One look at the BenQ L32-7000's 32-inch LED-backlight LCD TV's spec sheet reveals that it's the perfect bachelor's TV set. But what's a bachelor's TV, you ask? Well, a typical home has a flat-panel TV hooked up to a set-top box and console in the living room, along with a PC connected to a monitor in the study. Your average bachelor, however, has neither the space nor money required for such a setup. A full blown flat-panel TV is too expensive for this perpetually broke demographic, whereas a PC monitor lacks the analogue inputs and speakers required by a set-top box and consoles such as PlayStation 2 and Nintendo Wii. A bachelor's TV, therefore, is a relatively small and inexpensive TV set that's not too large to be used as a PC monitor, but still big enough to be hooked up to a console while allowing one to lean back on a bean bag with a controller in hand.
The BenQ's relatively lower pixel dimensions of 1366 x 768 may seem inadequate when compared to contemporary full HD (1920 x 1080) panels, but this is a boon in disguise for a cash-strapped bachelor. You see, a lower native pixel count allows a PC gamer to get away with better frame rates despite cranking up the eye candy. This is something that's impossible to achieve with a full HD display without spending an obscene amount of money on a monster gaming rig.
Note: Although the press release for the BenQ L32-L7000 describes the native screen size as 1366 x 768, the monitor we had received for review strangely seems to work equally well on 1920 x 1080 (Full HD) as well as 1366 x 768 modes. The specifications page on the official website too is blank at the moment. We are trying to contact BenQ for clarity on the subject and will update the article accordingly. As of now, we will consider the native screen size to be 1366 x 768 on the retail version of the TV as per BenQ's press release.
The front fascia would have been classier if it weren't for its cheap plastic quality
Design and Build Quality
Before we investigate if BenQ's offering lives up to the tag of a veritable bachelor's TV set, let's see how it's all put together. In a nutshell: rather poorly, if you ask me. I don't say this because the review sample was sent to us in the same condition as Salman Khan's shirts are in by the climax of his movies—that is, in tatters. Beneath all the scratches and abuse lies a rather disappointing build and material quality. The plastics on the front fascia look and feel cheap, whereas the matte back panel seems like it was recycled from Chinese toys rejected at the Q/A level.
On the whole, the TV appears minimalist, with absolutely no buttons distracting from the classy black finish on the fascia. The panel is accentuated with a thin silver strip at the bottom housing a blue LED status light. The relatively thin bezel looks classy at the risk of making the TV seem optically smaller than it really is. It's a pity then that the TV still looks cheap, all thanks to the tacky plastics employed throughout the chassis. On a positive note, the remote control may look cheap, but at least it's easy to use thanks to a smart arrangement of buttons that are thoughtfully-segregated by shape.
All buttons are relegated to the rear of the TV, with the essential Source, Menu, Power/Standby, and Volume and Channel navigation buttons being arranged in a column at the lower left-hand corner. They all look and feel like they have been borrowed from an '80s radio system, with the main power switch being especially egregious of the lot. However, all these examples pale in comparison to slipshod manner in which the LCD panel has been mounted in the chassis. Just a gentle push with a finger is enough to open up a huge gap between the panel and the bezel. A ridiculously high amount of backlight bleeding is the inevitable fallout of such shoddy build quality.
Features and Connectivity
The glossy stand is rather wobbly, with no tilt or swivel adjustment. Thankfully, BenQ compensates with the provision of holes for a VESA-type mount, which makes the TV ready for wall mounting. The L32-7000, however, doesn't ship with mounting accessories. That's pretty much par for the course at this price segment, though. At any rate, wall mounting this TV won't be a good idea because doing so will obscure all important I/O ports, except the HDMI and RF (cable TV) input provided at the side. Moreover, you'll need freakishly long fingers and slender hands to reach the buttons at the rear, if the remote control ever gets swallowed by your couch.
All important video inputs except HDMI and RF will be obscured if you opt for a wall mount
BenQ has been generous on the connectivity front, which is what makes the L32-7000 so bachelor-friendly. For the price, you get all the A/V inputs in the world, including three HDMI, two USB, one component, one composite, one VGA (D-Sub), one 75ohm RF and one 3.5 mm audio jack. It also packs in digital coaxial (S/PDIF) as well as 3.5 mm audio outs and a composite video output. The only interconnect missing here is a DVI input. The UI is pretty basic and features all the necessary picture, input selection and sound adjustment options. Unfortunately, it looks incredibly tacky and would have looked more appropriate on a no-name cheap TV brand. I can understand that this is supposed to be a budget TV, but there's a clear difference between being Spartan and being wantonly cheap with the cost-cutting business.
The LED-backlit LCD panel is touted to be an 8-bit IPS panel sporting pixel dimensions of 1366 x 768. Although the excellent viewing angles confirm its IPS pedigree, the overall quality of the display makes it seem inferior to much cheaper TN panels I have witnessed over the years. For starters, I seriously doubt if the panel is actually 8-bit. I say this because the degree of colour banding and artefacting apparent is reminiscent of inexpensive 6-bit TN panels that incorporate FRC-based dithering techniques to reproduce all 16-million colours. This shortcoming was underscored when I ran my battery of test images, which revealed a worrying amount of banding and colour inaccuracy on the test gradients. On the bright side, though, the TV was able to distinguish between most shades of colours on the gradient scale.
The gamma levels were off by a large margin as well. Ditto for colours, contrast and brightness at the default settings. It took a great deal of correction from Datacolor's Spyder colorimeter and calibration software to get an acceptable picture. Even then, the end result wasn't entirely to my liking. Let's just say that it's highly disappointing when even the mighty Spyder cannot salvage the performance of a display. Then again, since the TV lacks individual RGB adjustment, these corrections will nevertheless not be transferred to non-pc sources such as consoles and set-top boxes.
The BenQ isn't the slimmest TV around for sure
The L32-L7000's inability to resolve much of black and white levels became bothersome when I popped in my test Blu-ray movies. The Descent, Alien, Pandorum and Underworld Blu-rays made the TV's lack of black detail resolution painfully obvious. However, this issue pales in comparison to the more conspicuous problem of heavy backlight bleeding. Watching these movies was an ordeal due to BenQ's poor showing in the greyscale and backlight management department. The colours on Scott Pilgrim, Kick-Ass and Serenity Blu-rays too looked underwhelming. I also couldn't help but notice the higher-than-usual levels of noise on my entire repertoire of test Blu-rays.
Verdict and Price in India
Overall, the performance of the BenQ L32-L7000 was below-par when compared to similar 32-inch LED-backlit offerings from Samsung (UA32EH5000R) and LG (32LS4600)—both of which offer better resolution with their native support for 1080p mode, even while retailing for a comparable price on the street. The problem of BenQ's shockingly shoddy build quality is compounded by a panel that performs rather poorly. This makes it harder to choose the TV over decidedly better offerings from more well-known brands selling for roughly the same price.
The street price of the TV is unknown at the moment, but BenQ will have to offer a considerable discount over the MRP, if it ever hopes for people to choose it over the alternatives you can purchase for its Rs 32,000 asking price.
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Nov 20, 2014