There's a lot missing, but the essentials are here, for a price that's peanuts
Very sharp and colourful pictures
No Freeview tuner
Black level issues
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We've not been too impressed by the efforts of PC manufacturers to muscle in on the LCD TV patch so far. Video's demands of a screen differ from computing's, and few PC brands have managed to make the necessary adjustments convincingly.
However, many of the TVs from PC brands have had a different ace up their sleeves: their price. And so it proves to be the case again with Acer's 37-inch LCD set. But will such an attractive price tag come allied to a genuine understanding of video picture performance for once?
First impressions don't bode well. The AT3720's bodywork feels rather flimsy and the matt black and grey finish is drab, if truth be told. Still, we're never ones to judge a book by its cover.
Acer certainly isn't the first PC focused company to try its luck in the AV world - and it certainly won't be the last - but you could be forgiven for having more than a few reservations about such a company's technological crossover.
However, things get off to a pretty impressive start in the case of the AT3720, thanks to this LCD screen's inclusion of not one, but two HDMI inputs, allowing connection to Sky's HD set-top box and either a Blu-ray, HD DVD or up scaling DVD player.
This useful pairing is backed up by the component video inputs that are necessary to earn the TV its HD Ready wings. Plus, there's a PC input (so you can play games or look at spreadsheets on the big screen), a pair of Scarts and an aerial input.
Sadly, though, this aerial input is analogue only, meaning Freeview reception is not an option. Also a touch annoying is Acer's decision not to furnish the AT3720 with a four-pin S-video input, although the Scarts are wired to handle this medium-quality signal.
Perhaps inevitably, given its price, the AT3720's lack of digital tuner is just part of a general shortage of features. Undoubtedly the set's coolest trick is the component video input's ability to handle the new 1080p HD format now gathering impetus, thanks to its appearance on Blu-ray, HD DVD and Xbox 360/ PS3 consoles.
Beyond this, the only thing even remotely worth telling you about is a noise reduction system that gives the picture a bit of a digital polish to eradicate any processing nasties. You'd think a TV with so few features to learn would be pretty easy to handle, but it isn't.
The problems start with the auto tuning, as the TV not only fails to put the channels it finds into their correct channel order, but also neglects to dismiss low-quality 'ghost' channels, leaving you with quite some manual sorting before you're ready to go. The other great barrier to using the AT3720 is its remote control, which combines horrible squidgy, rubbery buttons with a poor layout to frequently frustrating effect.
The onscreen menus are okay if basic, but we still have one final niggle concerning the TV's operating system, namely the length of time it takes for the TV's HDMI inputs to lock onto their sources when you switch to them.
First impressions aren't bad, as the set has a couple of quite striking picture pluses on its side. The most immediately impressive of these is its sharpness with good HD sources. The crispness and detail apparent with a good Sky HD movie or, especially, a 1080p Xbox 360 game is stunning at times.
Also positively eye-catching during HD viewing are the TV's black levels. There's far less greying over of dark scenes than we expected, while the set's talent for portraying black counterpoints during bright scenes yields vibrant and solid results.
Of course, this latter point would not be true if the TV didn't boast some more than decent colour saturations as well. It's a pity, though, that this only wholly applies to brighter scenes, with hues losing a little vibrancy and naturalism when things get a little darker.
Gloomier material also reveals that, while black levels go pretty deep, they also look hollow and slightly unnatural due to a lack of shadow detail finesse.
The AT3720 also has a tendency to slightly overstate harsh edge contrasts, although the set's worst problem by far is its handling of motion. HD footage doesn't fare too badly, but with standard definition the set suffers quite severely from LCD's traditional motion blurring problems. What's more, the image occasionally 'splits' slightly during camera pans, as the bottom section momentarily lags behind the top.
The Acer's speakers certainly aren't short of power and the set delivers a soundstage capable of some considerable volume and punch. But a profound lack of bass leaves the treble end of the spectrum sounding dominant to the point of harshness during action scenes.
For all its flaws, there's no getting round the simple fact that £800 really isn't very much at all to pay for a 37-inch HD Ready flat TV that sporadically produces very likeable pictures indeed
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