(CNET.com) -- As second kahuna in the no-name HDTV surfing contest after big-wave Vizio, Westinghouse always seems to have something to prove. The 47-inch TX-47F430S LCD rides hard with an extralong board's worth of features, including four HDMI inputs, 1080p native resolution for a relative pittance, oodles of picture settings, and a great selection of power-affecting modes.
Despite the strong effort, however, this surfer wipes out when it comes to looks, and while we liked a lot of its picture quality characteristics, its lighter black levels don't help it stand up. If you can look past those somewhat washed-out blacks, however, the Westinghouse TX-47F430S is among the best big-screen LCD bargains available.
It's also available in a 42-inch version, the TX-42F430S, with identical features and, we assume, similar performance.
While some people may use the complementary "understated" to describe the appearance of the Westinghouse TX series HDTVs, we'll call their styling "lackluster" by modern flat-panel HDTV standards.
The screen of the TX-47F430S is bordered by charcoal gray on all sides that lacks the luster (gloss) found on many newer sets, but it looks pretty drab in comparison.
Brighter gray is used along the bottom of the set to differentiate the microperforated speaker grille, and the matching stand is -- surprise! -- gray as well. The color scheme might work in an industrial lab, but we think many HDTV shoppers want a bit more pizzazz in their living rooms.
Once you pull away the advertising stickers, the only accent is a small, defeatable power indicator light and the admirably subtle Westinghouse W. The TX-47F430S measures 46.1x32.3x9.3 inches including the stand and weighs 83.4 pounds; sans stand the panel measures 46.1x29.5x5.5 inches and weighs 70 pounds.
Westinghouse's remote is a basic model that nonetheless has direct-access keys for all of the input types, which we greatly admire. Although not backlit, all of the keys feel well placed and nicely differentiated by size.
As usual with off-brand remotes, we found some head scratchers, namely the dedicated backlight key at the top of the wand where we'd prefer, if anything, a one-key toggle for the picture modes.
The set's menu layout leaves little to be desired, with the many options logically arranged into submenus. We especially like the inclusion of text explanations along the bottom, although, being inveterate nitpickers, we did detect some mistakes. The label for color temperature in the calibration menu reads "Switch 3D combfilter feature on or off" while the same label in the main video menu drops a "t" in saying "Adjust the picture to different color temperature."
One extra featured on some previous Westinghouse models is the Quick Install Matrix. Selecting this option in the setup menu calls up a page that looks ripped from the user manual -- and looks great on the 1080p screen -- with a quick setup guide, a graphical grid explaining the input types and which sources to connect to them, and even the customer service phone number. With all that good newbie info, we can forgive ol' "Westy" for using the Matrix to pimp its line of wall mounts and other products.
The principal item on the spec sheet of the Westinghouse TX-47F430S is its native resolution of 1080p, which translates to 1,920x1,080 pixels on the screen. Those pixels allow the set to display every detail of 1080i and 1080p sources, while all other sources, from 720p HDTV to DVD, to standard-definition sources, to computers, are scaled to fit the native resolution.
We appreciated the Westinghouse's range of picture tweaks, starting with four nonadjustable picture modes and a fifth User mode. (Update 08-21-07) When we first published this review we indicated that the User mode was independent per input, but that's not the case for the four HDMI inputs. Unfortunately they all share the same User settings, so adjusting each one individually for the four HDMI sources is not possible. We have updated The Bad accordingly, and thank AVS Forum for the catch.
In addition to the standard video-menu settings such as contrast and saturation (color), there's a User Calibration menu with some additional options. The most useful is the ability to fine-tune the three color temperature presets for red, green, and blue gain, which really let us hone in on the 6,500K standard (see the Performance section). We also liked that the calibration menu didn't time out after a brief period, as the main menu did. The calibration menu also lets you defeat deinterlacing and the 3D comb filter (although there's really no good reason to do so), as well as the Dynamic Contrast function, which we left off for critical viewing because it adjusts the picture on the fly.
Aspect ratio control is fairly standard, with the same three options available for both HD and standard-definition sources. Happily, the default Standard mode shows 1080 resolution sources with no scaling or overscan, so we recommend using it unless you see interference along the edge of the picture. If that happens, as it did with our DirecTV feed of CNN, for example, switching to the overscanned Fill mode removes it, although it also obscured some of the ticker.
The TX-47F430S includes more than the standard cast of power-related features. In addition to the usual sleep timer and defeatable front-panel LED, there's a mode that turns the set off automatically after one minute if it doesn't receive a signal; another that engages an "energy saver" mode; and a "power-on plug" mode that allows the TV to turn on automatically when it receives power to the cord. The energy saver mode is unusual because it doesn't affect energy consumed when the set is turned on--it controls only standby power consumption.
When it's left in the default "off" position, the set consumes a lot of power (around 40 watts) when turned off because it's primed to provide a picture nearly instantly. We recommend you turn the saver on because, while the image takes around 20 seconds to appear, the set consumes only a nominal 0.7 watts in standby. Simply engaging the power-saving mode saves about $25 per year in energy costs. See the Juice box below for more details.
One of the TX-47F430S's claims to fame is its prodigious input selection. After the 60-inch Vizio VM60PHDTV, it's the only HDTV we've reviewed to have four HDMI inputs, one of which includes analog audio inputs to ease connection to DVI sources (although we tested another and it also worked perfectly with a DVI source). There's a VGA-style computer input along with a pair of component-video inputs. Lower-quality sources get just one composite and one S-Video input, which unfortunately share one set of analog audio inputs. There's also the standard RF input for cable or to connect an antenna to grab stations for the ATSC tuner, an optical digital audio output so the tuner can pass surround soundtracks, and an analog audio output.
Westinghouse takes care to advertise its vertically aligned, side-facing input arrangement, and while unusual, we did find it rather convenient. The column on the back of the set sprouts half of the inputs to either side, so cables don't stick straight out from the back of the panel, yet are easier to access than with the downward-facing input bay utilized by Vizio and some others. It's worth noting that the Westinghouse still lacks a set of inputs mounted on the side of the panel.
We liked a few important items about the picture quality of the Westinghouse TX-47F430S, including its commendably accurate color and solid video processing. These good points were countered by the set's inability to produce a very deep black, even compared to another budget LCD, and we also had complaints about its less-than-even uniformity and softer standard-definition picture.
As usual during our setup process, we dimmed the display for comfortable viewing in our darkened room, but in this case, we kept the backlight control at 40 percent to achieve a bright-enough picture (40ftl). Unfortunately this also brought up the level of black considerably, but that's the nature of the display. We tweaked the user menu's color temperature controls and were extremely pleased with the results, achieving excellent consistency up and down the grayscale, with only the upper end veering slightly into red. We really appreciated the fine color temperature controls because the default Warm mode, while somewhat close to the 6,500K standard, de-accentuated green significantly, making skin tones appear too ruddy. For our full user-menu settings, click here or check out the Tips & Tricks section above.
For our viewing tests, we compared the Westinghouse side-by-side with the Vizio GV42LF, a competing budget 42-inch LCD, and the Pioneer PRO-FHD1, our reference plasma TV. We chose to watch the Flags of Our Fathers HD DVD, played on a Toshiba HD-XA2 at 1080i resolution.
It became obvious quite quickly that the Westinghouse could not produce as deep a level of black as the other two sets. The letterbox bars above and below the image were visibly lighter, and in dark scenes, such as the shot of the train passing in the night, the black and near-black areas appeared more washed out and less realistic.
Shadow detail, such as the folds in Ryan Phillipe's formal black uniform, were a bit harder to discern than on the Vizio, and we thought the TX-47F430 became too bright too quickly in areas that called for a gradual rise from black to shadow. We also noticed that near-black areas were tinged a bit redder than they should have been, an exception to the TX-47F430S' otherwise linear grayscale performance. Finally, the set failed to maintain a consistent black level as other areas of the picture became brighter. In general, the Westinghouse didn't do a very good job of realistically reproducing darker scenes.
With brighter blacks, the saturation of colors suffers too, and for that reason the TX-47F430S didn't appear quite as rich and punchy in colorful scenes such as the Times Square celebration, where the red and blue of the American flags and the red of the chorus girls' dresses seemed a bit duller than on the Vizio. Color accuracy, on the other hand, was excellent, especially in skin tones such as the faces of people applauding in the crowd. The pale skin of the redheaded chorus girl on the far right looked realistically alabaster and not too flush. The Westinghouse's primary colors were close to the HD spec, resulting in accurate reds, greens, and blues, and color decoding was right on.
During setup we noticed that on test patterns, the Westinghouse "clipped" detail in very bright areas (technically, there was no brightness difference between 90 and 100 IRE), and this issue came up a couple of times in the film, as well. One of the teacups on the table in front of the boys at the banquet consisted of an indistinct white mass on the TX-47F430S, while the other displays showed the detail of its rounded side and slight shadow against the saucer. The brightest white of the tabletop looked similarly less detailed, and we expect this issue would be even more obvious in snow scenes or hockey games, for example. This clipping might not be a deal-breaker for most viewers, but almost all displays we've tested can resolve the full range from black to white, whereas the Westinghouse cannot.
The screen uniformity of the TX-47F430S was tolerable but not ideal for a 47-inch LCD. We detected brighter areas in the upper-right and lower-left corners that were clearly visible in dark shots and black letterbox bars. In brighter areas, we noticed that the edges of the screen were slightly brighter than the middle, but thankfully, this effect was quite difficult to detect in normal viewing material. The Westinghouse became a bit more washed out then the Vizio, for example, when seen from the sides or above and below. False contouring, on the other hand, was not a problem with this display.
The Westinghouse showed every line of detail from our Sencore HDTV signal generator's 1080i test pattern, and the set also displayed the 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 test patterns with the same aplomb. (Update 08-21-07) Despite handling the Sencore's 1080p/24 signal, when we hooked up the Samsung BD-P1200 Blu-ray player to test its 1080p/24 output with the Westinghouse, we weren't able to activate it. The option was grayed-out in the Samsung's menu. We expect other 1080p/24 sources will have similar difficulty interfacing with the Westinghouse.
We were also impressed that the TX-47F430S was able to pass both 1080i deinterlacing tests from our HQV test suite HD DVD disc; most displays we've tested fail the test for film-based sources. Despite passing the test pattern, however, we still saw hints of moire; in the seats of the stadium on HQV, and in the tell-tale RV grille from the end of Chapter 6 of the Ghost Rider Blu-ray disc, although both looked cleaner than on the Vizio. When we returned our player to 1080p output mode, those difficult areas looked much better, so we still recommend going 1080p when you can.
With standard-definition sources, according to our tests using the HQV disc on DVD, the Westinghouse TX-47F430S turned in a below-average performance. While it did pass every line of resolution from the DVD format, the details in the stone bridge and grass looked significantly softer than we'd like to see; the Vizio was noticeably sharper on this scene. We also would have appreciated some kind of noise-reduction control, as the disc's scenes of sky and sunset appeared rife with moving motes. We did appreciate that the set properly introduced 2:3 pull-down detection, but that's about the only good point in its standard-def performance.
We were duly impressed by the TX-47F430S's performance with PC sources at 1,920x1,080 resolution, as long as they went in via an HDMI input from our PC's DVI output. The set resolved every line according to DisplayMate, text looked good, and there was no overscan. Going in via analog RGB, however, was a bit more difficult.
Our late-model GeForce 8600 GTS video card, although it was successful in identifying the Westinghouse, did not allow us to select a full-screen resolution higher than 1,280x1,024, which, as expected, looked pretty soft on the 1080p display. (Update 08-21-07) We tested a couple more cards since this review was first published, and they were successful in detecting the Westinghouse and sending it a 1920x1080 signal. The set resolved every line of resolution, but we saw some flicker in some backgrounds and interference in the highest-resolution areas, so we still recommend going in digitally if possible. E-mail to a friend
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