Warehouse Wonders: Three LCDs Compared Sceptre x42BV-FullHD LCD HDTV
At 42 inches (diagonal), the Sceptre has no shortage of features for its bargain-basement price. While its two HDMI and two component video inputs aren’t overly generous, they should be adequate for most users who are limited to perhaps a set-top box and a disc player and no external A/V receiver with HDMI switching. The only limitation here is that neither of the Sceptre’s HDMI inputs has a linked L/R analog audio input. HDMI, of course, will carry digital audio to the set, but if you use a source with a DVI output and a DVI-to-HDMI adapter cable, you will have no way to get audio from the source to the set.
Apart from the usual video controls, the Sceptre has four additional adjustments in its Advanced menu: Adaptive Contrast, Flesh Tone Adjustment, Blue Stretch, and RGB. I did not use the first three.
The Sceptre’s remote is well laid out and easy to use, but it lacks direct selection of inputs and can control only the TV. But the manual, with its clear, user-friendly layout, is excellent and nearly equal to the VIZIO’s. It fills 123 pages (all English), but with its large, color figures and well-spaced, clear text, the length is not at all intimidating.
The set’s video processing was definitely below average for 480i inputs, showing significant motion jaggies. However, for many of you who use sources that are already upconverted, this will not be an issue. For any source at 480p or higher, the results were generally good, albeit with some common shortcomings. The Sceptre’s inability to recognize film mode—3:2 pulldown—in 1080i sources resulted in occasional moiré when a camera pans across an image with complex details, such as empty stadium seats or a brick wall.
The Sceptre’s image often popped in a way that the others couldn’t quite match. This was at least partially the result of a mid-brightness region that was more elevated than those of the Westinghouse and VIZIO. In order to keep the image from looking slightly washed out, I had to lower the brightness control to slightly below the correct setting. This crushed the deep blacks a bit but improved the overall picture quality.
Out of the box, neither the Warm color-temperature setting (with its obvious green shift) nor the Normal setting (too blue) produced satisfactory color. So I cheated a bit on the ground rules of this report and played with the RGB controls. Since these adjustments default to zero, I had to increase both red and blue to “reduce” green. Using our precision test tools, I arrived at a setting of 11 for red and 16 for green, but these settings will not necessarily be optimum for all samples. Tweakers without test gear, beware. But you can’t damage anything by trying, and you can easily reset the RGB controls to zero.
The Sceptre’s peak contrast ratio measured 1,192:1 (37.7 foot- lamberts peak white, 0.031 ft-L video black). This is a typical value for an LCD display—even some far more expensive designs.
It definitely had its shortcomings and deviated somewhat from technically ideal performance, but in some ways, I found the Sceptre’s image to be the most pleasing of the three sets. It had impressive punch without going over the top. Its color, set up as described above, was the most accurate, except for slightly oversaturated reds in the darkest scenes. Black-and-white material had a subtle sepia tint, but this was not objectionable.
While it’s no world-beater in the black-level and shadow-detail department, the Sceptre was, by a narrow margin, the best of the group in minimizing typical LCD shortcomings in this area. Nothing to e-mail home about, but tolerable.
Perhaps the Sceptre’s greatest strengths were its clarity and detail. All of the sets did a reasonable job in reproducing crisp native 1080i/p program material, but the Sceptre offered a little something extra. Measurements did, in fact, reveal the set’s exceptional 1080i HDMI detail. It was as good as or better than any display I’ve tested—at any price. At other source resolutions and from other inputs, the resolution was about average for this group of sets.
Unfortunately, there is a fly in the ointment. On some scenes, there was an obvious red fringing on details ranging from subtle shadows on faces to more inanimate objects, stationary or moving. This was more prominent on some discs than others. It was not, however, from the source, since it was not visible on any of the other sets. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s tied with 480i video processing as the Sceptre’s most prominent flaw.
Overall, I liked what I saw from the Sceptre. If the red color fringing could be corrected, the mid-brightness emphasis brought down a bit, and the 480i issue improved, this would be my favorite set in the group.
Sceptre x42BV-FullHD: Geek Alert
As I noted above, the Sceptre’s picture pops more impressively than the Westinghouse or VIZIO when adjusted for the same peak brightness level due to its slightly elevated mid-brightness region. The characteristic that determines the way the display brightness tracks the brightness in the source is called gamma. If the image brightens faster than it should in response to the source, the gamma is said to be too low. This characteristic can be pleasing, and it is in the Sceptre. But it’s not technically accurate.
Poor color out of the box
Compromised 480i deinterlacing
Occasional red-edge artifacts