Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
- Low price-point, Above-average image quality in standard and high definition modes, Exceptional PC mode, Wide range of connections, 1080p support (via downscaling)
- Speakers could be better, some image problems in 1080p
If you're looking for a high-quality unit at a rock-bottom price, the AT4230 is well-worth considering.
Price$ 2,299.00 (AUD)
The Acer AT4230 is a 42in LCD TV with a native resolution of 1366x768. It has the visual quality of a mid-to-high-end model and sells for an insanely low price. We didn't know what to expect from Acer since they haven't yet built their name in the flat panel TV space. As such, we were surprised by this unit, not only by its excellent image quality, wide range of connections and its near-flawless PC connectivity, but also by the fact that it can do something that we've never seen a native 720p TV - it can display 1080p content.
As stated, this is a native 720p TV, which means that it's designed to display 720p signals first and foremost. However, we noticed something peculiar about the unit when we began to test its high definition capabilities.
The unit we tested prior to the Acer had a native 1080p resolution and our Xbox 360 was still set to 1080p mode. We unknowingly connected the 360 to the Acer via the component connection and thought nothing of the fact that it appeared on the screen without any major image aberrations. That was until we realised we were running in 1080p mode.
Convinced that there must have been some mistake on Acer's part we asked them to confirm the native resolution of the panel. The response was 1366x768 (720p). We decided to take the 1080p testing further and ran some Blu-ray tests at 1080p via a HDMI connection. Once again, the image appeared on the screen and we were able to watch our movie.
However, the 1080p mode isn't exactly flawless. We noticed some image noise in background textures, some fairly severe contrast problems and reddish discolouration in low-light areas and blacks. Even though this TV supports 1080p, we wouldn't recommend it for that use.
High definition (720p/1080i)
None of the problems that we found in 1080p mode were present in the 720p and 1080i modes. In fact, apart from some very minor over-sharpening and a little pixelation, the image quality was excellent. To test the high definition performance, we connected the Xbox 360 to the unit and ran gaming tests in 720p and HD-DVD tests in 1080i.
For our gaming tests we ran Ghost recon Advanced Warfighter 2 and Tony Hawk's Project 8 and found very few problems at all. Overall, the image quality was rather good, with only minor pixelation on curved edges and a little over-sharpening. Using the on-screen calibration options, we were able to remove much of the over-sharpening, but a little of it still remained. The motion tests were flawless; there was no noise and the colours and black levels were exceptional.
For the HD-DVD test we viewed the empire state building scene from King Kong. We needed to turn the contrast up for this test as some detail was being lost in the shadows and there was noticeable noise in clouds along the New York skyline. However, there was no contrast-stepping and the colours and black levels were again quite impressive.
On the whole, the image quality in 720p and 1080i was excellent. The few minor problems we witnessed aren't issues that will impact heavily on the viewing experience. If you want to play high definition games or movies, this unit will display both quite well.
Standard definition (576i/p)
In standard definition we ran DVD tests using the Digital Video Essentials (DVE) DVD as well as the lobby scene from The Matrix.
The DVE tests showed no problems whatsoever. There was no noise in any of the greyscale tests and no discolouration. The colour tests were all delivered flawlessly and the contrast tests showed no errors.
Watching The Matrix, we noticed a little pixelation on edges and some background noise, but these were both at acceptable levels (due to image scaling). There was a little over-sharpening as well, but this was greatly lessened via calibration. We expected contrast issues on-par with those seen in the high definition video test, but there were none to be seen. Black levels and colour were both good, with reasonable clarity and no noticeable discolouration.
This unit doesn't produce the best standard definition performance we've seen in an LCD TV, but it's certainly the best we've seen from a 42in panel at the $2200 mark. If you love your DVD collection and aren't quite ready to upgrade to one of the HD formats, the Acer AT4230 will display them nicely.
Acer has been in the LCD monitor business long enough for us to expect big things from the PC mode on the AT4230. Thankfully, we weren't disappointed. The maximum supported resolution of this model is 1366x760 so we ran all our tests at that resolution. Using DisplayMate Video Edition, we ran a series of intensive tests designed to uncover all the problems that a TV might have. The AT4230 passed every single test flawlessly. There were no banding issues in any of the resolution tests and there wasn't any discolouration in the greyscale tests. The colour tests were delivered with ease and we found no signal issues or response time problems at all. The Acer documentation that we received with this unit proudly praised their PC mode performance and we tend to agree with their assessment. If you own a media centre PC and are looking for a flawless display on which to use it, this model will fulfil your needs.
Design, speakers and tuners
There is nothing particularly spectacular about the design of the Acer AT4230. It has a basic, silver design, its speakers are below the panel and it has a fairly square aesthetic. However, when it comes to connection options, Acer hasn't left anything out. This unit has two HDMI, two Component and two Composite connections as well as a 15-pin D-Sub port for a PC connection. This is an impressive array of connections and far more extensive than many units on the market.
The speakers on the unit could be better. The volume is inaudible under 25% and even at 100% isn't as loud as other units we have reviewed. Also, at high volume, the sound distorted a little and lost much of its finer detail. When set at a comfortable listening level, the audio was good but there was some noticeable softening of dialogue during movie playback. The sound seemed to emphasise effects and the musical score rather than what was being said in a scene. This isn't a massive problem, but if you require excellent audio performance, you'll need to connect the unit to a home theatre system.
The AT4230 has two integrated tuners with two tuner ports. One is for analogue TV and one is for standard and high definition digital TV. It's worth nothing that if you want to use the picture-in-picture feature, you'll need to buy a signal splitter as one isn't provided in the sales package. We found no problems with either tuner. If you're in an area with excellent signal strength, then the analogue tuner may look reasonable, but we recommend you stick to the digital tuner as its image clarity and reliability is far superior to analogue.
Despite the handful of problems that we discovered, we're mightily impressed with the Acer AT4230. It's performance in both standard and high definition modes exceeded our expectations for a TV at the $2200 mark and its PC performance is outstanding. Even though the 1080p support isn't brilliant, it's impressive that it's available. We wouldn't recommend buying this unit solely for the 1080p support though, as a native 1920x1080 TV would be far superior for this task. If you're looking for a high quality unit at a rock-bottom price, the AT4230 is well-worth considering.
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