- Review Price: £549.00
The name Dell is synonymous with PC technology whether in desktop, server or notebook arenas. I was therefore a little surprised when Dell informed me that I was to receive an LCD TV for review.
This is pretty new territory for Dell, but it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into the design of the W1700LCD. Taking the device out of the box, the colour scheme is instantly recognizable. The silver and black finish will complement Dell’s PC systems perfectly, as well as looking quite stylish in its own right.
Once I’d set the W1700LCD up in the office it seemed impossible for anyone to walk past it without stopping and staring for a while. For many potential buyers, this alone will be reason enough to invest.
The LCD panel is surrounded by a reasonably slim sliver bezel. This is flanked on either side by a pair of stereo speakers. The stand is well designed and reminiscent of the Viewsonic VP range of monitors. The stand has a crescent shaped footprint with a central column on which the screen is mounted. The column is telescopic and though not as smoothly damped as Viewsonic’s stands, slides easily up and down to ensure the perfect vertical viewing position. Pushing the screen down to the bottom results in it locking into place. It can then be lifted by the top-mounted carrying handle and transported easily. The screen also swivels about 160 degrees left to right and will angle up and down. All in all the range of movement is excellent and it’s easy to find the perfect viewing angle.
The panel itself is a 17in widescreen TFT with a native resolution of 1,280 x 768. This is actually a lower resolution than a standard 4:3 17in TFT screen, but the widescreen aspect is to accommodate the TV/DVD side of the equation.
Putting the W1700LCD through its paces using DisplayMate highlighted a few issues. The 64-step greyscale test showed a definite green tint in the mid-range. This was evident in the majority of greyscale graduations. There were also some severe stepping issues in the 256-intensity level colour ramp test. Definite blocks could be seen rather than a smooth graduation. In the colour scales test the W1700LCD struggled to maintain a uniform display at low intensity.
Now, before you get too worried about the issues highlighted by DisplayMate, you have to remember that this panel has a dual purpose. Unlike a standard PC monitor the W17000LCD is also supposed to be used for watching video and, it has to be said, in this area it excels.
Screens with integrated TV tuners often produce questionable image quality, but the terrestrial TV image from the W1700LCD was breathtaking. When I connected an aerial and fired it up the whole office came to a standstill as everyone stood transfixed to the Dell. That’s quite an amazing state of affairs considering we were watching mindless daytime television. This is definitely the best quality LCD monitor/TV I’ve encountered, at least from a TV watching point of view. Things are no less impressive when you’re watching DVDs. I connected up a Pioneer DV-737 via component video and the image quality was superb. Strangely, when viewing the player’s menu without a movie playing there appeared to be some interference, but this disappeared completely when a disc was inserted. So if you’re planning on using the W1700LCD as part of a media PC setup you won’t be disappointed. That said, it’s only really suitable for personal use since a 17in widescreen image is still pretty small by TV standards.
The sound from the built-in stereo speakers is adequate but lacks bass. An integrated subwoofer like the one in the Elonex eXentia Media Center PC would have been a great addition, but would of course have bumped the price up and potentially spoil the design.
Below the TFT panel is an extensive array of buttons. From here you can select the input source, change the TV channel, adjust the volume, enter the OSD and power the unit on/off. The channel buttons also double up as up and down controls when in the OSD. To the left of the buttons is the receiver for the supplied infrared remote control.
Remote control design is where a lot of consumer electronics companies have problems and often an otherwise beautifully designed product can be spoiled by a poor remote control. I am however glad to say that Dell hasn’t fallen foul of this problem as the remote control supplied with the W1700LCD is every bit as well designed and stylish as the screen itself. The remote is small enough to sit comfortably in the hand and has rubber edges to ensure a solid grip. The fascia is finished in brushed aluminum which complements the screen well. From the remote it’s simple to access and navigate the OSD, and when in TV mode you have every control you could want at your fingertips.
Connection options are very well catered for. At the rear you’ll find an RF input for a TV aerial, S-Video, composite video, stereo audio and, most importantly, component video input. There’s also composite video and stereo audio phono outputs. For the simplest connection method that will appeal to the majority of home users, Dell has been smart enough to include a SCART connector as well. PC connection is taken care of by a DVI port and a D-SUB connector. There’s also a mini-jack port for your PC sound output and a headphone socket to the left of the panel.
The only thing more impressive than the connections on the W1700LCD is the amount of cables that Dell bundles. In the box you’ll find cables for DVI, D-SUB, stereo audio, composite video, S-Video, component video and of course, mains power. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a screen that comes with such a wide selection of cabling.
The picture-in-picture function is great and gives you the ability to have a TV or video input image superimposed onto the corner of your PC desktop. You can choose which corner you want it to reside in and how large you want the window to be. The picture-in-picture is simple to control from the remote control and gives you the option of keeping an eye on the news, or even the England v Portugal game while you’re working. The TV tuner also has Teletext functionality which can again be controlled with ease from the remote.
So, what you have here is a beautifully designed display unit that’s packed with features. Although there were some issues when testing under DisplayMate, in use the W1700LCD produces a very acceptable image under a Windows environment. The performance when watching video however is quite simply superb and the integrated TV tuner will give you a picture every bit as good as a dedicated television, assuming you have a decent aerial of course. If there’s one weakness in the W1700LCD’s AV arsenal it’s the rather weak sounding speakers. But since this is more of a personal viewing screen than home entertainment monitor, I can live with that.
At £549 including VAT and delivery the W1700LCD is reasonably priced considering its host of features. If you’re looking for a PC display that can also be used as a personal TV and DVD monitor, you’d be hard pushed to find a better example than this.
The W1700LCD isn’t perfect and DisplayMate highlighted some issues with image quality. However, in use this screen is a joy to behold and when watching video it’s even better. The design of the unit is first rate and the excellent stand makes it simple to position the screen to best effect. The price may be high, but considering what you’re getting for the money you won’t find a better PC/AV solution.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
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