Although there is some talk of extending the deadline, as of now the government mandate for all full-power television stations to transition to 100 percent digital broadcasts is still slated for Feb. 17 of this year.
Essentially, this means that anyone with an older analog television that is not connected to a cable or satellite receiver will need a digital converter box. Originally, Congress created a program that had been offering $40 coupons good towards the purchase of these boxes but, for the time being, funding of that program has run out.
In addition, with the economy in dire straits, many households are choosing to spend more family time at home for entertainment purposes.
Probably for these two reasons, even in this tough economy, home entertainment equipment, particularly televisions, is a big seller -- and it seems that the latest buzz words are high definition. Currently, the best achievable video resolution in this market is 1080p, and that's what most new, large-screen LCD televisions can produce. But, up until now, very few smaller screens (32 inches and less) were available with anything better than 720p.
Last month, ViewSonic, most prominently known for monitors and displays, announced the VT2430, its first 24-(actually, 23.6-) inch HDTV with full 1080p support. The Test Center spent some time with the television and was wowed by its picture quality.
Looking like a large computer monitor, the VT2430 comes out of the box with a removable stand already attached. An optional wall mount is available but, except for maybe a kitchen installation, chances are this TV will be watched in a bedroom, den, or small office where the stand will serve just fine.
The 16:9 LCD supports 1,920-x-1,080 resolution, and is surrounded by a glossy black 1-inch-wide bezel. The cabinet extends below the screen approximately one and a half additional inches, where decorative vent holes hide two 5-watt speakers.
For the most part, sound quality from the small unit is surprisingly good. At the standard setting, audio is acceptable, although a little flat, but we found the various other settings, such as music, movie and sports to be very effective.
One exception was the Surround Sound mode, which sounded loud and a little distorted. Otherwise, volume levels were more than adequate for the viewing space the TV is designed for. A personal profile is available for users who want to adjust and save their own settings and there is also an Audio Only setting, which enables the user to turn off the display when listening to news or music-only channels.
Similar to the sound modes, the standard picture mode is fine, but the dynamic setting boosted the Brightness and Contrast levels to really make the image stand out. The Soft setting was a little dark for our tastes, but would probably look better in a darkened room with a movie playing. Here, too, there is also a personal profile in the picture mode for those who would like to customize.
The television has an integrated ATSC/NTSC/ QAM TV tuner, and rear video input connections include HDMI (or DVI with optional adapters), VGA for PCs, S-Video, component, composite and RF. There are also RCA, and mini jacks for audio input and headphones.
Most of the on-screen menu options are fairly commonplace, allowing for the automatic scanning and manual programming of available channels and their displayed names, time and closed captioning, and a large selection of parental controls that can block channels, content by ratings, and even specific inputs. The included IR remote is comfortable to hold and intuitive to use, although some might find the buttons a bit small.
The picture quality of the VT2430 is clear and very good. High Definition channels and Blu-Ray disks looked especially nice, with dark blacks and vivid colors. Additionally, the antireflective coating does a nice job on keeping glare down. Viewing angles of 170 degrees horizontal and 160 degrees vertical make the set easy to see from anywhere in the room.
When comparing the VT2430 to the various test screens of the DisplayMate calibration suite, the television passed 17 of 18 tests out of the box, with the horizontal color register a little off. This was not much of a concern, since it was mostly in the red and blue, which has low visibility and was not off enough to be discernible in actual usage. Initially, black levels were set a little too low, which at least partially explains why reviewers found the Dynamic picture mode to be a nice improvement.
At 15.4 pounds, the set can easily be carried and set up by one person. It will also not put much of a load on whatever stand or wall on which it is installed. Although rated with a maximum power consumption of 75 watts, our unit never drew more than 45. Temperature readings were also low, ranging from averages of 79 degrees Fahrenheit in the back, to 88 degrees in the front, and 94 to 97 degrees across the small row of vents along the top.
With an MSRP of only $399, the ViewSonic VT2430 offers excellent picture quality at a relatively affordable price. Not large enough (or meant) for regular family viewing in the living room, it is a perfect option for a bedroom, kitchen or office TV.