Dell needs to knock a good £200 off its price tag. Buy if you value sound over pictures for some reason
Well-designed user system
Black level issues
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Perhaps inevitably there's something a little 'PC-esque' about Dell's W3202MC's design. The screen is surrounded by an extremely slender, but otherwise unremarkable and plasticky, silver bezel - just like a PC monitor. And the speakers are external, as if Dell found it easier to include an external pair of speakers with what's basically a PC chassis.
The W3202MC's connections are largely excellent. Video friendly options include an HDMI input, component video input, two Scarts, subwoofer output, and the customary S-video and composite video options. Naturally PCs haven't been forgotten, though, with the set providing both D-Sub VGA and DVI PC options. And actually, rather handily the DVI is also able to handle video sources.
What's more, it turns out that the set's RF input services a digital tuner as well as an analogue one, reinforcing the set's domestic credentials still further. Especially as the digital tuner is supported by a CI slot for adding subscription channels, and a digital audio output.
The first sign of trouble comes as we try and access the W3202MC's Freeview EPG, and find you can only get info for the channel you're currently watching, and have to scroll ahead one programme at a time. The programme information is written in absurdly tiny text too, and while the TV's onscreen menus are well presented, only some picture-in-picture tools are of any real interest.
Dell claims the W3202MC employs DNX processing from Pixelworks, a system we've seen deliver some decent results in the past. But it's hard to spot its impact in the W3202MC's profoundly average picture performance.
Standard-definition pictures are particularly uninspiring, thanks to a generally iffy, dull colour tone that goes dramatically 'off message' during dark scenes, making the picture look over-ripe and unnatural. Black levels are pretty average too, as black bits are turned into a bluish grey colour that's largely devoid of subtle background details. Standard-def pictures also look soft and murky, and moving objects are beset by overt motion smearing.
Things improve a little with HD, as the motion smearing reduces and the picture achieves a credible degree of sharpness and detailing. But the black level and colour issues remain, leaving the pictures a clear level below what we'd expect.
Sonically things are much better. Driven hard, those external speakers produce an exceptionally widespread, open and dynamic soundstage packed with the sort of subtle details and frequency range acrobatics usually only heard with a half-decent separate audio system. The fact is that the extreme quality of the W3202MC's sound merely throws its bland pictures into even starker relief.
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