A capable performance is supplemented by fantastic features and connections
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Producing a good LCD TV is one thing; crafting a three-in-one LCD TV, FM radio and PC monitor is quite another - and Samsung has done its homework to produce each feature to a high standard.
Let's start by looking at the 730MW as a television. Sadly there's no Freeview tuner, so only the regular five terrestrial network channels are accessible, but it's easy to set up and the picture it creates is reasonably crisp if you can get a good signal. And happily the 16:9 aspect ratio means that the screen is perfectly suited to showing widescreen material like most DVDs and digital television.
For a 17in model, the 730MW boasts an extensive selection of inputs. Take a look around the back of the set and you'll find an RGB-capable Scart, a component video input for progressive scan sources, S-video and composite inputs, and the jewel in the crown for performance-seeking tech-heads - a fully HDCP-compliant DVI input.
This all-digital connection can be used for computers and, most importantly, will also allow you to hookup digital high-definition video sources (and receive Sky's HD broadcasts, when they arrive). All-digital HDMI and DVI-outputting DVD players are now available, and in the future there will be a whole range of kit that take advantage of the noise-free, crystal clear picture possible with this kind of connection - so it's well worth investing in.
The 730MW makes an excellent monitor as well. Its 1,280 x 768 resolution is high enough to show clean, crisp detail with ease, and its response time of 25ms - while not class-leading (the 730MW's sister model, the 4:3 730MP, sports an ultra-quick 16ms) - is nippy enough to minimise ghosting during faster movements, which should keep gamers contented.
The widescreen shape of the panel can be both a blessing and a curse. It works a treat with widescreen DVDs such as our test disc Dodgeball, displaying full-screen shots of the frenetic on-court action between the Average Joe's and the Lumberjacks.
It's also good also for web browsing and Windows, but the aspect ratio doesn't work well with most computer games, as they become stretched out. You can switch to 4:3, but it leaves you with a small image flanked by black. One thing the 730MW is ideally suited for, on the other hand, is as a companion to a Windows Media Center or a home cinemafocused PC. The high-resolution widescreen will work brilliantly with Windows Media Video High Definition (WMV HD), or an upscaled DVD picture, for instance.
Something to shout about
Considering the screen's small size, a surprising amount of thought and effort has been put into ensuring that its audio output matches its picture capabilities. There is capable sound enhancement courtesy of BBE Digital, as well as a Dolby Virtual Surround option. These features, particularly the former, make the integrated FM radio sound superb.
The tuner has its own antenna socket at the back of the TV, but we found we could get a crystal clear signal using nothing more than the TV aerial. What's more, Samsung has cleverly designed the radio so that it can be listened to while the monitor is being used - a small thing, perhaps, but it makes it that little bit more flexible.
Skillfully and carefully designed, the 730MW is one of the more versatile small LCDs we've tested. The boundaries between PC and TV are blurring by the day - thanks in part to products like this - and this Samsung will look as perfect on a desk as it will in the kitchen. Tack on a truly excellent set of connections and factor in the reasonable price tag, and this all-round strong performer proves an excellent next-generation TV.
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