Dell W2600

23 Dec 2004

Product: LCD TV
Price: €1503.67
Christmas is coming and while the goose may be getting fat, the TV — another staple of the holiday season — is definitely getting thinner. It says an awful lot about the evolution of the market that Dell classifies a 26-inch display as a “mid-size TV”, but the LCD technology it uses means that the unit is a mere four inches thick.

Yes, you read that last part right: the W2600 is one of a range of LCD TVs now available from Dell, a company better known for its PCs. There’s nothing of the beige box about this model though: in the looks department the W2600 wouldn’t be out of place on MTV’s Cribs, with a chrome finish surrounding black audio speakers that flank the TV on either side, heightening the widescreen effect. Even the remote control gets in on the act with a similar colour scheme and backlit blue buttons. The TV sits on a sturdy swivel base or can be wall mounted.

Widescreen is now practically a de facto TV standard; in the case of the W2600 this is ideal for watching movies or sport. It also plays well to a feature that lets you watch two programmes side by side in the traditional 4:3 TV ratio or picture-in-picture style. This feature can be used with another input, so that part of the viewing area can double as a PC screen or can display images from a connected digital camera.

Set-up was easy and the TV found the channels quickly and painlessly. Connecting other devices is not a problem and there’s clearly a lot of intelligence built into the TV as the browser-type screen, controlled via the remote, lets you scroll between settings to locate any externally connected devices. Navigating through this is painless and most importantly, easy to understand.

Switching channels is immediate when using the channel up/down button but there is a noticeable delay when changing by the numbered keypad — one of the few gripes I had with the TV.

Audio output — all 30W of it — is clear at all volume levels and picks up many of the subtler background noises from the screen as well as the principal characters speaking, for example. If background hubbub is not your thing, you can turn this down using the ‘Midnight Mode’ feature without affecting the main dialogue.

The picture is sharp and shows up well in low and bright lighting conditions. LCD’s origins as a computer monitor technology are there to be seen whenever graphics in, say, adverts are displayed on the screen — there’s a noticeable crispness and clarity to them. Moving images are also extremely well rendered, with fine detail and realistic flesh tones.

It’s true that LCD screens aren’t yet available in the kind of supersize modes common to plasma screens but they compensate by lasting longer, having more durability and being easier to install. They’re also a lot cheaper.

Fortunately for the budget-conscious consumer, LCD TVs are coming down in price all the time. Now at €1503.67 including Vat the W2600 is very competitive and comes in cheaper than some of the tier one brands.

In all, the product certainly stands comparison with competitors, but a nagging question is whether Dell has the brand presence in the home market to compare to a Sony or a Philips, for example. Home entertainment snobs prepared to see past the unfamiliar brand won’t be disappointed but I suspect that Dell’s business background means that a large proportion of these screens may find their way into corporate offices where they are likely to jazz up Powerpoint presentations no end.

By Gordon Smith