ZENITH C27V36 27" "HD-Ready" TV review

Discussion in 'Displays' started by Carlo Medina, Jan 29, 2004.

  1. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    Zenith C27V36

    Here's my in-depth review of the set. I know a lot of people are intrigued by this set for the price, but not a lot of people have bought it. Here's my attempt to help out those interested in this type of set.

    Background:
    Yesterday afternoon I purchased the Zenith 27" HD-Ready TV set (model C27V36) from Circuit City. They currently had it on sale for $599 and I had a 10% off coupon that I convinced CC to put on top of the sale price (initially it was only discounting off of the $649 regular price). I had called the night before and the salesman told me the 10% off would apply, and I got his name, so when I name-dropped the next day, the current salesman got a manager to override the system. So I got the set for $539 + Tax.

    We needed a bedroom TV that could not be larger than 27". We cannot accommodate any larger of a set. We were prepared to shell out $300-$350 for the 24" flat front Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic sets. When I saw this 27" Zenith for just $200 more, I became intrigued. It was a hard sell on the SO, but in the end I convinced her that if we weren't happy with it, I'd return it.

    Picture Quality:
    First of all, I didn't count each pixel, but I would bet that this thing does not do full HDTV (1920x1080). But that's probably already a given. The pixels are not "monitor-fine" (I have a high quality 19" Sony monitor), they are considerably larger, and I would think to do true HD you would need to have monitor-fine dot pitch.

    That said, it is a damn fine set, with a much better resolution than any regular non-HD set in its size. The line doubler really makes our cable watchable again, and it performs very well on DVD and XBox. I don't have a Hi-Def source so I can't comment on that. When I ran component into the set from my DVD, and then an S-Video into our older non-HD direct view which we are discarding, the difference was astonishing. Again, even if this set does not do true HD, it is night and day above standard def sets. At $599, I don't think anyone really expected this to be 1920x1080. That would be like a 27" PC monitor which costs in the thousands of dollars.

    The main negative aspect: you have four PQ settings...but three of them are fixed. There's "Clear" "Optimum" "Soft" and "User." Unfortunately when you switch to one and make any adjustment, it kicks you into "User". The other three are FIXED as far as I can tell. This will also potentially ruin it if you set up your USER to your liking (I used Avia and Digital V.E.) and then someone goes to "Optimum" and makes ANY adjustment to Contrast, Brightness, etc. Then those new settings become the new USER settings. I would recommend either writing down that info (they have numbers as well as bars for the settings which really helps) or making sure you're the King of the Castle and no one else messes with the settings.

    Sound Quality
    Solid, if unspectacular. Since this is the BR set, I don't have a HT receiver and rely on the speakers of the set. The AVL (Auto Volume Leveler) works well because our building's cable has channels with widely varying volumes and the AVL really helps to calm it down.

    There *IS* the slight electronic buzz that people talked about, not just on Zenith, but on many popular sets (Toshiba, Philips from what I've read). I don't think it emanates from the speakers (when you turn volume down or speakers to "OFF" it doesn't go away). I think it's from inside the set. One guess from an EE at AVS said it might be from the weak power supplies that are often used for non-expensive TV sets. I could hear it while I was sitting 3' away with the volume off and tweaking the set with AVIA (no audio). However in the hours of watching we did last night and this morning, with a reasonable volume and sitting distance (6' away) it is inaudible - at least to me and my girlfriend.

    Inputs
    Inputs GALORE! There's 2 sets of HD YPrPb inputs in the back panel, 2 S-vids (1 front, 1 rear) and 2 more regular A/V. Plus a DVI input (which I haven't used). Oh, I think the DVI takes the place of 1 HD Component inputs so there's only 2 HD sources at any one time. The front S-Video is great for the Gamecube, so I can keep a DVD player and XBox via component in the back and have the Cube still plugged in. I am very happy with this set of inputs. It's comparable (and actually exceeds, since it has DVI) the inputs on my Panasonic PT-47WX51 in the living room.

    Options/Features
    The only option I've futzed around with is PIP. It has 2 sizes for PIP, each size can be placed in one of four corners of the set (for 8 total PIP options). There's a vertically stretched POP option where the TV is split down the middle and you get both channels evenly stretched on both sides. There's one where the left side is mostly your main channel and three channels are surfed/frozen on the right side of the screen. Mostly I use the larger of the 2 PIPs in the bottom left corner, but it's cool to have options. The SWAP button is cool too (swaps main channel w/ PIP channel).

    Picture Control Settings and Tweaking
    There is a setting SVM and you can turn it to "OFF"!!! Woo-hoo, this was honestly one of the selling points for me. Can you tell I'm an HTF freak? [​IMG]

    Out of the box, this thing is in torch mode. "Clear" is torch. "Optimum" is a little better, and "Soft" even more so. But all have sharpness turned up to 45 (out of 100). So you'll want to create your own USER settings.

    My User settings, after tweaking with AVIA & DVE:
    Contrast=15/100
    Brightness=68/100
    Color=75/100
    Tint=+2 to the red side
    Sharpness=10/100

    Not perfect, not ISF spec, but a huge improvement over factory settings. Surprisingly, it works well for cable, DVD and XBox, so I won't have to monkey with it depending on input device.

    Conclusion
    Again, this was not meant to be my main HD/HT rig. Those who want it for that and expect flawless performance will be disappointed. This is only a bedroom set that I purchased because it was only marginally more than a non-HD set at that size. With that in mind, I think this set is an absolute STEAL for the price. If any of my friends needed a BR set w/ 27" or smaller I would convince them to go get this one. If the limit were upped to 32" I would recommend the "big brother" C32V37 with a built-in HD TUNER! That one is regularly $999 but usually CC or Best Buy will have a 10% off sale. Considering I once bought a 32" Sony non-HD set for $799 a few years ago, $899 for the 32" Zenith HD is a no-brainer.

    But for those who are in a similar situation as me: I cannot recommend the 27" Zenith enough. It ain't perfect, but it's a heck of a lot better than the other 27" and smaller alternatives out there, IMO.

    Definitely be prepared to tweak your set at least with AVIA or VE though, as torch mode (Clear) is unacceptable and the others are barely better.
     
  2. John S

    John S Producer

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    That is a really great detailed review...
    I can take some lessons from you on posting them for sure...


    Thanks for the post on it!
     
  3. Dan DRC

    Dan DRC Stunt Coordinator

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    Thanks for the info, I purchased this set for my girlfriend last week and I think it is a steal also.
    Thanks for listing the settings you chose, mine were close to that also.
     
  4. Kevinkall

    Kevinkall Second Unit

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    Thanks for the review! I'll be picking this TV up in a few hours. Also thanks for posting your picture settings! I'll post my thoughts after I get it setup.
     
  5. Carlo Medina

    Carlo Medina Executive Producer

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    You're all very welcome! Like I said, not a perfect set, but at the price/performance I don't think it can be matched. My local dealer (a Panny/Sony dealer) hasn't heard from either company that a 27" HD ready offering is in the near future. If it were I would have held out but I think Zenith's got the niche cornered on this one for at least a year.

    BTW - if you go to the official site which I linked to you can get PDFs for the product (the 2 page color info sheet) as well as the actual instruction manual - but you have to surf Zenith's site for product manuals. I think it's on the main Zenith.com page at the bottom where it says Service/Parts from which you can select Owners manuals and put in the model number.
     
  6. Matt Madlangsac

    Matt Madlangsac Auditioning

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    I've got this set and I am more than pleased. I chose it over the Sony in a side by side comparison. Plus I got it for $499 since it was open box from Circuit City. It was a no brainer.
     
  7. Kevinkall

    Kevinkall Second Unit

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    Picked this set up a couple of days ago for $599. WOW! For the price this set can't beat! AMAZING picture for dvds! HDTV will be installed on tuesday so I can't comment until then. Other then that this set is worth every penny! Detailed review coming soon.
     
  8. Franco m00nyoze

    Franco m00nyoze Auditioning

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    A friend picked it up last week. Ugh. Price-wise it's a neat set. Even as a bedroom set, I'd leave it alone. My reasoning for that is just the options/features. I'm more picky when it comes to customizability (i.e. not labeling videos when you have seven to choose from). Be that as it may, the hate wouldn't be so strong had there not been:

    1) The 'buzz' that never went away. After throwing in Spider-Man, I could hear it during all the talking scenes. Of course when Pete's all suited up and things are happening and the music is blaring, it's a little hard to tell. We figured it was a defective set - until the second one did it too.

    2) Since no one mentioned this, I'll assume it was my friends house. There must have been some ground looping or something 'cause the set didn't come in clear at all. There were these horizontal lines just dropping from top to bottom the entire time. Although it wasn't as distracting as the constant 'hummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm'.
     

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