ViewSonic's heritage may be in LCD monitors, but the Californian company has won favour by transferring this expertise into the TV market. Of course, it helps that it has stuck with the PC market's 'pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap' mentality, undercutting the competition quite drastically with its last LCD TV.
This is the 32-inch model of its latest range, and not only is it now fully high-definition compatible, but the extra 5 inches of screen costs only slightly more than the previous model. The 'HD Ready' seal of approval is gained from an HDMI input -- indeed, connectivity is one of the highlights of this modest LCD. It's a shame that cracks appear all too quickly -- the menu system is atrociously designed, the VGA channel has a strange orange tint and the remote control is particularly nasty. ViewSonic needs to improve its game if it's going to keep up with the big-name competition, but if you're strapped for cash and want a fully-specified flat-screen TV, the ViewSonic should meet your needs.
There's a feeling of déjà vu when you unbox the ViewSonic -- it looks remarkably like the Toshiba 32WL56. We thought that the Toshiba looked very plain when it was compared to the Samsung LE32R41BD -- it's obvious that ViewSonic wants to make its television appeal to the mainstream.
If you've got some technological knowledge, your first impressions of the TV will be pleasant. ViewSonic is proud of its new HD range, and it has badged the TV accordingly with HDMI and HD Ready logos. The ViewSonic badge is relatively small in the centre of the TV, and underneath this is a status light that flicks between red, orange and green. The silver chassis doesn't pretend to offer any premium thrills, but it will fit in with a contemporary environment and it feels solid and weighty.
With connectivity, the N3260w is again very similar to Toshiba's 32WL56, with everything located on the rear and side. Viewsonic's selection is much stronger than we've seen from the major TV brands. PC/HD connectivity is placed on the rear, with an HDMI input and a VGA socket sitting next to each other. One small point -- connecting any DVI equipment that you want to feed into HDMI via an adaptor is made difficult because of the back panel design. We used a Monster DVI-HDMI adaptor and it sat rather awkwardly at an angle. We'd worry about it doing some damage to the socket in the long term.
When you uncover the side panel, it's a veritable pot of gold for AV enthusiasts. There are a set of component inputs which, like the HDMI input, can accept high-definition video from upscaling DVD players and games consoles such as the Xbox 360. This is the best quality video connection, but you'll also find two Scart terminals (one of which is RGB for improved picture quality from a digibox) in addition to S-video and composite video inputs if you manage to fill everything else up.
If you want to connect the TV up to a home cinema system, you can also output stereo audio. It's a shame that all these phono connectors are lumped together in one space though -- it makes it more confusing when you're trying to match the component video inputs with the accompanying audio sockets, despite the help of a diagram on the panel. Another small point -- why isn't the PC audio input located next to the VGA socket, instead of being lumped in with the AV connectivity on the side? It's not the first time we've seen this happen, but it is a strange design choice.
You can usually spot a cheaper TV from its remote control, and the ViewSonic's is no exception. It's cheap and plasticky, and not at all intuitive, as the buttons are lumped to close together. You also need a sharp implement to open the battery compartment, and the covering on the bottom of the fascia wouldn't open at all. Without doubt, it's the worst remote control we've ever used -- and we scratched it when we forced it open..