Reviewer: Thomas Bartlett
NEC has introduced its own range of true high definition LCD displays. The NEC Multeos M40 and M46 offer sizes of 40 inches (102 cm) and 46 inches (117 cm) respectively in a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Oddly, for an LCD unit, the M40 is not a TV. It comes with a stand, but no speakers or TV tuner. In fact, its whole construction seems semi-commercial, and it is accordingly quite robust, although not unattractive to the eye.
You get the usual range of analogue inputs, including one for a computer, plus both HDMI and DVI inputs. But there are no front or side-panel inputs, nor a headphone socket, and the panel controls are located invisibly underneath the edge, making them almost impossible to use. Just as well the remote control has all the keys you need.
The most significant performance feature of this TV is its panel, which offers a true 1,920 by 1,080 pixel high definition display, so you ought to see everything that all HD sources have to offer.
Initially I was disappointed with the sharpness and super fine detail when playing a high quality DVD such as Serenity. So I checked things with a test pattern, and discovered that, using the HDMI and component video inputs, the display was not using 1:1 pixel mapping. What’s that?
Okay, you are watching, say, a HD DVD. The resolution of the picture is 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. And the resolution of the M40 display is a perfect match: 1,920 by 1,080 pixels. So all the TV has to do is take each of those incoming pixels and place it in the matching position on the screen. That’s called 1:1 pixel mapping, and is the most obvious and easiest way to deliver a picture.
But this display was not doing that. Instead it was scaling the picture slightly upwards in size, so as to introduce a little overscan. That is, the edges of the picture fall off the edges of the screen. This meant that each pixel had to be smudged a little in both the vertical and horizontal directions.
So I conducted a search of the menus, and finally found that you can set 1:1 pixel matching by going to the oddly named ‘Scan Mode’ setting in the ‘Advanced’ menu, and changing this to ‘Underscan’. That fixed things immediately, and produced noticeably better – in fact, perfect – results with HD DVD.
For lower resolution inputs, the scaling circuitry in this panel was excellent, as was the video processing in general. I have gone through several TVs lately which treat all incoming analog video as though it came from a videocamera, doing damage to the picture quality of film-sourced DVDs. But this display has no such problem, detecting the video or film status of interlaced analog video, and decoding both correctly for an excellent picture.
The colour reproduction and brightness of the panel were extremely good, while the black levels were only about average for an LCD display. There is an ‘Adaptive Contrast’ setting which sounded like it might help here, but all it really did was crush the near-blacks into the deeper blacks, reducing detail.
So long as you can find that Scan Mode setting, this display will give you an excellent high definition picture.