Review You may have read about HDTV in the news, but just to fill you in, broadcast High Definition TV is only a year away in the UK. Well that's not entirely true, as a Belgian company has already set up a European service known as HD1 which is available now but only to those that don't mind realigning their older dishes to point to the Astra 1H satellite cluster, writes Jalal Werfalli.
However, closer to home, the BBC has made it clear that it will produce all of its content in HD by 2010. One of the first to jump on the UK bandwagon will be BSkyB, which will launch its service sometime in 2006, rumoured to tie in with the football World Cup.
Of course to be able to receive this content you're going to need two key components. First of all, viewers will need an HD-compatible set-top box, and secondly they'll need a display that can do justice to this new standard.
Cue the NextVision N3000w, ViewSonic's first foray into the LCD TV display market. ViewSonic has built up a very good reputation in the standard LCD market and it's capitalised upon this. The N3000w is a fine display in its own right and it's currently competitively priced at £1138.
For the money, you get a 22kg, 30in widescreen display (29.5in viewable diagonal), an acceptable if a little drab two-tone plastic chassis with no stand adjustments, and an impressive array of ports that should cover it for most home cinema set-ups now and for the future. I say the future because unlike a number of LCD TVs currently available, the N3000w is HD-ready.
What I mean by this is the fact that the screen's DVI-D port is HDCP-compliant. HDCP (High Definition Content Protection) is a standard technology to encrypt and ultimately protect the pure digital video and audio signals from being copied, and it will be applied on all digital outputs from HDTV signal demodulators as of July 2005.
The reason why this is a plus point for the N3000w is that HDTV set-top boxes, when they hit the shelves in a big way, will probably have DVI or HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface) ports, thereby bypassing any analog-to-digital and digital-to-analog conversions that may degrade the picture quality. You also have to remember that HDCP will only work between two HDCP-compliant devices, so the N3000w shouldn't present any problems if a clean end-to-end digital signal is what you want.
Of course, you can still make use of the analog signal from your source device, and the N3000w won't you leave you high and dry in that department. For starters you have two RGB-enabled SCART sockets that will accept S-VHS, CVBS, and stereo audio signals. For an even better signal there are two sets of component video inputs, both with their own set of audio inputs. One of these is progressive scan compatible, the benefit of which - along with the N3000w's 3-D comb filter and 3:2 reverse pull down capability - was evident when I used our progressive scan DVD player with an appropriate DVD movie. During testing with this set-up I could easily notice a near total elimination of artefacts such as jaggies and shimmering horizontal lines in comparison to a composite signal.
However, if you want to use a composite signal then you'll find a composite video input lurking along the left side of the chassis. This is accompanied by another two RCA ports for audio as well as a headphone jack that will take up the audio produced by the source device or from a PC if the PC audio-in jack around the back is used.
Furthermore, an LCD TV is not an LCD TV if you can't feed it with an RF signal and to this effect the N3000w comes complete with twin analog TV tuners. Unlike Dell's W2600, an internal aerial splitter has not been used and instead ViewSonic has gone for two separate aerial connectors. That means twice the cabling if you want to use both tuners and since there's only one lead in the box, you'll need to fork out for another. In fact, ViewSonic has been a little thrifty with the provision of cables and I was disappointed to find no DVI, component video, composite video or RCA audio leads in the box.