|Introduction & Specifications|
When LCD screens were first introduced they were plagued by many problems, but they also had some advantages over CRT monitors. LCD's were lighter, thinner, and used less power. And so they caught on and the technology incrementally improved. Early generations were limited to lower resolutions, tight viewing angles, really slow response times, and they carried a hefty price tag. The screen size was also limited because of the early production technology. The main market for them at that point was laptop screens, as the LCD technology offered exactly what was needed in that space.
What makes this HDTV and monitor so special is the AU Optronics Corp. (AUO) LCD panel it uses, and its price (under $1700). The AUO Super MVA panel allows for full 24-bit color replication, a wide viewing angle, and 8ms response times. Unlike the majority of LCD HDTV's currently on the market with 1366x786 or lower resolution, the X37SV (and also the recently released X42SV) has a native resolution of 1920x1080.
The X37 comes packaged in is a plain brown box. When it first arrived, we were taken aback by how large the box actually was. And it was quite heavy too. It was heavy enough that we suggest you get a buddy beforehand to help out if you plan to carry it up or down a flight of stairs.
We then proceeded to open the box to find out that the TV is placed "upside down". The base of the TV is actually facing the top of the box, but this doesn't seem to cause any problems. We put the box on its side and slid the TV out. The thick foam packaging used was very secure. Each corner had a large square foam piece that held the set in place. It was also surrounded by plastic and had a taped screen guard on the front. The set itself is very appealing, more impressive in person than its marketing pictures make it out to be.
After removing the screen from its packaging, we found a small box that contained all the accessories. From left to right are the following; VGA, DVI-to-HDMI, computer sound, composite/sound, component, and power cables. Then there is the brief manual and the side mounted speaker cables and mounting screws, and the remote. As you can notice in the picture, all of the cables are pretty short, most being only three feet in length. We would have liked to have at least six foot long DVI-to-HDMI and VGA cables.
The instructions manual is also very limited and short (30 pages long), this is not as important to us, but for less experienced users a good manual is a must. If you need information about this set, your best bet would be to search on the web, and we will gladly answer any questions in our forums.
The remote included is pretty basic. It has the PIP buttons at the top, the options and menu buttons in the middle, and the channel buttons at the bottom. It uses two AA batteries which were included with the remote. We've had no real problems using this remote. Also, Logitech Harmony remotes are compatible with this set for those interested in using those in place of the standard unit.
The speakers match the material and color of the monitor and are attached to the sides using the included 8 thumb screws (4 for each speaker). The sound produced by these speakers is average, and some user have reported static and other noise when using the standard speakers. We recommend using an external set of speakers with this monitor, such as the Cambridge 5.1 set we used for testing, avoding installation of the included speakers altogether.
|Construction & Connections|
Aesthetically speaking, the Sceptre X37SV set itself exudes quality, not what we were expecting frankly considering the product's relatively affordable price. Looking at the front of the display you can see that the housing of the panel is made of clean looking, dark grey plastic. Inside of which is a black border surrounding the LCD screen. The front measures 45x26 inches in size and the top of the panel curves backwards to give it a rounded look at the top. One part we aren't too fond of is that the top left corner has "ATSC HDTV" silk screened in white using tacky lettering, and the right corner has "X37" in white and red. The front would have looked much cleaner had the writing been excluded or done differently so as not to stand out so much.
At the bottom of the display, we have the silver Sceptre logo in the middle and the button labels and power light on the right. The buttons on the set include the channel up/down, volume up/down, source PC, source AV, and power. The buttons themselves are under the set and can't be seen unless looking from underneath. Placement of the buttons is not very user friendly, since you have to feel around to find the correct button, but they work fine in the event you can't find the remote.
Looking at a side view of the screen you can see just how thin this TV is, measuring only 4.38" in depth. Also visible are the screws which connect the front and back parts of the screen.
The back of the set is the same color as the front with ventilation slits. In the middle is the Sceptre label with the warning labels and serial number of the set. Around the label are four wall-mounting screw holes, which are in a 400x200 mounting pattern. We have no need to wall mount the set yet, so this feature was not tested, but those interested can purchase a mounting bracket separately. To the left and right are the side speaker cable outputs for those that will use the included speakers. At the bottom are all of the inputs, with clear and easy to read white labels.
Let's take a look at all the inputs. First we have the ATSC tuner which allows you to connect an antenna and receive free over-the-air HDTV broadcasts. The only limitation of this is being close enough to the broadcasting stations, which we are not at our particular location (over 60 miles away). In later versions of this set that are currently shipping, the ATSC tuner was upgraded with QAM support. QAM allows the tuner to also pick up unencrypted HDTV over cable. If your cable company provides this, all you need is the basic cable subscription to receive local HD and digital stations. We were unlucky again, as our cable provider did not provide this service. We were able to briefly test it at another location though, and can report that the QAM tuner did work correctly on our set and was able to display digital, and local HDTV stations over basic cable.
The next set of inputs contain the component in, RCA line out, AV out, subwoofer out, and two sets of S-video/composite inputs. Again, more than one component input would have been nice. Last is the NTSC connection, which allows you to have both regular cable TV and HDTV connected at the same time.
The stand that comes with the set is also made out of the same material and color as the display case, with a black insert in the front. It came already connected to the display. To disconnect the base for wall mounting, there are 9 screws holding it to the set. Our only minor issue with the included stand is that it's very basic, and doesn't allow for rotating or tilting of the display. While not a problem for us, it could be an issue in some situations.
|Usage & Gaming|
We tested the PC functionality using both the VGA and DVI connections. The testing was done using an Asus Z70VA laptop which has a P-M 1.86Ghz CPU and an ATi X700 128MB video card, and a desktop machine equipped with a Radeon X800 XL. The resolution was set at 1920x1080x60Hz during all of the testing. The lamp setting (discussed in the user menu section) of the LCD was at the lowest setting, and brightness/contrast turned down from the default. The LCD is capable of being VERY bright and has very high contrast. We also noticed right away that there was no pixilated "screen door" effect which can be seen on some other LCD panels.
First we have a view of the desktop. The picture was taken from over 3 feet away. At that distance the desktop was still very readable and clear, which is hard to tell in the photo. You can immediately notice the amount of destkop space this resolution provides. In the middle is the video properties window with the 1920x1080 resolution setting showing.
Next up is a photo of the HotHardware.com homepage open in a Firefox browser. There is a lot of room left over on both sides of the page, all that extra space means that you could open at the least two different web pages at the same time and still have room left over. For doing work, you can have two separate applications open side by side without any problems or overlapping. Again, reading the page at over 3 feet away was effortless.
This photo is of the article you're reading, open in Microsoft Word 2003. When we first opened Word we were greeted with a surprise. Instead of how we have always been used to seeing one page come up, Word automatically displayed two pages side by side. When running other displays at 1600x1200 and 1680x1050, only one page was displayed. You can see just how much more room is provided by this display. Using the display for desktop applications was great with clear, colorful, and bright images and text. After hours of writing, there was no feeling of eye strain or problems viewing the screen. For those interested in using a large display for work, we think you will be very satisfied with the Sceptre 37", as long as you sit farther away from the set.
Playing on a widescreen high resolution display like this really immerses you in the game. Here are some screenshots in game. Note: photos don't do the display justice, as it is far more impressive during live gameplay.
|Gaming with the Xbox 360|
The Xbox 360 was connected to the display using the Microsoft HDTV component cables. We tested both 720p and 1080i, and can say they both looked equally good. Since 360 produces a 1280x720 resolution internally, and has to scale to any other resolution, we decided to just use 720p for all tests. This avoids scaling and interlacing to 1080i and then de-interlacing and scaling again to 1080p.
First let's take a look at a photo of the 360 dashboard. You can notice just how clear everything is. We then loaded one of the preloaded Xbox Arcade games called Hexic HD. This game has shapes of different colors which all looked very vibrant and sharp.
Next we have the menu of the Outfit demo and in game shots of Madden 06. The slight blurring in the Madden photos is due to the camera shutter time and not the ghosting of the display. The game suffered from no ghosting at all. Because of the slow shutter limit, we weren't able to get good photos of fast moving games such as Fight Night 3. Fight Night 3 was the only game that we did noticed a hint of ghosting, but it was so slight that it did not distract from the game. When we tested the game on a Samsung 26" HDTV, we noticed greater amounts of ghosting. The really rapid movement of the hands when punches are thrown in the game will cause slight ghosting on even the best of today's sets.
These two photos are from the Outfit demo. The game has many vivid textures and looked really good on the Sceptre X37. We did not see any ghosting at all in this game either. We also tested other 360 games such as FIFA, Kameo, NBA Live, and Condemned, all of which looked great.
Finally, we fired up Halo 2. When playing on the 360, the game is rendered in 720p. It was almost like playing a brand new game. Everything was so clear and large. Sniping was much easier when you could spot an enemy's head sticking out from across the map. When playing in split screen, instead of the up/down split like on regular TVs, on a widescreen TV the screens are split left/right, giving each person roughly their own 4:3 TV screen.
For testing movie playback on this set, we used a VGA connection running at 1920x1080. For DVD software we used TheaterTek DVD, and for WMV-HD files we used Zoom Player Standard. The DVD software decoder up-scaled the 480p DVD content to 1080p, so the set was displaying in native 1080p.
We used "The Professional" movie DVD for testing. The quality was good, but we could tell it was a DVD movie and not a high-definition source. Newer and better recorded DVD movies will look more impressive on an HD set than lesser quality DVD titles. The color reproduction was good and the playback was smooth with no sign of any ghosting. Skin tones looked accurate and not oversaturated or discolored. We suggest using a properly setup HTPC to up-convert DVD movies to 1920x1080, sending the signal that is at the native resolution of the set, as this should produce the best results.
The first movie we looked at was the 1080p Alexander trailer. As soon as the video started to play, you could tell a vast difference from the DVD movie viewed previously. There was no static or noise in any of the areas. Colors were brighter and more accurate, and the picture was razor sharp. We were very impressed in how the set displayed the first HD video test.
Next we tested the 1080p Coral Reef Adventure video. The shot above was a beautiful sunset and looked striking on the set. There was no detail missing in the dark water and the colors were right on.
|Menu, PiP & Viewing Angle|
The Sceptre user menu is pretty basic. It's not the sleekest looking and uses low resolution images, but it is easy to navigate and use. The menu has different options depending on the input selected. First are the VGA menu options.
The geometry menu allows you to auto-adjust geometry or manually edit the horizontal and vertical position, and has the clock and phase options for the input. The next screen is the picture menu which only allows you to change the contrast and color temp. Third is the audio menu with the basic sound options, for use when you connect your computer to the pc audio in on the set. Last is the system menu which has the language and lamp options.
The lamp option is pretty unique to this set. It allows you to adjust the output (power) of the backlight lamp. The default was set at 4, but we found this to be way too bright. The lamp was adjusted to 0, even at that setting providing plenty of brightness. Even after turning down the lamp, we had to lower the brightness and contrast. Turning down the lamp setting will provide longer lamp life and lower energy usage. We recommend having this at 0 unless you are using the set in a sunny or bright room.
For adjusting the component inputs, the first menu screen is the video settings. Here you can adjust the contrast, brightness, sharpness, color, and tint. The next menu screen is the advanced settings, with color "improvement" options such as vivid color, skin tone, green, and blue. We turned all of these off or to normal. There were also gamma options. Next was the same audio menu. The last menu was the system menu, again having the same options as previous menu.
Here is an example of the vivid color option. We found setting this option to off, provided more realistic looking colors.
Pressing the PIP source button on the remote opens a small window in the top left corner. Pressing it again will flip through the different sources and the off setting. There is a limitation on that when you're viewing certain sources (VGA, DVI, HDMI, and Component) you are only able to view the analog inputs (AV1, AV2, and Cable) in the PIP window. When viewing an analog source, you can select Component, ATSC tuner, HDMI, HDCP, DVI, and VGA. You can also select three different sizes for the PIP window using the SIZE button, shown above is the small and large sizes. The POS button changes the position of the window to one of the four corners of the display. You can also swap the video and sound between the main window and PIP window.
The first picture is a close up of the straight view of the display. The second shows the display from about a 45 degree side angle. The third shows the screen from the edge of the display. We were impressed with the side viewing angle of the set. Only slight changes in color and brightness were noticed when moving more to the side of the display.
Next we looked at the vertical viewing angle. First was a 45 degree angle from the top, then an almost straight down view from the top, and last the view from under the set. Again, we were very impressed with the viewing angle offered by this display. There was little change in the quality when changing your view.
Unfortunately we weren't able to perform any TV/HDTV testing in this analysis. We will follow-up with an update here, covering those aspects of this set soon. For now, here's our summation based on what we've tested so far with the X37.
Accessories: The set was well packaged and we were impressed that Sceptre included a nice assortment of cables and accessories, but we wish the cables were a bit longer. The remote and speakers included work fine, but are not the best of quality. A separate sound system is well worth it for use with this set.
Construction: The set was well built and it's aesthetically pleasing. The front of the display is clean and simple, and we prefer the dark grey/black theme used over the silver theme that seems to be the trend lately. The stand is secure and solid, but does not offer any adjustment features. The X37 has every type of input you could want, with the VGA and DVI inputs supporting 1920x1080, along with a QAM capable ATSC tuner. The problem is that there is only a single HDMI/DVI and component input which limits the connectivity of this set.