Acer AT3205-DTV £899
31st May 2006 | 23:00
A 32in screen that looks bigger than it is
Acer is still best known for its PC monitors but the brand is keen to carve out a niche in the exploding flatscreen TV market, through a combination of keen prices and ambitious specification.
Will its latest Freeview-enabled 32in LCD TV, priced at just £899, further its ambitions?
If you want a 32in screen that looks like a 42in TV, this is the set for you. Its stand is chunkier than normal, its screen frame is wider than normal, and its speakers add a good three further inches to either side.
The AT3205-DTV does at least wear its size with a degree of panache, though, with its nicely curved bezel catching the eye.
Connectivity is outstanding for such an affordable TV. The AT3205 has both DVI and HDMI digital video inputs, which are both able to take HDCPprotected HD video. You also get three Scarts, component video jacks, an analogue PC port, and even a digital audio output. The set does lack a CAM slot for adding subscription digital TV services, though.
The fact that AT3205 carries a digital tuner makes it a great find at £899. The set is promoted as HD Ready and has a native screen resolution of 1366 x 768. Unexpectedly the Acer even handles 1080p feeds via component and HDMI at 60Hz. Impressive.
The company claims the screen's contrast at a not especially inspiring 800:1, meanwhile, while brightness clocks in at 500cd/m2.
At first glance the attractive onscreen menus for this set appear quite featurepacked, but on closer inspection the only embellishment worth mentioning here is a suite of standard picture-inpicture options.
The AT3205's picture quality is rather good, but there are caveats. While bright scenes possess plenty of punch, colour fidelity is over-warm. Out of the box, it measures a roasting 11,000K.
After calibration, the best that could be achieved is a still warm 8,200K.
The picture is stable, delivering its goods with impressively little noise, be it MPEG artefacting on the digital tuner, grain via the analogue tuner, or dot crawl and edge echoes during high-definition viewing.
When it comes to general day-to-day TV viewing, I had few complaints. But when pushed with more demanding movie fodder, some shortcomings become visible.
Its biggest problem is black level. Although contrast is actually rather good (our labs measured it at 630:1) it fails to create a sense of realistic depth. While blacks are fine for ordinary daytime TV viewing with a decent sense of depth, they slip into flattening greyness with the more extreme contrast demands of a good movie.
I also detected minor smearing over motion, at least with standard-definition, and feel that high-definition sources - especially 1080i/p ones - look slightly soft compared with the other sets in this grouptest.
Interestingly, while the AT3205 sports HD Ready accreditation we struggled to display 720p at 50Hz through component. Acer's own labs had no problem in this area, however.
When it comes to audio, the AT3205 performs well. Its sizeable speakers deliver an unusually wide soundstage, with healthy quantities of mid-bass.
Although it might not hit the giddy performance heights of some of its rivals, Acer's 3205's value rating is high. Consider this a reasonable screen for general use.