26" LCD TVs: Are They Ready for Prime Time?

Video Tests

We tested the TV sets under varying conditions - with TV programs, obviously, but also using a DVD player. We tested the various possible connections, and found that quality was variable depending on the connection used. For High Definition, we now do our testing with a PC connected via VGA/DVI and showing WMV9-compatible content.

We ran tests with several DVDs. The space scenes in Star Wars, for example, are good for judging responsiveness and the depth of the blacks. The bass in the remastered edition is also good for assessing the quality of the loudspeakers.

We used Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to assess color rendering because of its bright, rich colors. And the fast action scenes give a good idea of the latency viewers will perceive during screenings of DVDs.

Audio Test

We used a Sony CD-ROM drive as an audio source, and chose selections that stress the set to the limits in each area. The sound quality of a TV set is difficult to sum up in a few lines. Good TV sound has to be rich and deep and reproduce nuances. Good bass reproduction is important, but it mustn't overwhelm the sound environment. Also, the sheer power of the sound a TV set puts out is not a criterion of choice to my mind. So we tested the sets with a range of selections that reflect different aspects of music. They range from Mozart's Requiem to Korn's Right Now and include Air, Radiohead, and Placebo. Hey, the neighbors can like it or lump it. ;)

Gaming Tests

Naturally, we used a range of PC games for our tests, including Doom3, Half-Life 2, FarCry, and Unreal Tournament. But we also decided to use an Xbox as an additional test. It corresponds to the most common kind of gaming use with TVs, and gives a very good idea of the interpolation capabilities of a set. It's true that interpolation can also be judged with movies, but the differences are all the more obvious with a game console. We exchanged the basic cable that came with our Xbox for a gold-plated model that also has an S-Video output, which greatly improved the signal compared to a cinch connector. The games we used on the Xbox were Burnout 3 and Unreal Championship, which were also good for evaluating the responsiveness of the panels.

That's the rundown on our tests. Now let's get down to the comparisons.