC sources. It’s worth noting that there is a fan inside the screen, which is necessary in a heat producing screen of this size. At low volumes in a quiet room it is noticeable and some might find this bothersome, especially during a quiet part of a movie. During louder passages though you’ll never know it’s there.
The TV Tuner was pretty easy to set up, and the tuner scans through the available frequencies in a couple of minutes. It’s easy to scroll through channels with the remote and the station name appears on screen. A nifty feature is the Picture-in-Picture function. When watching the analogue tuner, this will present multiple channels on screen at once. It also enables you to place two AV sources on screen next to each other side by side and switch between them.
As for the picture I was immediately impressed. Acer has used a reflective coating to increase contrast and improve colour vibrancy. While some might not like it on a PC monitor, it’s exactly what you want on a TV. The brightness is rated at 500nits and it subjectively did look very bright.
Seeing Windows on a display this large was pretty cool, though for the size the horizontal resolution of 768 lines is far too low for serious PC use. This sort of screen is designed primarily for use as a video display but can also be used to view Windows and web pages at a distance. It would be perfect for connecting to a media centre system, whether by Microsoft or anybody else.
To start our testing we as ever used DisplayMate, hooking up to a PC via a DVI connection. Overall the performance was good with strong vibrant colours and even, smooth fades. However, in the colour scaling test it wasn’t quite right at the edges. It was overbright at one end and while it faded evenly across the screen it dropped off suddenly at the edges. More problematic was the pixel tracking, which just seemed way off, with a high degree of blurriness. It seemed odd at first but changing resolution away from the native to 1,024 x 768 sorted this out. The problem clearly reared itself when trying to read text at small font sizes, say on a web page. Text would appear thick and then thin as you look across. At larger type sizes the effect wasn’t apparent.
The reason for this is that the nearest resolution the graphics card could output to was 1360 x 768, meaning that the panel has to scale the picture across the missing six vertical lines, causing the poor pixel tracking effect. I tried inputting a custom resolution to exactly match the panel but the nVidia driver refused it.
We also hooked up via D-Sub and found the picture to be noticeably softer with the larger size making the difference between analogue and digital quite marked. We also tried the RGB SCART socket with an X-Box. This was a good test of the response time that Acer quotes as 12 milliseconds from ‘grey to grey’, which is a little misleading. Even so, I had no complaints with no signs of ghosting to spoil my enjoyment. However the low resolution of the X-Box was more noticeable than it would be on a CRT, with a lot of jaggies visible. For console gaming on this screen a high definition signal via component or VGA should yield better results.
Moving to DVD via the DVI connection I tried out some futuristic effects courtesy of the Audi car chase scene from ‘I Robot’. This looked great on the Acer with lots of detail coming to the fore, though inevitably nothing close to the high definition version of this scene I saw on Blu-ray at CEBIT on the Sony stand.
What we needed then was some high definition of our own so we fed the Acer some Divx HD trailers. This really started to get the image to sing – just look at the solid, bright and super detailed images we got from the Shark Tale trailer. I was also satisfied with the viewing angles, so you could comfortably use this in the home. Sound wise the screen was decent too, with a pleasing amount of bass and midrange from the speakers.
Overall then, Acer has pulled it off again. With plenty of connection options, pleasing styling and a great picture the only issues are the badge and the problems displaying small text sizes. However, this isn’t a screen for working on, it’s a screen for movies, and at the price there really is nothing to complain about.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
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