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BenQ VA371 LCD TV
BenQ: a brand that's made up of some ten companies, of which AU Optronics (one of the biggest LCD panel makers) is one. They claim to "operate independently while sharing resources and leveraging synergies". Perhaps they work by synchronized macro functions in a huge robotic city within ten demarcated color-coded zones. I imagine industrial clanking, steel trusses looming overhead, purple silhouettes with automated machines… maybe a game should come out called ‘BenQ Force’ or something (are you listening, Valve?)
Before I get sidetracked further, let me get back to the task at hand . We received BenQ's already well-established LCD model called VA371, a 37-incher. It's been around for a while now; my bad for not reviewing it till date. Better late than never, right? And since it’s Diwali, you deserve to be spoilt for choice. I shan’t let the big boys with their marketing muscle push the others back. No siree, I’m the sheriff!
Design & Features
Attractive but predictable, the body is a blend of metallic silver and black. The lustrous silver frame cradles the dense black bezel and 37-inch frame, while the front panel, below the screen, has appropriate logos imprinted in contrasting silver fonts. Below this is situated a perforated metallic speaker grille. Yet another model that has the speaker panel below. I like it though; it looks nice.
The build quality is quite good; with tough plastic being the material of choice. The stand is quite sturdy too. This stand is permanently fixed (no swiveling around is possible), but the good thing is that setup is made drastically simple, unlike some brands that include Allen keys and screws. You can also opt to wall-mount the panel; the mounting accessories are not included though.
The VA371 is equipped for HD compatibility, with a 1366 x 768 pixel LCD panel, also known as WXGA. The contrast ratio is 1200:1, and the good part is that it's native contrast ratio and not dynamic values, unlike the big boys who talk about 10000 and 12000 ratios which really isn't a fair deal. Brightness is highly rated at 500cd/m2, while the response time of 8ms is fast enough.
I decided to plug in the PS3 to check it out. The TV has plenty of connectivity options: an HDMI terminal, plus three sets of component video input sockets. In addition there's a PC VGA cable input, and so are old-timers like S-video and Composite. One set of Composite connections is on the left side of the TV for quick and easy setup, though the main rack is at the back, facing downwards. This makes it a bit of a hassle to connect up an HD rig, especially for lazy bums like me.
We ritualistically slipped in a DVE disc and proceeded to calibrate the unit. This process more often than not strips the TV down to size, quality-wise. I ran the video demo at the end of the disc, and found some interesting things: the color has a nice level of saturation, while skin tones and landscapes looked nothing short of spectacular.
Some scenes looked a bit redder than usual, but that is offset by a shift of the color setting to the negative. Couple this with skillful seams of clarity in the image, and you have a strong contender at hand. The menu system is decent without too much clutter, and provides basic setting adjustments.
On running test patterns we found that the black levels were not being passed to the fullest, and the TV needed a jolt in brightness to get that killer gleam in the image. This can be done via the remote settings, but the overall image is affected a bit if brightness is turned way up. Contrast settings were flat when we received the unit, but a little nudge to the right of the meter calibrated it just fine.
Noise was there in usual amounts and jaggie lines too in the acute edges. I’m learning to live with this, as no TV really surprises in this department. What was good in the TV, besides the color and static detail, was the dynamic detail: motion scenes looked very good in 720p via our PS3. We played some racing games, which went well.
Considering the price of Rs 56,000, it’s not a bad deal, as the good points of this LCD panel outweigh the negatives. I was pleasantly surprised by the performance, which surpassed my expectations. The VA371 is a decent looker too, so it could be a candidate worth considering when you're out shopping for Diwali.