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A Great Garage SportRoom TV or BedRoom TV !
Jan 19, 2012 (Updated Jan 31, 2012)
Review by womey
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Decent picture; great audio, high level of interoperability, great price
Cons:Input bus is a little tough to see; very weak HDTV signals are not acquired
The Bottom Line: If you're looking for a good economical set to replace that 1980s vintage tube set that just died, this could be the one for you !
OK, I should be ashamed of myself because since the last time I wrote a review on anything (which was YEARS ago !) I've been a great consuming American for all kinds of goods, from DSLR cameras, to laptops, to pressure washers to firearms. In other words, I buy stuff all the time, but I haven't been moved to write a review on most of that stuff because the dollars paid didn't significantly outweigh the perceived value of the goods. Is that more of a comment on how much of a cheapskate I am ?
Recommend this product?
That's when I noticed this HDTV set. I had first seen it at 6 AM while grocery shopping at the local Walmart (I shop early so I can beat the crowds and a side effect is that I see deals others might miss). Well, this thing listed at the store for $328. I was tempted to buy it, but the price just seemed too high. I threw the thought of the set out of my mind until about a week later when I was sitting in the office and decided to just check out any reviews the Sceptre X322BV-HD might have (not to be confused with their X320PV-FHD). Well, what I found out was that the reviews for this set were all over the place. That didn't make any sense. I wanted to see if Walmart.com could do any better on the price. Well, when I saw that the online purchase would cost $128 less than the in-store price I immediately made an order. They said shipment would take just 5 days (it did) and shipping to the store was free so this TV, weighing just 18.7 lbs, only cost dimes of gas to transport. I was in the store for roughly 20 minutes to handle pick-up, paperwork, etc.
Once I got the set home the opened box revealed a very simple set-up which I could have done without ever looking at the included "Quick Start Guide" or the usage manual (which by the way doesn't seem to have any sort of title printed on it). I read the manuals anyhow, because that's what I do.
One review I read stated that a bad rating was given because the stand was "wobbly", "very very wobbly". Well, the stand is affixed to the TV base with 4 8mm screws. The screws hold the TV in place very well "IF" you screw them all of the way into the base like you're supposed to. In this way the stand doesn't wobble at all.
I was advised by the Walmart clerks, when I picked up the set of 2 things. One was to move the item oriented vertically, or horizontally so that the set wasn't just lying flat on its back or face. That makes sense, since the glass on TV sets can crack, easily scratch, or sustain any other type of damage, so I took their advice. The second pointer : before plugging in or powering up the unit, but after I've gotten it settled onto its stand - let the set sit for a half hour or so. The manual says nothing about this (so that might just be a red herring) but who am I to know this HDTV better than the folks that sell them everyday. So, once again I took their advice. Everything else I got out of the manual.
Here is my media situation at home. I'm just not willing to pay for 'too-much-cable'. Don't get me wrong; I like sports but I can't justify the cost of ESPN or all of those digital channels, DVR services, and the like. Plus, my girlfriend has all of that stuff at her place, so if I really need a sports fix I'm all set. At home, I subscribe to basic cable (22 analog channels), and with the cable plug threaded into the TV connection on this set I get those 22, plus 33 other digital OTA (over-the-air) channels.
The only other plug you hook up is the AC power cord. The remote takes 2 "AA" batteries (included), and Sceptre provides (as mentioned above) 4 screws to set up the stand, along with a small screwdriver so you don't have to go looking for one. In addition, a cleaning cloth (red in my case) was provided in a sealed plastic bag, the 2 pieces of instruction paperwork, and a copy of the Sceptre Limited Product Warranty.
OK, the HDTV is all set up, so now you turn it on and, by default it will kick off in "Power Saving mode". By the way, when the set is off (but plugged in) a red-standby light will be lit in the lower right corner. Once the remote's Power button is tapped that light goes blue. The first time through (if your media set-up is like mine described above) then you go immediately to the set-up screen (or you can press MENU to accomplish the same thing). The typical 'language', and signal type (CABLE in my case) choices appear. After you select what's appropriate then you execute the Auto-Channel Search. Perhaps it's a function of my area's cable set-up, but this search takes a good bit of time so be patient. I believe maybe 10 minutes passed before it completed, but there's a progress percentage indicator so as long as that keeps incrementing you know that something good is happening. Once the scan is done the set will display the first channel it found.
I mentioned the set will default to Power-Saving mode. That's OK (the set is rated to cost only 11 bucks a year to run), but I wanted a more aesthetically pleasing image so I cycled through the choices that the "Picture" button offers (ie. Power Saving, Vivid, Standard, Mild, User) and settled on Mild as the one for me. By the way, the SOUND button on the remote also allows several styles of audio to be chosen (again, "Mild" worked best for me for sound as well).
When changing channels the channel indicator's fairly straight forward. Through a 'cable' connection (chosen at set-up time) all channels will have an indicator that looks similar to :
Jan-19 19:07 Thu
D50-1 in a glance tells me it's digital channel 50.1, which station the channel is licensed to, and what language the station has encoded the channel for (the licensed station is the source of this encoding so it may or may not be correct). Here, 720p tells you the screen resolution is allowing 720 lines to be refreshed, progressively. This set is limited to 720p resolution but all this means is that for a 32" set with an aspect ratio of 16:9 you need only sit more than 38" from the set at which point the typical human can't tell the difference between 720p or 1080i (interlaced) resolution. 1080i currently is available only to a few gaming consoles, Blu-ray, and HD-DVD players so unless you have requirements like those, this set will serve just fine.
Additionally, the channel indicator boxes will tell you any rating information for the selected channel. The set's manual describes the rating system. The remote's orange INFO button can be depressed at any time to get all of the above information.
This HDTV, on set-up was able to acquire most of the digital OTA channels that my 46" Sharp has. Why not all ? Well, the Sceptre manual documents the fact that the set's tuner is designed to work best with HDTV signals so requires that those signals reach a certain signal level otherwise picture/sound for those channels won't be stable or acquired at all.
The X320PV features a very nice set of 10W per channel speakers on its back panel. At just 20% of its full volume the set is more than loud enough for my bedroom.
Controls and the Remote : Like most modern sets, without the remote you can't do much of anything with a TV. Well, surprisingly, this Sceptre features 7 button controls on its right side panel that allow channel selection, volume control, menu access, source designation, and powering of the set. By the way, after turning the set on it normally takes about 6 seconds for the display to light and the words SCEPTRE advertise across the screen before your TV show pops up subseconds later.
I'd mention that Netflix is part of my multi-media world. Well, since this Sceptre allows input from several sources (including AV, YPbPr, HDMI1, HDMI2, HDMI3, PC, and Media) it will be a breeze for me to run an HDMI from my ThinkPad Edge 14 to the inputs on the set. I can't offer comments on whether the set's output from Netflix is good or bad but I don't expect any complications.
Speaking of media sources, a USB slot along the set's right rear allows you to play music or display pictures and doubles as a port to update the set's firmware, though a check of Sceptre's site doesn't list any available updates for this particular model.
The remote's CC button quickly (2 secs) enables on-screen captioning.
The orange GUIDE button tries to serve as a sort of on-line TV guide of what you're watching now, and if you press the right or left arrow it will providing the programming line-up going back or forward in time. This information is provided if it's available but on the channels I checked most TV stations didn't provide this stream of info. NBC was the exception.
Depressing MENU gives you access to picture and sound control as well as setting up parental limits for the kids. Other things can be manipulated too, but one of the more important ones to me is the access to see my FAVORITES list. But wait, they aren't set up yet. How hard can that be ? Well, it's not hard. But first, realize that in the MENU screens all of the minutia of how your TV seems to you can be changed. For instance, the OSD timer (defaulting to 20 seconds) controls how long an idle MENU will be displayed on screen before it disappears. I also didn't like the default setting of a 24-hour clock (particularly apparent when you're looking through the contents of the GUIDE and everything's in military time; so I changed that setting and now I don't have to look at my watch to figure out what time the TV's trying to tell me). Actually, I like using military time (but I know many don't).
OK, back to FAVORITES. I still watch the "Two and a Half Men" reruns on channel 50.1, so while viewing it I just depress the gray "Add/Del" button. Then, if I press the "Fav" button it will show up in my favorite list. I also like to catch the news on "Today" so I switch to the channel and press the "Add/Del" button again. Now, I can go up (or down) through my favorites by either pressing the "Fav+" or "Fav-" key. All favorites are designated by a green heart in the channel information box. Making favorites saves me so much time roaming through channels I don't really care so much about. In case you just need to jump back to where you just were, pressing the R key does so.
Some sets use dashes, others use the decimal to designate digital channels. If you need to go to 50.1 you can get there a few ways. Pressing 5 0 - 1 goes directly to the channel. If you type 5 0 and 50.1 is the only channel in that range you'll go directly there as well (otherwise you'll need to press the +CH button to finish the trip).
The rest of the remote controls (including ASPECT / FREEZE / SLEEP) are pretty much self explanatory. The orange TV button is handy. So many times, after watching a DVD on a different input source my other set requires that I pull up the full list of sources and then slide up and down it to find the TV input. On this remote, a separate button takes you right there. The orange USB button, as well, puts the set into a mode to read what you've got on that USB card, placing its output immediately on-screen. The USB is quickly acquired and the on-screen display allows you to select the type of media you want to pull from the card. In my case I wanted to open the contents as a slideshow. The set displayed the drive's contents without flaw, cycling through some pictures I'd snapped on a recent jaunt. When it was done I hit the TV button and was right back on my favorite show.
So, what else is special (or maybe just standard) about this set. Well, it supports interfacing with your favorite DVD player, or a Wii gaming console as well. Cable and/or Satellite boxes can be connected through HDMI and if you want to hook your PC up to it using only a VGA connection and minijack, feel free, because the owner's manual details how to do it all. I have to admit that set-up and attachment of peripherals to this set seems more straightforward than the higher-dollar Sharp Aquos. The Aquos may be a better set, but if I can't understand its instructions then that adds up to lost useability.
OH yeah, I almost forgot to mention that the X322BV-HD will take input from a digital audio receiver through a coax SPDIF interconnect. The TV can be configured to allow the receiver to decode a pure digital stream as well if you like.
So, what don't I like ? Well, I don't like the way the jack-bus on the back of the set is vertically oriented. This bus takes input from a range of connection types, from SPDIF to USB. While, this is a nit (because once you hook something up to the bus, you will probably leave it hooked up) the vertical orientation makes it a little tricky the first time to hook something up to the set because I can't easily see the jack that I'm trying to plug something into. I think using a flashlight helps to remediate this little flaw (there is a decal on this bus that tells you what each connector is for, so you will have a good general idea of where to plug your cable or drive into).
What else ? Well, the requirement that the HDTV surpass a certain threshold is a little troublesome. A signal booster might help that. I only lost my digital channels in the 4.x range (4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4) which are all public TV channels but at least the possibility of this happening is documented. I'll have to look into whether a booster is worth my while.
I don't really have any other complaints. The set is very user-friendly, it boasts great audio, offers great interoperability with other products, and has a decent picture. I think the 3 year optional warranty for this set is only 28 bucks, so if you think it may go south on you prematurely that small outlay definitely gives you fair insurance.
It's the little things that count. Remember that 'wobbly' stand that some other reviewer imagined being reality ? Well that stand actually swivels around its base so if I can't see that nice 32" screen well enough, a slight turn means all is well again. I pronounce this economical set ($400 a year ago, and now just $200) a good buy 8-) Cheers til next time.
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