A smoothie: Dell's first LCD TV

SAN FRANCISCO (11/20/2003) - I've never been a fan of the image quality on LCD monitors and LCD TVs, but Dell Inc.'s first try at a hybrid PC monitor and TV set has almost brought me around, delivering one of the smoothest flat-panel images I've seen.

The company's 17-inch wide-screen W1700 LCD TV distinguishes itself by including Faroudja "line doubling" video processing technology. Long a feature of high-end digital displays, plasma flat-screen TVs, and rear-projection sets, this capability is rare in entry-level LCD TVs and gives this US$699 monitor a large advantage.

Faroudja technology dramatically reduces the annoying jaggedness that has long plagued video displayed on LCDs. The line doubling produces a clean, natural-looking image that makes watching broadcast TV or DVD movies a pleasure, especially in the 16:9 wide-screen aspect ratio.

You will need to fiddle with the W1700 panel's extensive on-screen controls to get your best picture, however. With the factory settings, I found the contrast to be too low, the picture too dark, and overall color too green. Happily, the adjustments were simple.

You can quickly switch from a wide-screen to a 4:3 aspect ratio for standard television shows, but the narrower display left distracting midnight-blue bands on either side of the image on my preproduction unit. Dell says it is working to correct the problem.

The W1700 makes a capable, though unremarkable, PC monitor. It took me a little while to get used to its wide-screen format, but I appreciated it when I used the picture-in-picture function.

The monitor includes a TV tuner, has a competent 25-millisecond response time, is HDTV-ready, and has a 1280-by-768 native resolution. It comes with decent integrated speakers and with inputs for VGA, component, composite, and S-Video. I plugged a television cable from my satellite TV box into the monitor without a problem.

The W1700 competes well with others in its price class and could be a great companion for a Media Center PC.

Dell W1700 LCD TV

Dell's first dual-purpose LCD TV displays excellent video.

Price when reviewed: $699

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