When we first heard Westinghouse Digital was making a 42-inch 1080p HDTV for $700, our eyes bugged out. How could a low-budget company like Westinghouse offer up such high resolution for so little? It’s no misprint, so naturally we had to get a test unit in to see for ourselves if the company could produce a true HDTV for hundreds less than its competition.
In our tests, we threw all things digital at this 68-pound slab. And while it does not perform as superbly as its higher price brethren from Sony, Samsung and Sharp, it still shows off a completely acceptable high-def image and above average sound.
When patched into an HD feed, bright colors popped and were well saturated even on the default settings. Darker colors fared poorer with pixilated image noise and occasional speckling of middle hues. This issue was easily remedied, though, when we used the easy-to-navigate menu options to reset noise reduction to high (it’s switched off in the factory settings).
Standard-def DVDs upconverted to 1080p were surprisingly stunning in quality, but it really was Blu-ray where the TV excelled. The Dark Knight‘s brightest colors held their vibrancy. Blacks weren’t quite as deep as we would have liked, but that wasn’t a huge biggie. When we sampled Netflix video streamed movies, we forgot we were watching streaming video on a bargain HDTV.
Ports on the TX-42F450S are within easy reach on the left and right sides of the rear chassis. The allotment of four HDMI ports, in addition to the expected composite video, PC slots and sound hook-ups, was also a head-scratcher — some sets with price tags three times higher than the Westinghouse’s don’t have this many ports. Even the comfortable remote is one of the more intelligently laid out ones we’ve seen of any electronic device.
So where has Westinghouse cut corners? Oh let’s see how about the borderline embarrassing 1000:1 contrast ratio? In a well-lit room, the screen looks more washed out than a warehouse full of Maytags. And even though the set offers the 120-Hz spec, fast motion still looks a bit blurred.
Westinghouse still has come through with large screen HDTV that seems in sync with today’s thrift-store economy. Currently available only at two brick-and-mortar locations of membership warehouse chains, Costco and BJs, the Westinghouse TX-42F450S certainly gives the majors a run for the money and consumers an affordable introduction to HDTV.