At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas last month, there were several new manufacturers offering LCD televisions at price points below our typical expectations. Two companies in particular, Kreisen and Syntax are offering 30-inch LCD TVs for right around $1500. The first thing you are probably thinking is that you get what you pay for, right? Not necessarily. For example, Kreisen’s LT-30FMP which is the subject of this review, features LCD panels manufactured by either Samsung or LG.Philips. Both Samsung and LG.Philips are known for making excellent flat panels for both the PC and home television markets. enCross builds on a great picture and adds plenty of features to their Kreisen LT-30FMP 30-inch LCD television. With a street price of $1399, will you bite?
In this price category, the Kreisen LT-30FMP is probably one of the more attractive sets out there. In fact, out of the three 30-inch LCD televisions we are currently reviewing which also includes sets from Gateway and Syntax, the Kreisen LT-30FMP has more of a high-end look to it. The Gateway 30-inch LCD comes in a close second and would look better if they just ditched the gold trim that surrounds the set. The LT-30FMP comes in only one color which is silver. There is a chrome trim that adorns the top and bottom of the set which helps to give it a somewhat luxurious look. And with the integrated speakers located on the sides of the unit, the LT-30FMP actually looks larger than its 30″ size would indicate. The controls for adjusting the volume, changing the channel and accessing the menu are located on the right hand side and are not visible when looking directly at the set. This helps keep the whole persona clean and refined looking. If you want to remove the stand, you can mount the LT-30FMP on the wall using their $99 dollar wall mounting kit.
The remote control that comes with the LT-30FMP is the size we like, but we could do without the white face; it just looks too cheap. If enCross would have chosen a black or silver remote control, it would have received much higher marks. Still, when compared to the remotes that come with the Gateway and Syntax 30-inch TVs, the LT-30FMP is still our favorite. Button layout is simple to use, yet there are enough buttons to control all of the features of the LT-30FMP. We wish enCross would have included backlighting for when it’s in use, but that is not a big deal. Most likely you will be using an external tuner of some sort and will be using the remote that comes with that instead.
Under the Hood
Let’s face it, when you are spending under $1500 dollars on a 30″ LCD television, you expect cuts to be made in order for it to reach this price point. At least we did. enCross has done a great job cutting these corners in areas of low importance. We can probably all agree that the most important feature on any television is the picture tube, or in this case the LCD panel. As we mentioned in the introduction, we were told that the LT-30FMP comes with a LCD panel manufactured by either Samsung or LG.Philips. Our LT-30FMP came with a panel manufactured by LG.Philips. In case you are not familiar with this brand, LG.Philips is the same company that has manufactured LCD panels for Apple (used in their 23″ and 30″ Cinema displays) and HP (used in their L2335 and F2304). Although we cannot confirm that the LCD panel used in the LT-30FMP is the exact same one used in the Apple and HP displays, we would not be surprised if it was since their specifications are very similar.
The LT-30FMP comes with a 30″ viewable WXGA TFT display featuring a 16:9 aspect ratio and a 450:1 contrast ratio. It is capable of displaying 16.2 million colors and has a 25ms response rate. If you plan on using the LT-30FMP as a computer monitor first and a television second, then you will be happy with its 1280×768 native resolution. And of course since you will most likely be using the DVI input to do so, be aware that you will be limited to a 60Hz refresh rate. Hardcore gamers will most likely want a smaller monitor with a faster response rate. We want to point out that the HP L2335 23″ LCD we reviewed earlier in the year also has a 25ms response rate and was able to handle most of the games we threw at it.
As far as inputs go, the LT-30FMP has most of them covered. It comes with coaxial, composite, component, S-VHS, analog VGA and DVI inputs for the video side and RCA/composite audio inputs. It also comes with composite and headphones outputs. There are four picture modes to choose from: Dynamic, Standard, Mild, Game and User. The video is filtered using a 4H Digital Comb Filter to make sure that edges are sharp and text is easy to read. Although there is no mention on the enCross website, the Kreisen LT-30FMP does not come with a HDCP compatible DVI input. This means that the set may not be compatible with every component that uses a DVI output. If you are strictly using the DVI input for use with a personal computer, you do not have to worry; this will only apply to most home theater components. We were told by our press contact at enCross that they would be adding an integrated ATSC tuner and HDCP compatible DVI inputs to this model in May 2005.
Setup and Testing
The Kreisen LT-30FMP comes with just about everything you will need to get up and running. This includes a remote control with batteries, A/C adapter, DVI and analog RGB cables. We were disappointed to see component video and RCA cables missing from the package, but on the upside, the LT-30FMP does come with the more expensive cables, specifically the DVI cable. The instruction manual that comes with this television is fairly detailed but doesn’t tell you the resolution of every input.
Since there is only one component video input on the LT-30FMP, you will have to decide whether to use it for your HDTV external receiver or your DVD player, unfortunately you cannot have both on this input. If you are using a DVD player, then the resolution will be limited to 480P which is the standard resolution for most DVD players anyways. If you decide to use an external HDTV receiver or a HDTV DVD player, then a 1080i resolution will be down-converted to 720P. The manual does not explicitly tell you this so we had to figure it out on our own. The inputs on the back of the set are clearly labeled, but the font should be bigger to help in low light conditions. The stand that comes with the LT-30FMP gets in the way of the inputs on the back of the set, so it took us some minor struggling to get all of our cables plugged in.
As with any LCD television, the picture of the LT-30FMP can change dramatically from various viewing angles and depths. So you will want to calibrate it based on the position you will be watching it from the most. Our AVIA DVD calibration disc showed that our LT-30FMP had to be calibrated immediately after being unpackaged. LCDs tend to be very bright in general because of how they generate their backlighting so we turned down both the contrast and the brightness levels until they were within reasonable levels. We had trouble getting the red and green colors in the test pattern to calibrate correctly with the blues but ultimately found a setting that we were able to compromise with. The black levels are fairly good and show how far along LCD technology has come. Compared to higher-end LCD or Plasma HDTV models, the black levels could have been better. We had trouble finding a happy medium. When the colors and brightness were just right, the dark levels were just to dark, and when we got the dark levels to where we wanted them, the rest of the picture looked washed out. Remember that the contrast ratio is only 450:1 so It’s a definite compromise you will have to make, but overall the picture quality was better than average. Just expect a lot of tweaking to get it to where you want it.
We used DISH Network’s HDTV service for most of our viewing and found the LT-30FMP to be very enjoyable to use. Depending on which HDTV service you are using, you may have difficulty changing the aspect ratio. Out of the box, the LT-30FMP comes with four different aspect ratios to choose from: 16:9 widescreen, 4:3, 1:1 and Zoom. When the picture coming in through DISH Network was in a 4:3 aspect ratio, we could not change the way it looked on our LT-30FMP unit. For example, there are no 4:3 stretched modes to make it fill the screen, so we were stuck with the black bars on the side. The aspect ratios that the LT-30FMP comes with appear to be more for screen setup than being able to physically change the way the incoming signal appears. The aspect ratio is also reset back to 16:9 when the television is turned off so you are forced to change it again.
We are pleasantly surprised by just how much television you can get for under $1500 dollars. Kreisen’s LT-30FMP has a lot to offer and should not be a disappointment for those that do research before purchasing. Because Kreisen uses panels from both Samsung and LG.Philips, you are sure to get a great looking picture. PC Users will love how the LT-30FMP doubles as a PC monitor and with the advanced PIP options; you can watch television at the same time.
We are told that Kreisen will be adding an integrated ATSC tuner and updating the DVI input to HDCP specifications in May, so you may want to hold off buying this unit until then. If enCross is able to keep the updated model around the same price as the current LT-30FMP, then they will no doubt have a winner on their hands. In the meantime, the LT-30FMP should meet most expectations that you would have for a television in this price range. enCross is a company to keep an eye out for.
- Stylish Design
- Good picture quality
- Comes with basic and some advanced controls
- Wall mountable
- Can be used as a computer monitor
- Very affordable
- DVI input can basically only be used with a computer, is not HDCP compatible
- Only one component video input
- Ugly remote control
- Screen is very directional (not a trait specific to this set though)
- Missing 4:3 stretched mode