There has never been a better time to replace that wooden cabinet TV with a sexy flat panel TV. Okay, maybe your tube TV doesn’t have wood paneling but you know what I mean. During the last few years, LCD TV technology has improved considerably while the prices have dropped like never before. The latest TV sets are capable of producing a beautiful high definition picture that is guaranteed to satisfy just about anyone.
ViewSonic, easily recognizable for their friendly Gouldian finches logo, originally started out as a computer monitor and presentation projector manufacturer. The company established a name for itself by offering a wide range of well respected, affordable display products. In a natural step forward, ViewSonic also entered the consumer electronics market a few years back by introducing home theatre products into their line-up. Like most TV manufacturers, this year ViewSonic has thrown its gloves into the 1080p ring, with their 42-inch N4261w LCD TV which was sent to us for evaluation.
The ViewSonic N4261w carries a suggested retail price of $1999 but you are likely to find it at the store for a couple hundred dollars less. With a native resolution of 1920 by 1080 pixels, this TV is capable of displaying the full 1080p signal, native to high definition Blu-ray and HD DVD players. The N4261w has a claimed contrast ratio of 1500:1, a brightness of 500 nits and a response time of 8 ms. Its healthy selection of video inputs includes 2 HDMI (version 1.1), 2 component video, 1 S-video and 2 composite video. The component video inputs accept video resolution up to 1080i, so to get the full 1080p resolution you will need to use one of the HDMI inputs. A computer VGA input is also provided which accepts resolutions up to 1360 by 768 pixels. The N4261w comes with a built-in ATSC/NTSC tuner which offers two RF connectors, one for an aerial antenna and one for a cable connection. Inside the Viewsonic’s on-screen menus there are four colour temperature settings: normal, warm, nature and cool. Three picture modes are available including user, preset and soft. The N4261w offers colour and tint picture adjustments but does not allow individual colour adjustments.
The rounded edges and dark gray finish give the N4261w a simple but attractive appearance. A speaker grille which runs along the bottom of the screen conceals two 10-watt speakers. The TV’s frame is completely clean of buttons. Instead, a handful of essential control buttons accompanied by a headphone jack are located on the right side of the frame.
I used a combination of the Silicon Optix HQV Benchmark standard DVD and Blu-ray discs to evaluate the video processing and de-interlacing performance of the ViewSonic. My source was a Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1 Blu-ray player connected with both component and HDMI cables.
The N4261w did not pass the jaggies tests and the waving flag scene displayed noticeable jagged edges from a 480i source. It displayed average detail but the picture did contain obvious video noise and fast moving objects lost much of their detail. However, the N4261w was quite quick at picking up the 3:2 pulldown sequence (film mode), effectively eliminating picture artifacts associated with this.
When I used the 1080i HQV Blu-ray disc, the N4261w showed a noticeable improvement over its 480i processing. The TV displayed the entire 1080 lines of resolution, although it did exhibit a fair amount of picture noise. During my tests, I noticed that the backlighting of the screen was not completely uniform, some bright areas were slightly visible in dark scenes. However, this didn’t interfere much when watching real world material.
Based on the results from the HQV discs, it was clear that the N4261w’s strong suit were higher quality video sources. As with most LCD TVs in this price range, I would recommended pairing this TV up with a decent up-converting DVD player, to get the most out of standard DVDs.
Prior to watching any movies on the N4261w, I calibrated it with the Digital Video Essentials disc. During the calibration, I found the on-screen menu system to be nicely laid out and very user-friendly. I found the ViewSonic remote to be quite stylish with logically grouped buttons, although the responsiveness of the buttons wasn’t perfectly timed when making adjustments inside the menus.
While watching standard DVDs, including The Illusionist and Ocean’s Twelve, I was pretty satisfied with the ViewSonic’s overall colour reproduction. The skin tones looked natural, for an LCD TV in this price range. The colours didn’t appear to be oversaturated nor under saturated, instead they were comfortably in the middle. As with most LCD TVs, the ViewSonic’s blacks appeared dark gray and as a result minor shadow details in dark scenes from The Illusionist were not reproduced. In general, standard DVDs displayed noticeable picture noise although this could be corrected by turning up the noise reduction on a DVD player. With Ocean’s Twelve, the ViewSonic produced an overall pleasing to watch picture.
Next, I proceeded to watch some content using the component video connection. The video inputs of the ViewSonic are selected by pressing the Sources button on the remote, which displays an input pop-up window on the screen. As of late, this has become my favourite method of selecting video inputs on a TV – it is simply the quickest way to do it. Standard definition channels up-converted to 1080i by my Starchoice satellite box looked quite good blown up to fit the 42-inch screen, which is not an easy task. Digital noise was much less noticeable while watching these digital channels.
The N4261w definitely performed its best with high definition sources such as satellite and Blu-ray discs. Blu-ray movies, showed a phenomenal amount of detail. There was also substantially less digital noise in the picture, which went a long way to producing a cleaner, more soothing picture. In a scene from Kiss Kiss Bang Bang on Blu-ray, when Harmony (one of the main characters) opened a book, I could clearly read the words on the pages – the 1080p resolution has its obvious advantage at times. Then, in a close-up shot of Harry’s face, the stubble on his face appeared razor sharp. There was no question about it, feed the ViewSonic a high definition signal and it will display a clean, sharp picture with an awesome amount of detail. Thanks to the ViewSonic’s quick 8 ms response time, the blurring during fast motion scenes was effectively reduced.
In general, the N4261w produced a very bright although ever so slightly washed out picture, which can easily be enjoyed in a brightly lit environment. As an LCD TV, the ViewSonic certainly has the advantage of having a non-reflective screen which works great in any viewing environment. Since LCD TVs don’t have a risk of a picture burn-in, this TV would also make a great companion for video gamers.
Overall, the N4261w is an LCD TV that offers a competitive set of features and represents a good value for its $1999 price tag. If you’re looking for an affordable LCD TV and would like to have the peace of mind that comes with owning a brand name, you should certainly take a look at the ViewSonic N4261w.
N4261w 42-inch 1080p LCD TV
Price: $1999 CAD
• Screen size: 42-inch
• Native resolution: 1920 x 1080 (1080p)
• Contrast ratio: 1500:1
• Brightness: 500 cd/m2
• Response time: 8 ms
• Tuner: ATSC/NTSC
• Video inputs: 2 HDMI (version 1.1), 2 component video, 1 S-video and 2 composite video, 1 VGA (computer input)
• Dimensions (WxHxD): 1070 x 815 x 305mm (42.1×32.1×12”)
• Weight: 45 kg (99.2 lbs)