The battle between LCD and plasma has never been much of a head-on conflict, as LCD has staked out the smaller panel ground and plasma has traditionally been the only choice for larger displays. Add to that the greater difficulty that LCD has had with black level (blacks that actually look gray), and there really has not been that much competition. Things seem to be changing, and there has been a development in LCD panels that has added a new twist to things.
Until now, the most resolute fixed pixel, flat panel display (i.e. LCD or plasma) that you could buy for use as a home theater display was 1366 x 768, a resolution found on many LCD panels in the 20- to 40-inch range, and in plasma panels of 50 to 60 inches. BenQ, a relatively new player in the home display front, has released one of the first 1920 x 1080 panels. Yes, you read that right, a panel that is capable of a full 1080p resolution! Not only that, but it is available only in the two larger sizes: the 37-inch and the 45-inch displays. If this sounds like LCDs are starting to encroach upon the territory of plasmas, you're catching on. It's not that huge a jump to read the tea leaves and realize that a 50-inch or larger 1920 x 1080 display is probably not that far off.
For my first taste of this new series of panels, I reviewed the BenQ DV3750, which surprisingly costs only $2,299. I say surprisingly because once you read the feature list, the price starts to look quite aggressive. Not only does this panel have the aforementioned 1920 x 1080 resolution, but it comes with the Faroudja de-interlacing and scaling chipset to upscale all sources to the native 1080 resolution of the panel. This was an excellent choice, as Faroudja has traditionally been one of the better solutions for these purposes. Add in BenQ's proprietary Senseye processing for color and contrast enhancement and an 800:1 contrast ratio, and the BenQ starts looking very good on paper.
Installation/Setup/Ease of Use
The first disappointment comes when pulling the display out of the box. Instead of coming with the speakers already attached, BenQ sends them separately and makes you attach them yourself. This did not take long, and it wasn't a major ordeal, but it was mildly annoying. The second disappointment comes in the look of this unit. It's not ugly, but no extra money was wasted in making it look sleek, pretty, or stylish. It has the trendy, silvery-aluminum finish, but it is rather plain and utilitarian-looking. Fortunately, once attached, the speakers actually help to give the display a bit of texture and style.
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The third disappointment occurred while looking at the connection
options. Although it has a full bevy of connections, including
component, S-video, composite, and even a special attachment to hook up
a cable connection directly, the only digital input is a DVI one.
Although it does support HDCP, the entire industry is moving toward the
smaller, easier, and more flexible HDMI connection, and DVI seems a
curious choice, even though you can use an adaptor to connect HDMI
The remote is pretty standard fare for a value panel: not backlit,
plain-looking, but fairly well laid out. The setup menu is also fairly
decent, with the ability to set all the normal picture controls and
individual, four-color controls.
I paired this display with a Scientific Atlanta HD8300 high
definition cable box and DVR from Time Warner cable. My Krell DVD
Standard DVD player was hooked up to the component inputs. Tributaries
cables were used for both connections, and an HDMI-DVI adaptor was
sourced from them as well.
The above disappointments rapidly faded away when I first turned this
panel on. Even before I did the picture calibrations with Video
Essentials (this panel was fairly easy to calibrate and exhibited good
color balance), it was obvious that the black level was excellent.
Although I have seen good black level on LCD panels before, this was
about as good as I have seen on any panel, and it compared well to the
depth of black on my Fujitsu 50-inch plasma. That is quite the
compliment for a LCD panel, although black detail was still poor, as in
all fixed display panels. Thankfully, mottling in the black areas was
fairly low, and the green moss effect was also quite low.
Analog television looks really good on this display, testament to the
Faroudja processing and the high resolution. Up close, you can see the
compression artifacts, but when sitting six or seven feet away, the
picture looks remarkably crisp. While watching certain analog channels,
I couldn't help but think that it almost (but not quite) looked like a
high def feed on an inexpensive EDTV 480p display. That's pretty good
processing, considering how poor most of these analog feeds are.
This panel also looked very good watching HD feeds. It is remarkably
crisp with a good HD feed, especially when not watching dark
programming. Even the best LCDs are not quite the match to my Fujitsu
plasma for dark programming, but this one does manage to come close.
The dark detail can still have some gray/green mottling in it, but I am
really nitpicking here. Overall, this really is a very good HD panel,
and it shows that LCD can do a very good job with high quality feeds.
Using the component inputs with the Krell DVD Standard again
provided a clean, crisp, excellent picture. Black level was excellent,
and picture quality was top-notch as the panel took the 480p picture
and upscaled it to the 1080 resolution of the panel.
Overall, picture quality of this panel is really, really good. One
of the things that you notice after watching a panel with a good black
level is how much more three-dimensional the objects and characters
look on the screen. Those panels with a poor black level often do not
"delineate" things as sharply, and the picture has a flatter,
two-dimensional feel. The picture from the BenQ pops from the screen
and is a pleasure to watch.
This BenQ panel really surprised me at how good it was. BenQ really
should consider hiring a good industrial stylist/designer to sharpen up
the look of their products - it costs just as much to make something
plain as it does to make it pretty! Add in one or two HDMI ports, and
this panel would be very hard to beat, indeed. Even as it is, this is
an excellent value, and one that you should look closely at when
shopping larger LCDs. I, for one, can't wait to see what a 50-inch,
1920 x 1080 LCD is going to look like!
BenQ DV3750 LCD
37" 1920 x 1080 16:9 LCD panel
Faroudja DCDi Video Processing
Independent Four-Color Adjustment
800:1 Ultra-high Contrast Ratio
Attached Stereo Speakers
DVI-D input with HDCP
40.6" x 4.8" x 23.3"