Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Small, Widescreen HDTV, The Sanyo DP19648 Might Be Good For Some, But Not Cinephiles!

The Good: Light, Adequate picture, Easy to setup
The Bad: Does not provide a truly theatrical viewing experience, Remote, Not great picture quality.
The Basics: While an adequate television, the resolution on the Sanyo DP19648 seldom truly seems to be high definition quality and some of the functions are problematic at best.

As anxiety increased over the changeover to digital, it was a prime time for most people to upgrade to a high definition television. I feel pretty lucky in that regard; a few years back, I had a little extra money in my pocket from a job and I spoiled myself with my first ever television. I bought myself a 40" Bravia LCD HDTV (reviewed here!) and I have been happy with it ever since. It has functions I never use and the only thing that is remotely inconvenient about it is engaging the Closed Caption feature. I am set until that puppy burns out and I am hoping that never happens!

My brother, on the other hand, has not been so fortunate. After some trying times, he got a decent tax refund and moved out of the ghetto and to celebrate both, he went and bought himself an HDTV. For a few days, it only took me ten minutes to set up for him, I played around with it and watched various things on it so I might have a decent baseline to review it. It did not take me long to size up his little Sanyo DP19648 HDTV and the more I experience it, the more fortunate I feel to have my television. But for those on a serious budget or those with severe space limitations, the DP19648 might well be enough for some. For avid cinephiles, it is anything but adequate.

My brother is hardly a smart shopper and he was shopping on a severe budget. He had $300 to get a television, DVD player and the antenna necessary to get HD reception on his television in our area. The Sanyo DP19648 allowed him to do all of those things, but truth-be-told, he was not looking with quality in mind. Still, the DP19648 was light, has a decent picture for his needs and was within his budget.

So, now my brother is watching his Sanyo DP19648 19" LCD High-Definition Television. This is one of the smallest flat screen HDTVs on the market and Sanyo is a brand neither of us had had any experience with before this purchase. First, to clarify, the technical specifications of the DP19648 are slightly off using my measurements. Those considering screen size should note that while this claims to be a 19" (on the diagonal) television, the screen is actually only 18 3/4. Is that extra quarter of an inch likely to make a huge difference? No, but given the choice, I know I'd rather be given an extra quarter-inch as opposed to being robbed of one! The outside dimensions of this rectangular screen are 16" wide by 10" high. For those considering a small television for a nightstand or such, the footprint for the overall unit is 19" wide, 15 1/4" tall and seven inches deep. This will fit easily on most any surface and it may be easily mounted to a wall bracket for those who do not want it set upon a shelf or small stand.

When I searched for my HD-TV, I did several objective tests, taking two DVDs with me to see how they measured up. My brother was not so rigorous. Tonight, though, there came a wonderful chance to have an objective test. As I was playing around with his new DVD player, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (reviewed here!) came on television. Given that this is one of the DVDs is my library, I was able to switch between the on-air HDTV broadcast and the DVD (not even Blu-Ray!) presentation of the film. Sadly for my brother, regardless of the picture setting we used (the DP19648 has four different picture options) the DVD presentation was universally clearer in both sound and picture quality.

The difference between DVD quality and the alleged High Definition quality of the DP19648 was astonishing. Even adjusting for the gain on the Philips antenna attached to his television, the best picture was fuzzy at the edges and lacking in finer background details. To be fair to the Sanyo DP19648 the picture was not choppy. Therefore, the faults with the image quality would either come from the monitor itself or the source material the station was transmitting. Given that the network could have been transmitting a non-remastered copy of the film, I opted prepared for another experiment. However, the signal from the DVD player produced a far greater picture quality than the broadcast reception. The result was striking. The DVD played with clear background and corners that did not seem to bleed. I was prepared to write this off as a problem with the broadcast version until I ran another test.

A rerun of Lost (reviewed here!) came on and it noted that it was being presented in HD. This was the first great potential chance I had to test the Sanyo DP19648. Unfortunately, it failed. The HD version that was picked up was clear than the DVD version (again, not even Blu-Ray version) of the same episode. The DVD version had fine details like the facial hair on characters, but the broadcast version the television was receiving supposedly in HD had more "facial blur" than facial hair.

To say that this 19" screen does not hold a candle to the resolution on my 40" Bravia is an understatement. The DP19648 has a standard resolution of 1440 X 900 pixels with a contrast ratio of 850:1. And while it supposedly has the industry standard 1080i (which defines it as an HDTV), apparently, this is not created equal in all machines! The clarity is not there, especially on broadcasts and DVDs - while they look better than broadcasts on the DP19648 - are still vastly clearer on my Bravia.

The Sanyo DP19648 was not exceptional as far as color contrast and brightness goes either. This seemed more analogous to a standard (non-HD) television than any HDTV I have ever seen. The sound from the actual television was remarkably standard stereo sound. There was no significant difference in sound quality from the DVDs we tested to the broadcasts the television received.

Despite all of its faults, my brother purchased this because it was the HDTV within his budget. When he bought it, he asked me if I would set it up and given how happy he was with his new toy, I gladly did that for him. Setting it up was a snap. This is a ridiculously easy television to set up and get running. The organization of the cord ports is intuitive and almost entirely self-explanatory. Video cords have color-coded jacks, so connecting the DVD player was simple. Similarly, connecting the antenna was easy as well. There is no internal antenna in this HDTV, so that accessory was necessary and raises the overall cost of the television. I ran an objective test with the antenna and the DP19648 received no images without it attached, though with the HD antenna attached and unpowered, the rabbit ears picked up all but a single block of four HD stations in HD!

Plugging in the Sanyo DP19648 and putting batteries in the remote (the remote did not come with batteries) led me to program the HDTV easily. Directions were exactly as the manual stated, involving touching only two buttons and the television did the rest. Rather impressively, the television found a few blocks of channels my Bravia did not (though it does not look for new channels). Deleting channels after they were was equally easy and the manual is clear and accurate on that. Unfortunately, the remote that comes with the television is a poor remote for an HDTV; there is no decimal button, so one cannot use it to leap to the precise digital channel they are searching for. Instead, one must thumb through the channels going up and down. This is especially annoying at this point while analog broadcasts persist as simply typing a two digit channel number sends one out of the Digital channels to the analog ones. So, one ends up annoyingly flipping through several stations to get where one wants to be.

The Sanyo DP19648 has all of the standard color-coded ports for the addition of devices like DVD players, video cameras, and VCRs. Accessing them is simple with the remote by simply hitting a "Video" button and my experiences thus far have been that DVDs play clearer than broadcast television - even the HD digital channels - stations do. To its credit, the Sanyo DP19648 is very easy to use; it is pretty much plug and play.

The only other function that is worth noting on the DP19648 is the "Picture" function. This HDTV has four different picture settings and oddly enough, it varies with almost every channel which one is the appropriate one. Depending on how the broadcast is being broadcast, the picture might be: high definition small screen, high definition slightly larger screen, high definition widescreen or a strange zoomed screen that doesn't seem to look good for anything. Allow me to describe.

When viewed on the high definition small screen, one of the soap operas being broadcast in HD looked absolutely amazing. However, the image on screen was essentially a 10" by 10" box and the image inside was great and clearly HD. The other six inches of the screen were black bars on either side (left and right) filling up the frame. This, naturally, seems like a pretty poor use of the widescreen. Hitting the "picture" button on the remote, the screen warped some, picking up perhaps an inch on either side, so it looked less box-like and more like a standard analog television proportions. The image inside clearly downgraded, but not significantly. At the third setting, horizontal bars appeared at the top and bottom and the image was warped inside to have a faux-widescreen presentation. The image was, at best, like that of an analog (non-HD transmission). At the fourth setting, the image overflowed the screen, with the station logo being bisected in its middle.

For comparison, playing Star Trek IV and playing with the settings, the first setting was less clear, though not as small. Setting two looked good, but setting three was the only one that made the image appear to be HD. The fourth setting again warped and blurred the image so it was qualitatively clearly less than HD.

According to the box, the Sanyo DP19648 is Energy Star compliant, but reading the manual, it seems one must engage certain functions to make this true. Having programmed the power-saving functions (again, the manual was quite clear and the on-screen directions followed exactly as stated) there was no change in display quality.

The bottomline is that the Sanyo is an adequate HDTV for those on a budget looking to save some space, but it is not qualitatively the best or even arguably the most function high definition video experience. I suppose one truly gets what they pay for.

For other entertainment electronics, please check out my reviews of:
Playstation 3
Acer Aspire 5532 laptop computer
Apple iPad


For other electronics reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2011, 2009 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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