The brains behind Dell have made an interesting call recently: they’re moving the focus of the company’s attention away from the strict tech side of the market and more toward the consumer. The reasoning is that as PCs and notebooks become more mainstream, people are less interested in speeds and specs. Instead, the theory goes, we’ll be more interested in buying a PC for the home, much like a fridge or a dryer.
While this doesn’t faze those of us who love digging through specification sheets and reading PC Authority, the move from Dell does herald a further interesting switch in approach: Dell is entering the consumer market.
The first such consumer product from Dell is the W1900, a 19in widescreen LCD TV which shows much promise.
Spec-wise it looks quite good on paper, with 450cd/m2 brightness, 600:1 contrast ratio and 1280 x 768 widescreen resolution, and it doesn’t disappoint when fired up. It does have a slowish 25ms response time, but when used as a TV, this isn’t noticeable as it’s slightly faster than TV broadcast standards. Computing, gaming and DVDs are also good on the W1900, particularly when used in conjunction with the PiP (picture in picture) and PBP (picture by picture) modes. The latter splits the screen in two, so you can have a spreadsheet open on one page, and the TV news in the other. Or for that matter you can mix-and-match from any other inputs you have. Which brings me to an important point.
|Just some of the many, many inputs and outputs featured on the W1900.|
I’ve been known to point sticks at connectors before, but this LCD TV had more inputs than even my impressive stick-pointing abilities could manage. It has composite video, two S-Video, two HDTV component, TV coax in, DVI and RGB D-Sub inputs for video – and a whopping five pairs of RCA left/right audio inputs! If that’s not insane enough, it also has composite out and audio out (both RCA and 3.5in headphone jack).Thankfully, switching inputs isn’t the usual matter of cycling through each input in turn until you reach the one you need – there’s a handy menu that you can select your desired input from with the remote.
This remote control is a sexy thing too, with blue LED backlighting on the number-pad, glossy black plastic and silver metallic scalloped edges – it’s not your typical cheapo TV remote.
The W1900 is not all good though. Some of the controls are finicky, in particular the volume. While capable of impressive loudness, turning the volume up or down with the remote is a hassle. The unit’s not initially too responsive; the volume marker glacially slides along the indicator line, then suddenly zooms to either end. This means there’s a lot of juggling involved in getting the volume right, from far too loud, to far too quiet, then up a bit, down a bit, and so on. To do it safely you either need to use the monitor’s own side-mounted buttons or engage in an exercise of press, press, press, press, press as you bunny-hop the volume along the scale with the remote. It’s the same with setting contrasts or any other operation with the OSD that has a slider.
The audio, on the other hand is great, with the integrated 2-way SRS surround speakers capable of good clarity and fidelity. It’s no match for a good stereo, but for a flat panel display it’s quite impressive. The image quality is likewise excellent, regardless of input. While the monitor is good as a primary TV, it really is best suited as a PC monitor with TV capabilities.
It’s just that little bit too small to look at across a lounge room – particularly if you’re navigating the OSD, but it does make for a good-looking monitor.
Currently, Dell is offering this for an RRP of $1499, but periodically I’ve seen special offers that have dropped this by a few hundred. Considering the all-in-oneness of the W1900’s connectivity and functionality of the screen, it’s probably worth waiting for a similar price drop as it makes the deal just that little bit sweeter.