Syntax Ölevia LT42HVi 42" LCD HDTV
Dick De Jong, March 10, 2006
Syntax's entry into the increasingly crowded 42" LCD market, the Ölevia LT42Hvi, is a sleek, stylishly designed, 1366 x 768 native resolution HDTV with all of the features that you would expect with an MSRP of $2699. Mounted on a wall with its black glass front (and only a blue light indicating it's powered up), the monitor would make a bold impression, filling any high tech home with pride.
Out of the Box
I read a study today that said half of the returns of supposedly malfunctioning electronic devices are not broken. The consumer just couldn't figure out how to use them. Apparently, the average American will try for 20 minutes and then give up. Setting up modern audiovisual products with their ever expanding list of features often can make a greenhorn geek catatonic in half that time.
If you are spending over $2000 for a HDTV, you probably can pay somebody to install it for you. But I still believe that these technological marvels should be easy to operate, and one of the first indications of their user friendliness is what I call their "plop-ability." You know the situation: you're hosting a March Madness party or an Academy Awards fête. Your new 42" TV just arrived. How quickly can you plop it on the console, produce a picture to be proud of, and plop your satisfied self on the couch?
|Syntax Ölevia LT42HVi 42" LCD HDTV|
Even though the Ölevia LT42Hvi, (with its stand), weighs almost 125 pounds, it plop-ability quotient is quite high. Early on in the setup process, I began to appreciate that the designers were concerned with more than just the looks of the product. For example, the audio and video connections are mounted vertically on the back of the set for easy access. (The manual also touted a convenient built-in little light over the connectors, though alas, that feature never made it into the shipping product.)
Adding to the ease of setup was a User's Manual that was clear and informative. (It even included a glossary.) For a change, it was written in plain English. Also, the remote control is well laid out with good-sized buttons, (which is important since it is not backlit), and comfortable in your hand. And, you can slide the cover of the bottom half of the remote to reveal even more (not so large) buttons for functions that you would otherwise have to find in the On Screen menus, like Zoom and Freeze. The cover-up prevents those incomprehensible phenomena caused by plopping yourself on the remote. For those times, when the remote is completely buried in the sofa, the Power, Volume, and Channel buttons are discreetly located on the bottom of the front of the monitor, also allowing a second access to the On Screen menus.
Back to the original plop-ability, the Ölevia comes with a pair of 25-watt speakers mounted below the monitor that can be detached and placed vertically on each side of the screen, which can then be lowered in the adjustable stand. Though a typical home theater installation will probably include a separate sound system, the On Screen audio settings do provide audio EQ effects, like Concert or Arena, that produce a good, if not great, sound.
With all that design acumen at work, one big obstacle to plop-ability exists. This multi-thousand dollar product does not include any cables in the package - not even a stereo RCA audio cable. I realize that everyone's installation requirements may be different, but even the $199 Oppo DVD player includes DVI and HDMI cables.
With the assistance of the aforementioned Oppo OPDV971H player (attached to one of the two HDMI connectors on the Ölevia ) and the Digital Video Essentials DVD, I calibrated the monitor for black level, white level, gray scale purity, color bias, and linearity. Overall, the default settings were a bit too bright, but controls were responsive and the final adjusted image for the most part was excellent. (More on that later.)
|HDMI & VGA|
|Video & Audio|
With the On Screen menu, you can make and save separate adjustments for all inputs available [TV1, AV 1 & 2, S Video 1 & 2, YPbPr (Component) 1 & 2, HDMI 1 & 2, VGA, and DTV
]. Interestingly, in the HDMI adjustment menu, the Saturation
, and Sharpness controls and the Advanced Picture Adjust panel were deactivated. A call to Syntax's Tech Support revealed that the logic behind this decision was that with an HDMI/DVI signal, you didn't need to make these adjustments, though they were considering activating them for their soon-to-be released (around June) Signature series of TVs. In their defense, I could achieve a perfectly fine HDMI image without them. Of course, if you love to tweak...
I must confess, I dread tweaking - especially with the mish-mash of signals fed into monitors these days. I feel like a dog chasing its tail. You go round and round and when you do finally nail it, you're too exhausted to enjoy your success. Or you change to another channel, (with its own signal peculiarities), and the picture looks too red or green or bright or whatever and you're back to tweaking.
And sometimes, no matter what you do, your adjustments are just not good enough. That was my experience trying to setup the Component signal of the Digital Video Essentials test patterns. Black level was never really satisfactory. Looking at the HDMI and Component signals side by side, you realize why the manual strongly recommends using the HDMI connection. With the Ölevia, the HDMI image was simply truer and cleaner.
If you are a tweakaholic, the Advanced Picture Adjust panel includes a DNR (Dynamic Noise Reduction) adjustment and four additional on/off functions: Black Level Extender, White Peak Limitator, Flesh Tone, and Adaptive Luma Control. Again, this panel is not active in the HDMI menu.
These days, more and more television stations are broadcasting digital (though not always high def) signals OTA, over the air. (Read Chris Iannicello's article for the details.) With a built-in ATSC digital tuner, the Ölevia LT42Hvi can receive digital terrestrial broadcasts. Luckily, I can see the broadcast antennae from my driveway, so I can receive eleven OTA digital channels with inexpensive indoor rabbit ears. (To check what is available from your house, go to http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/Address.aspx.)
Once the antenna was plugged into the DTV connector, scanning for the channels was straightforward, and then a handy electronic program guide was generated. Of course, by surfing through the channels, the range of aspect ratios, resolutions and picture quality can be disconcerting. I don't relish the prospect of such an unstandardized broadcast future.
I like to be close to the screen; I tend to sit in the third or fourth row of a big movie theater. But after crowding the Ölevia monitor to perform the initial adjustments, I realized that I would never be satisfied - especially judging low def, NTSC signals - unless I moved back eight or ten feet and watched television like normal people. The old GI/GO (garbage in/garbage out) axiom was disturbingly apparent with a high definition monitor. Now you can really see the noise and artifacts and color shifts. I sympathize with the folks who have plunked down a chunk of change for one of these high definition wonders only to discover the ugly warts of the NTSC television signals, (which were masked by their old 26" sets), magnified to 42" splendor.
Indeed, as I sat watching 480i broadcasts, (at an appropriate distance), I was pondering the value of this TV. Even the DVD of the beautifully photographed Story of a Weeping Camel upconverted to 720p did not transport me over the moon. I think it was one of those DiscoveryHD programs with close-ups of gila monsters that finally turned the tide. And then the epiphany came while watching the Academy Awards in HD from the DVI signal on my Dish Network 811 receiver. (Considering how lifeless most of the program was, I had plenty of time to cogitate on all things HDTV.)
It's not profound, but it's worth repeating, HDTVs are made to display programs designed for and shot in high definition. And the Ölevia LT42Hvi does a beautiful job of performing that task. With the Academy Awards broadcast, the viewing experience proved absorbing and worth the cost of admission. The good news is that everyday more and more truly HD content is becoming available with the advent of additional HD channels and the soon-to-be released dueling high definition DVD players.
With that said, I have three - perhaps minor - but nagging problems with this TV. First, especially in dark scenes, a purplish tinge is apparent around the edges of the screen. Initially, I thought it had something to do with the Backlight, which can be adjusted. But running through the Bright, Middle and Dark options made no difference. Tech Support said that those upcoming Signature series TVs will have a new anti-reflection coating that supposedly will ameliorate this situation.
Secondly, the viewing angle is listed at 178 degrees. I noticed a fairly sharp qualitative drop-off long before those numbers. I would suggest that you don't place your La-Z-Boys too far off center. Finally, in HDMI, the image was slightly overscanned. In Component, the test pattern was cropped even more and shifted left a bit. I could not locate any controls in the menu to adjust this.
I did not test the monitor with a computer signal so I have no indication if it does 1:1 pixel mapping. Syntax lists the Gray to Gray response time at 8 ms. Since we're talking numbers, the manual also states a Contrast ratio of 1200:1, achieved by a dynamic iris system that adaptively enhances the contrast in real time.
The Ölevia LT42Hvi is a well designed, great looking, easy to use, feature rich HDTV that can accentuate a modern living room wall or (with its minimalist silver stand) fit comfortably in a family room. Especially with a DVI/HDMI source, the monitor produces compelling high definition images that can flatter the Final Four or a femme fatale. If you are only viewing standard definition TV and DVDs, you probably could save your money and stick to an old fashioned NTSC TV. But if you are eager to catch the fast approaching HDTV wave, the Ölevia LT42Hvi is definitely worth your consideration.