Hardware

Review: Sharp AQUOS 32" LCD TV as a PC monitor

The line between computer monitors and televisions is growing increasingly thin. If you have the extra cash and adequate desktop real estate, an LCD TV might be the right PC monitor for you. Check out his Product Spotlight on using the Sharp AQUOS 32-inch LCD TV as a desktop monitor.

The line between computer monitors and televisions is growing increasingly thin. If you have the extra cash and adequate desktop real estate, an LCD TV might be the right PC monitor for you.

Specifications

  • Resolution: 1920 x 1080
  • Response time: 6ms
  • Dynamic contrast ratio: 10,000:1
  • Display format: 1080p (Full HD)
  • Image Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Speakers: 2 x Right/left channel speaker - 10 Watt
  • Dimensions (with stand): 30.6" (w) 22.6" (h) x 3.7" (d)
  • Weight (with stand): 39.7 lbs
  • Video interface: HDMI, S-Video, Component, Composite, VGA (HD-15)
  • Service & Support: 1 year limited warranty (parts and labor)
  • Cost: $650 to $850
  • Additional information

Who is it for?

LCD televisions, like the Sharp AQUOS LC-32D64U we tested, may not live up to the performance standards of graphic designers or hardcore gamers, but are more than adequate for the average user. Individuals who want lots of screen real estate, a monitor that doubles as a TV, or a screen that's easily viewable by multiple individuals should seriously consider using an LCD television as their primary PC monitor.

What problem does it solve?

Today's business users often run three or more applications (e-mail, Web browser, productivity software, IM client, etc.) simultaneously. While modern operating systems let you switch between running applications, doing so can be problematic and inefficient, particularly if you need to see multiple programs at the same time. "Windowing" your running applications will let you view them all together, but doing so requires a large enough display. The traditional remedy for this problem is using multiple monitors or a single large one. I advocate the later whenever possible.

I've been using the Sharp AQUOS LC-32D64U as my primary monitor for several months, and I love it. As I write this review, I have the screen split between Microsoft Word and Firefox. I can easily read specs on the LC-32D64U from Sharp's Web site without having to lose my view of Word. When editing a photo, I have plenty of room to work on the image and keep an eye on Outlook. Just this morning, a coworker and I watched several videos during a brainstorming session. We both had a great view from several feet away without having to strain. I could go on and on with examples like these. The bottom line, more screen real estate makes me more productive.

Standout features

  • Viewing area - At 27.5 inches wide and 15.5 inches tall, the 32-inch (diagonal) LC-32D64U's viewing area is nearly 2 1/2 times larger than a 19-inch (diagonal) LCD monitor. You get nearly twice the width and almost four more inches of height. Compared to traditional 24-inch widescreen LCD monitors, like the Dell UltraSharp 2408WPF or Gateway FHD2400, the LC-32D64U offers nearly 63 percent more view space.
  • Resolution - The LC-32D64U offers a 1920 x 1080 resolution using one of the two HDMI inputs. Using an HDMI cable and the unit's Dot by Dot view mode, we achieved an image that filled the screen and had the correct aspect ratio. According to the LC-32D64U's user manual, Dot by Dot mode "detects the resolution of the signal and displays an image with the same number of pixels."
  • Dual purpose - For locations where you might want a computer monitor and a traditional television (e.g. a home office, executive office, or conference room), the LC-32D64U and similar displays let you have both in a single device. Eliminating the need to purchase a computer monitor and separate television.
  • Comfortable viewing distance - On sister site CNET.com's product summary of the LC-32D64U, editors recommend 3.8 feet as the minimum viewing distance for a 30-inch (diagonal) 16:9 TV and 4.3 feet as the minimum distance for a 34-inch (diagonal) 16:9 TV. I typically view the LC-32D64U at a distance of 2.5 feet without problems, but my eyes are normally focused on only one half of the screen at any one time. To view the entire screen comfortably, I would need to move back.
  • Bang for the buck - We purchased our LC-32D64U for about $800 (excluding tax) in December 2008. But as of this writing, you can buy the unit for as little as $650. I you can find a 1080p LCD TV for around $650, you're in the same price range as many high-end 24-inch monitors and only about $250 above the average 24-inch models. And you're looking at a lower price than many 30-inch monitors. Just remember that you're probably not going to get the same resolution out of an LCD television as you will out of an LCD PC monitor. If you want a really high resolution, you'll need to get a traditional monitor.

What's wrong?

  • Poor PC resolutions - Although the LC-32D64U has a VGA (HD-15) input, the resolutions provide through this input look marginal at best. The display offers several common PC resolutions including, 640 x 480, 800 x 600, 1024 x 786, 1280 x 1024, and 1600 x 1200. Unfortunately, none of them looked good. They either failed to fill the entire screen or the looked blown out. As I mentioned above, the only workable option we found was to use the HDMI input.
  • May require DVI to HDMI cable - If your computer doesn't have and HDMI output, you will need to use a DVI to HDMI cable to get a 1920 x 1080 resolution.
  • Hogs office airspace - The LC-32D64U's base is only 19 inches by 10.5 inches and doesn't take up much more physical desk space than a traditional 24" LCD monitor. But, office airspace (the space above your desk) is another matter. With its stand, the unit is 30.6 inches wide by 22.6 inches tall. Thus, the LC-32D64U takes up just over 4.8 square feet of airspace. Don't count on putting this on your desk and talking to people on the other side — unless you don't want to see their faces. Make sure you have adequate desk space and the appropriate office layout before you jump on the LCD TV as computer monitor bandwagon.

Competitive products

  • Two 19-inch LCD monitors
  • Traditional 24-inch LCD monitors
  • LCD projector

Bottom line for businesses

Just to be clear. In this Product Spotlight, I'm not judging the Sharp AQUOS LC-32D64U against other LCD televisions or even different PC monitor models. I'm using the LC-32D64U as a generic proxy for LCD televisions used as PC monitors. And overall, I'm sold on the idea. Now, I'm not suggesting that every enterprise user needs a television tuner on their desk. But in specific situations, using an LCD TV as a computer monitor gives you flexibility and big screen bang for your buck.

User rating

Have you used an LCD TV as a computer monitor? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review of the Sharp AQUOS LC-32D64U or other display in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review above.

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

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