|Dell W1900 LCD HDTV|
|Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs|
|Written by Bryan Dailey|
|Tuesday, 01 November 2005|
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When most people think of Dell, they picture the dorky blond guy, Stephen, pitching $399 computers on TV with his catchphrase, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” Since the media phenomenon, Stephen has been busted for possession of pot and Dell has moved their marketing focus from selling PCs to expanding their product base to include a complete line of flat panel LCD and Plasma TVs. Their entry-level model is the 19-inch W1900 that retails for $599 at Dell.com. This TV has a stylish black finish and measures 23.8 inches wide, 12.2 inches tall, a mere 3.75 inches deep and weighs 22 pounds with the integrated speakers and stand attached. The included stand is for mounting the monitor on a desk. However, if you wish to wall-mount the TV, several types of Chief brand mounts can be purchased directly from Dell’s website. Most universal LCD mounts for 13- to 19-inch TVs should work with this set.
Small LCD TVs have come a long way in terms of both price and performance in recent years. When I first toyed with the idea of putting an LCD TV in my kitchen five years ago, a standard-def 4:3 aspect ratio 13-inch LCD would have set me back easily over $1,000 and that would have been for a set whose best available input format was S-video. With the $599 Dell, it’s quite apparent that you get a lot more for your money. This 19-inch 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen HDTV monitor has a native resolution of 1280 x 768 and includes a DVI input, a VGA input, two component HD video inputs, two composite video inputs, an S-Video input and a coaxial input. Each video input has a corresponding audio input for a stereo signal via RCA connectors. What about HDMI, you ask? Those of you who have done your home theater homework will know that DVI is mostly compatible with HDMI connections, so all you need is an HDMI to DVI cable, or an adapter should the source you wish to feed the TV be HDMI. Left, right and subwoofer audio outputs and a headphone jack round out the ins and outs on the bottom and sides of the W1900. A standard computer-type cable powers the set, so no silly wall wart is needed. Dell was nice enough to include all of the necessary cables to set up at least one piece of AV gear to each type of connector. This is a welcome addition, as you can find yourself dropping more money than you might expect on a DVI cable down at the local electronics store. You may need to consider an aftermarket fiber optic DVI cable if your set is located a long distance from the source, but for short runs, the included dual-link DVI cable is adequate and seemingly of good quality.
Dell claims the set has a 600:1 aspect ratio and a brightness of 450 nits. The stated viewing angle both horizontally and vertically in the instruction manual is 85 degrees, allowing you to stand virtually on the side of the TV and yet still be able to see the picture. This can be a big problem with many cheap LCDs, including the panels on many laptop computers, where even at a short distance off-axis, the picture basically becomes unwatchable. In my kitchen, I don’t watch the TV from a fixed position, but rather glance up at it occasionally while cooking or doing dishes and being able to see the screen from anywhere in the kitchen, even with the lights on during daytime with the windows open, is a very nice feature about this set. I calibrated the set using the AVIA set-up disc and found the picture to work great in both high and low ambient light settings. The richness of the colors was much improved over other popular sets that I have seen several times in various venues.
The stands on LCD TVs tend to be flimsy, cheap pieces of plastic that are easily broken. Not so with the W1900. It was not until I took the stand off to wall-mount the TV that I actually realized how substantial the stand is. There are beautiful chrome accent pieces on the base of the stand that give it an elegant look. The only monitors on the market I can think of that have a cleaner look are the new non-TV Apple LCD monitors. When positioned on the stand, there is a solid sense of balance with the wide footprint of the Dell stand. You can bump the set pretty hard and it won’t go tipping over backwards, forwards or sideways. Unlike CRT TVs that have a large square base and substantial weight, desk-mounted LCDs could be easily knocked over and damaged by a dog or cat jumping upon a desk or by a clumsy child or adult, so having a nice stand is important.
All of the buttons for the TV, such as power, volume, channel and the set-up menu are located on the right edge of the TV. They are silver rounded rectangles that poke out only about an eighth of an inch and are easy to press. Their corresponding labels are located on the front of the TV in the bottom corner. When the TV is turned on, the light switches to a soft, cool blue glow. The onscreen menus of the W1900 are some of the best-looking I have ever seen. They have soft, rounded edges and almost look cartoonish in nature. The user can change the color, location and transparent properties of the menus. There are a few quirks to the menu system, as it can be unintuitive to back out one level on a multi-level menu section. Using the side buttons on the TV for anything other than volume control can be futile, so the remote is quite beneficial to have nearby when you are going to change the settings on the TV.
The remote for the TV is made from a beautiful shiny black plastic material on top and has a rubberized base that keeps it from sliding off a coffee table or countertop. Since my TV is in the kitchen, I stuck a fat piece of Velcro to the refrigerator. I then put the other side of the Velcro on the back of the remote. The top of the remote is fairly flat, but the bottom part has a concave shape that made it a little tough to outfit with the Velcro. I put the Velcro towards the top end where the curved shaped end of the remote is at its lowest point. It holds okay, but I found that I had to add more Velcro than you might guess so that it does not peel off the bottom of the remote. I could have put the Velcro at the base of the remote, where there is a large flat spot. However, this is where the two AA batteries are located (and yes, batteries are included with your $599 purchase price).
Most people will not use the coaxial input on a TV like this, since they are going to feed it the signal from a satellite receiver or a digital cable box, so why spend the extra money on a monitor like this and not just slap a widescreen computer monitor on your wall and hook it up via DVI? Besides the fact that this set has multiple inputs for game systems, VCRs and other AV components, one of the primary reasons is that most computer monitors tend to not have built-in speakers, and when they do, they are generally horrible. The Dell W1900 has what appear to be long integrated speakers that look like ribbons on each side of the display, with a 14-watt amplifier powering them. It doesn’t sound like a lot of power, but it has enough juice to allow the TV to get to a volume that is still easily heard while running the dishwater, microwave and sink faucet at the same time. It’s not crystal clear audio, but it doesn't sound like its coming out of a cave, either. I have some other lower-end 15-inch LCDs from Magnavox in my bathrooms that have that smooth “tin-can on a string” sound, so by comparison, the sound from the Dell is rich and inviting. A mode called SRS TruSurround XT is included that simulates surround sound. However, I found it to just make the sound a bit more echoey. It’s hard to make it seem as if there are speakers in places where they don’t exist, but I’d imagine if you have this set in a small space, the rear wall reflections might better simulate this than my large kitchen area. Several equalizer modes are also available, including music, theater and voice. I found that the stock settings were the best on the set and any tweaking done to the sound was not really beneficial.
In my set-up, I have a PureLink by Dtrovision DVI one-in x two-out distributor that repeats the DVI signal that is going from my satellite receiver to my Integra DTR-10.5 receiver with HDMI switching. This same signal goes to the DVI input on the Dell TV. On one of the two available component video inputs I have run an output from an Integra DPS-10.5 DVD player to the Dell. The result of this set-up is that I can watch the same satellite programming, including HDTV broadcasts on both TVs, or I can watch a DVD on both screens at the same time, or I can watch satellite on one and a DVD on the other. The “optimal” viewing position for this TV in my system would be sitting on a granite countertop in front of the TV, so I don’t think I’ll ever be sitting down to watch a full two-hour movie or TV show on it, but I can have it on and seamlessly transition between my living room and power room without missing much action in a football game or a movie.