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The Audio Critic

Home Theater BIG Screen, 2000 watts

MP3's v.s CD's, DTS v.s Dolby and other Stuff

Macrovision and how you can avoid it

Read this article for some Sound Advice

Build your own set of biline speakers

Spherex 5.1 (Home Theater in a box) Speaker Review

Proview RX-326 32" LCD HDTV Review

LG LDA-371 DVD Player Review

A Computer for the Living Room, a look at HTPC's

Spyder3TV Review

ATSC: what is it and why should you care

Boxee Box Review


RX-326 Proview 32'' HDTV Widescreen LCD Review
 

I have quite a bit of information for you to wade through so I'm including this handy table of contents to help you jump directly to a section.

Introduction
So what possessed me to purchase a Proview 32'' HDTV Widescreen LCD you may be thinking as you read this article and funny enough that's pretty much what my wife was thinking when I arrived with the Proview RX-326 in tow. I actually purchased this TV by accident ..... well let me explain, I really wasn't planning to come home with a 32" LCD TV.

It started innocently enough when a co-worker asked me what TV I would recommend for around $1,000 so I asked some basic questions such as did he want a 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio, did he want it to be HDTV capable if so 480p, 720p or 1080i and what size was he looking for 30"+ or 40"+ after the initial "deer-in-the-headlights" look passed he replied "whatever I need to watch TV". I started looking around at the different models and specs with the plan of narrowing it down to three choices that would suit his needs for today and provide needed capabilities when he needed them later.

After looking through quite a few sets I decided to ask him if he had thought about the possibility of getting a LCD TV as they had a few models close to his budget price but he would need to up the budget for a decent sized LCD over 30". He liked the idea but needed to check with "the boss" before getting a larger budget. So I decided to see what I could find under $1,000 in LCD TV's, I started in the 21"-29" TV section and found a few models in the correct price range but they varied from 23" to 26" in fact I was shocked to see the Sony Wega 26" Bravia listed at (are you ready) $2,499
I was ready to give up on the idea of a LCD when I checked the Bestbuy website I noticed a 32" HDTV LCD made by MAG. This was very interesting because MAG makes professional monitors and are well known for high quality displays so I did some hunting and found this little blurb from MAG's website.

MAG has achieved this commendable record by insisting that its employees pursue the principles of high-quality, customer satisfaction, and commitment to long-term operations.

In its pursuit of quality and product excellence, MAG operations meet requirements for the ISO14001 international certification in design and production. Up until now, MAG products have claimed more than 30 international awards and certifications including: "PC Magazine Editors' Choice", the "EPA Energy Star", the "PC World Best Buy", "BYTE Magazine Best of Editor's Choice", and "TCO 92/95/99"

No matter if it is increasing industrial capacity or improving product quality, MAG strives to be the best. For this reason, MAG ranks among the ten largest professional monitor suppliers in the world.

Further digging resulted in this little blurb under the Warranty Information section.

Proview Technology Inc., warrants this product against defects in material or workmanship for the original consumer purchaser of the product with following conditions:
Warranty Period: All MAG InnoVision monitors carry a One-Year Limited Warranty.

So it appears that Proview is the main company that produces MAG monitors!

Proview Technology Inc. (PTI) is the US based subsidiary of Proview International Holdings LTD (Proview) (www.proview.com). Responsible for sales, marketing, and support of the Proview brands for The Americas PTI prides itself on bringing the latest display technology products to the consumer and commercial markets at the most affordable prices possible. Established in 1989 and listed on the Honk Kong stock exchange (334) Proview is a manufacturing powerhouse with worldwide logistics expertise. Over the years Proview has become a leader in the computer monitor business and today continues to grow and expand into new areas.

When I checked the model number Bestbuy was using for the MAG version it was the RX-326 and when you enlarge the photo on the website it clearly shows the Proview logo on the front, what's really interesting about this is that Bestbuy owns Futureshop but has decided to use the MAG RX-326 name to sell the same product listed on Futureshop's website as the Proview RX-326. I also found errors between the specs from both retailers websites. I found a product brochure for the Proview 32'' RX-326 with more detailed specifications which you can view by clicking Here.

So I looked for any reviews of the RX-326 and found one at PC Magazine that rated the TV 4/5 further hunting revealed that this TV was also being sold at Costco and I found some forums with owners who were talking about the Proview RX-326 most posts were positive. So I decided I had to see this 32" LCD TV with a purchase price of only $999 in action! Off I went to visit Futureshop .....that was my mistake as you guessed it, yours truly was headed to the cash with a salesman trying to sell me the extended warranty and of course one Proview RX-326.

Quick comparison chart
So lets start by comparing the RX-326 with some models in the same general price range. I have listed the basic information in the chart below so have a quick look and i'll meet you a little further below.

 
Model
Samsung
LNS2641DX
Prima
LC27R25
Proview/MAG
RX-326
Screen Size
26" HD Widescreen
27" HD Widescreen
32" HD Widescreen
Panel Resolution
1366 x 768
1280 x 768
1366 x 768
Tuner Type
NTSC
NTSC
NTSC
Brightness
500 cd/m2
550 cd/m2
550 cd/m2
HDTV Capable
480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
720p, 1080i
480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i
Contrast Ratio
3000:1
900:1
800:1
Audio
5W + 5W
5W + 5W
10W + 10W
Advanced Connectivity
DVI-I w/HDCP
DVI-I w/HDCP
HDMI w/HDCP
Features
3000:1 dynamic contrast ratio
Faroudja's DCDiInterlacer
Motion Adaptive
De-Inerlacing/Interlacing
Panel Life
60,000 Hours
50,000 Hours
50,000 Hours
Price (Canada)
$1299
$999
$999

So as usual they look pretty close on paper except the Proview is 5" larger than the nearest TV in the same price range which is the Prima coming in at 27". The next question is going to be the obvious how did they look compared to the others but I can't say much other than it looked to be fairly comparable with the other units displayed in the store. See the issue is that these units are played with by customers so colors aspect ratios etc.. are not exactly set to the best settings and most TV manufacturers set the displays way to bright so they appear brighter with more vivid colors when viewed in the store. I also believe that unlike CRT based TV's LCD displays don't suffer as much from the wide range of quality variations between models and manufacturers. I base this on the many LCD monitors I have used, if they are working correctly and running at native resolution then they all have the tendency look great.

Proview lists these specific technologies to help deliver the best picture possible from all sources but remember these are not available with all input options.

Dynamic Picture Enhancements

  • 3D Dynamic Digital Comb Filter performs the Y/C separation, this provides a cleaner more clear Y/C separation, resulting in a natural-looking picture.
  • 3D Video Noise Reduction - This function can digitally reduce image noise and provide a better picture quality.
  • Dynamic Luminance Improvement, Dynamic Chrominance Improvement, Dynamic White Peak Level Restriction, Dynamic Adaptive Static Detect Deinterlacing
  • Dynamic Edge Improvement, Dynamic Temporal frame-Filtering Noise Reduction, Dynamic Luminance Detection .
  • Dynamic Black Level Extender, Dynamic Gamma Control, Dynamic Digital SVGA Overlay
  • Dynamic Digital Brightness Extender, Dynamic Operation replenishment, Dynamic Frame/Scan Rate Converter.

Native Resolution
Now I have to pause to talk about the issue of "native resolution" the Proview has a native resolution that is equivalent to HDTV at 720p (1280 x 768) so any source not at this resolution gets up-sampled to 720p with the exception of 1080i which is actually down-sampled to 720p. The problem is the technology behind this up/down sampling. Most of us have viewed a video from the internet made at 640x480 these are very small when viewed on a desktop running 1024x768 or higher so we enlarge the video and all of a sudden we notice all kinds of annoying artifacts in the video that we missed at the smaller size. Here lies the issue with HDTV sets, your normal CRT based TV is based on 480i which is like running your desktop at 640x480 well a video shown at 640x480 on a 640x480 display is going to look perfect with no issues. Welcome to the curse of High definition TV basically anything viewed on a HDTV from a low resolution source looks bad compared to a high definition signal.

Keep your old TV if you plan on not getting HDTV or a good upconverting DVD player as you'll be disappointed with the picture. But once you view this TV with the right source you'll be simply amazed at how good it looks in the footprint normally reserved for a magazine rack! I purchased the
LG LDA-731 Upconverting HDMI DVD Player to use with the Proview RX-326. you can read more about it Here.

Widescreen formats
Lord why can't we all get along and agree on what widescreen format we want to use!!
Below is a list of the possible widescreen formats currently in use.

Since films are shot in 1.85:1 why do we have so many?
Here is a listing of some of the most common aspect ratios:

  • 1.33:1 A standard television set; roughly equivalent to 4:3.
  • 1.37:1 The standard for films shot before the mid-1950s.
  • 1.66:1 A bit wider than a standard TV, but not by much.
  • 1.78:1 The dimensions of a widescreen television set; roughly equivalent to 16:9.
  • 1.85:1 Popular aspect ratio for many movies.
  • 2.35:1 Another popular aspect ratio for movies.

So why do we care about any of this?
Because you will still see black bars on this television when viewing any aspect ratio other than 16:9 so when viewing material designed for a 4:3 TV you will see black bars on the horizontal edges and when viewing other aspect ratios such as 1.85:1 you will get black bars on the vertical edges.


Watching a regular 4:3 aspect ratio signal
 

Watching a 1.85:1 aspect Ratio signal

Now the Proview RX-326 and most 16:9 LCD TV's have a few tricks to enable you to get a full screen picture, they may be other modes on some units but the Proview has these four modes.

  • Zoom - Zooms the picture until the image fills the screen, but this means the image is cropped on the horizontal edges. Interestingly enough some channels such as HGTV broadcast in a weird format where the image has some black bars in the 4:3 signal with their logo occupying the bottom right of the screen while overlapping slightly on the main image, using the Zoom feature on this type of signal works very well as you only loose a very small portion of the screen in the re-sizing process. The original image will extended to a 1.25:1 image to fill the screen.
  • Panoramic - I hate this mode and wish they would stop making it as what it does is compress the image horizontally and stretch it vertically so that you end up with short and fat actors! When the original image is 4:3 the two ends of the image will extended to fill the screen.
  • 16:9 - This mode stretch's the image both horizontally and vertically while performing some cropping on the horizontal edges. If you need to see the screen filled then this is the best mode to use. When watching 4:3 content, the original image will stretch horizontally to a 16:9 image to fill the screen.
  • 4:3 - this tells the TV to display the image in a 4:3 format and should only ever be used to show normal NTSC broadcasting signals in the proper aspect ratio. When watching 4:3 content , the original image will be unchanged and there will be vertical bars on the side of the screen.

So I guess I'm back to the point I made earlier ''keep your old TV if you plan on not getting HDTV or a good upconverting DVD player as you'll be disappointed with the picture''

HDTV 720p
I have talked about which aspects don't work well so now lets talk about 720p, as I explained earlier 720p presents the image at 1280 x 768 which is the native resolution of the Proview ....
Wait a minute the Samsung and Proview state 1366 x 768 as the native resolution so what exactly is going on here? 720p information on a HDTV must have at least 1280 X 720 lines of resolution. A much more common true high definition resolution is 1366 X 768. Most 50” plasma TVs and most all sizes of LCD flat panel TVs have this resolution. 1366 x768 is the actual fully addressable size for 720p which means 1366 x 768 should provide a better picture than one limited to 1208 x 768.

Video Inputs
Lets talk about inputs, the Proview and it's limitations associated with each, we touched briefly on the up/down sampling issue and it's important to note all sources using NTSC are "Interlaced" which means it needs to converted to a "Progressive" signal, again this is done by the TV and the quality of the end-result is directly affected by the processing technology used onboard the Proview RX-326.
I was not blown away with the picture from such sources and I doubt it looked much better or worse than the other LCD TV's I have viewed in this situation. This just means it's average and up to the task with no especially annoying problems when performing the needed up/down conversion.

  • Coaxial cable: Lowest quality used for those of us who still have older VCR's or god forbid regular cable service!
  • Composite video: Low quality but broadest compatibility. Any device that has video outputs will include composite video among them.
  • S-Video: Better quality, and most video sources now have S-Video outputs. I currently have a VDSL receiver hooked up through the S-VHS port and the end result is indeed a fry cry better than the old coaxial input
  • Component video: High quality. This is the minimum standard for connecting HDTV tuners and progressive-scan DVD players. It requires three cables, one for the RED, GREEN and BLUE feeds.
  • VGA: High quality. Video graphics array is an analog RGB connection used for computer connections and you can use any computer using these resolutions with the Proview
    • 640 x 480 at 60hz
    • 800 x 600 at 60hz
    • 1024 x 768 at 60hz
      1280 x768 is NOT supported, it would have been really nice to have this resolution supported as many computers can support it and it would have made the whole panel useable as a computer monitor
  • HDMI: Highest quality. High-Definition Multimedia Interface is basically DVI plus a digital audio link and HDCP; it can be mated to DVI using adapter cables. HDMI is used on some HDTV tuners and newer upconverting DVD players such as the LG LDA-731

Now I will state that the Proview in conjunction with the HDMI output from the LG LDA-731 DVD Player provided the best picture with the truest colors over Component input at 720p but remember this could be a problem with the analog to digital conversion on the Proview or the LG DVD Player could have a poor Component output. I will say the picture was quite good and I was really impressed with the overall picture quality!

Viewing Angle
Because of the nature of their screens the display tends to lose brightness as you move away from directly in front of them. The effect is usually more pronounced horizontally, how much the horizontal viewing angle matters depends on how your seating area is set up, the proview states it has a viewing angle of 170 x170 degrees well sure you can see the image at 170 degrees but the colors are washed out, realistically I'd say try and avoid sitting more than 40-50 degrees to one side as this is where the colors start to fade real fast as you move further to the rated 170 degree mark.

The light source in your LCD
The light source is the most critical component of your display unit as it maintains a proper white balance on your TV. As these florescent bulbs age, colors can become unbalanced, which could result in too much red, for example, in your picture. You will definitely pay more for better LCD display brands like Sharp, Toshiba, Samsung, or Sony than you will for cheaper unknown models, but you'll supposedly get a backlighting bulb of higher quality and, in the end, a TV whose colors will stay truer longer. Proview states in their literature that they use bulbs with an average life-span of 50,000 Hours so at 24 hours of viewing per day it should last at least 5 years

How far should I sit from the TV to get the best picture without noticing to many artifacts?
The right distance depends on the size of your TV but the rule appears to be the size of the display in inches multiplied by 2.5 gives the best results. If you sit to far then what's the point of the added resolution, sitting to close will show the artifacts in the picture.

  • For 20 to 27-inch displays, you should be able to watch comfortably from 2.5 to 5 feet away.
  • For 32 to 37-inch TVs, you should sit back 6 to 8 feet from the screen itself.
  • For 42 to 46-inch TVs, you'll need 10 to 14 feet between you and the screen.
  • 50-inch LCD displays look best when viewed from 12 to 16 feet away.

Final words
I have tried to keep this review simple and informative while showing the advantages/disadvantages of purchasing this or any LCD TV. I have been extremely happy with the proview and I have a few more topics to cover before closing this review.

  • Sound Quality - The Proview which is rated at 10w + 10w provided decent sound quality with no signs of clipping at maximum volume. Its simulated surround-sound mode is interesting but I think it's a matter of taste and I prefer to leave it off.
  • Remote Control - the biggest issue many of you will have is trying to get rid of it! For some reason Proview's IR range is not well known or supported by other remote controls, so far the only one I'm aware of with support for Proview (other than learning remotes) is the Logitech Harmony remote control which is around $100, a must buy if you wish to have the ability to control all the units in your system with a single remote. Proview is supposedly working on the issue but many users are not happy with needing two remotes to control the system.
  • 3:2 Pulldown - Film-mode Detection(2:2/3:2 reverse pull down) also called Telecine, this is important as Film is shot at 24fps and our TV's need 30fps so they are recorded using a process called 2:3 telecine to enable 30fps stream for our NTSC TV's but since the Proview can run at 24fps we want to remove the extra frames and return the video to the original 24fps therefore we have 3:2 Pulldown which is supposed to reverse the process and display movies at 24fps, apparently it often fails to engage correctly but this minor issue is easily fixed by pairing the Proview with an upconverting DVD player that performs proper 3:2 pulldown such as the LG LDA-731

Remember that review I mentioned from PC Magazine well they include some measurements of the Proview so I'm including their findings in the table below.

Benchmark Test setup

  • Factory default display settings
  • Warm color temperature preset
  • HDMI video input at 720p
 

Testing Results (higher is better):

  • VESA Uniformity (black): 79.4%
  • VESA Uniformity (white): 88.1%
  • ANSI contrast ratio: 595:1

Minor issues
No product is without some minor issues and Proview's decision to disable certain controls on different input sources may upset some of you but I personally don't think it's an issue. The fact that the IR remote codes can't be set-up with Sat/Digital boxes will annoy some of you, but I feel an investment of $100 for a Harmony remote or a learning remote to solve that issue is the only negative aspect of purchasing the Proview RX-326.

Bottom Line
I still can't believe I picked up a 32" HDTV LCD for under a thousand dollars!
When I first saw the Proview I felt it was too good to be true, but after my initial internet research and consequent purchase I can firmly state that the Proview RX-326 has to be the best kept secret in LCD TV's. I was concerned about about the back-light life-span but with a rating of 50,000 hours my concern appears to be without warrant, my only regret is that Proview doesn't make any larger models. The bottom line is that I'm a satisfied consumer with a well engineered product that has exceeded my expectations in all areas.

I can't recommend the Proview RX-326 highly enough for anyone who is willing to make a fairly minor investment (compared to the other models) in a great HDTV with a full compliment of options that will ensure this TV is used well into the future.

I hope you found this review helpful and informative
biline

 



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