When you first pull the box off of the AT3705, the first thing you notice is the size-this is a really, really big TV. The 37-inch screen is framed in a case that is 1185mm by 724mm and will definitely be a focal point of your living room or home theatre. The unit features clean lines, tasteful graphics and controls and sits comfortable on a stylish curved stand and wouldn't look out of place in a board room or in your living room. The speakers on either side of the unit don't detract from the clean lines and generally, the design falls into the high-end of LCD TV designs we have seen.
The front panel on the unit includes volume, channel, menu and input controls, just in case you can't find the remote control. There is also as a media card reader (which we will get to in a moment) , as well as a headphone jack and video and audio inputs.
On the rear panel of the unit, there are four (yes, four) SCART hacks, as well as two component inputs, an S-Video input and CVBS-Outputs. At the bottom rear of the panel, there are also HDMI, DVI, VGA and Audio In ports, as well as an input for the analogue tuner, the DVB-T tuner and an RJ-45 port for Ethernet.
Given the amount of hardware on the back, I wouldn't recommend actually wall-mounting the unit unless you have sorted out all of your input and output collections first. There is some clearance if you wall-mount the unit, but as always, it is easer to plug and unplug cables when you can actually see what you are doing.
The remote for the unit is equally as stylish, with clearly labelled buttons and controls, as well as easy-to-understand icons, making it intuitive to use. You won't need to be diving into the user manual to find everything you need -- it's all laid out for you.
To start, when you plug the unit in for the first time, there is a setup wizard to help you get started. It will guide you through setting up the language, local time zones, etc. as well as scan for digital and analogue channels to automatically tune your TV for you, which is quite nice.
Once you have got the initial tuning complete, you can then turn your attention to connecting up your peripheral equipment. And with the AT3705, you have a number of options as to how you connect up your DVD, VCR, PC, Laptop, gaming console, etc. The manual provides clear diagrams and instructions, as it can get a bit confusing with so many ports to choose from.
With everything connected, you can use the remote to access the on-screen display and there is a well-organised menu system that categorises all of the features and functionality that the unit provides.
There is also a large "E" button on the remote that toggles the "empowering mode" where you can choose from a range of pre-set modes and settings like "Movie", "Game", "Sports", etc. where all of the audio and video settings are optimized for what you are viewing. You can also setup your favourite channels, with up to five channels available. This makes it easy to press the "E" button then select your favourite channel and is definitely a time-saver.
On the features side, you can view movies, TV, etc. using picture-in-picture, picture-by-picture or picture-on-picture with up to 13 screens at one time. This sounds like a lot, but you have a lot of real-estate on screen to use. The widescreen modes available on the unit are 4:3, 16:9, Panorama and Letterbox 1-3, ensuring that no matter what input (DVD, TV, Computer, etc.) you get the most out of the available viewing area.
You can also lock the unit with a password and block a single channel, multiple channels or all TV sources and the unit is equipped to handle TV ratings when viewing digital TV and you can block unwanted content with a PIN code. (Don't forget to hide the manual from your kids, as the reset code is in there as well.)
There is an electronic program guide for digital TV, which is easy to navigate and displays a preview of the program, as well as the details on the program and a summary of what is coming up on a particular channel. There is also a "My List" function where you can setup a list of programs you have selected to watch.
On the audio side, the unit supports SRS WOW, BBE Digital and Dolby Digital surround sound for digital TV and you can switch between the different audio modes with a single button the remote, which is quite handy.
The unit features an integrated media card reader on the front, which can be used to access media files from Compact Flash cards, IBM MicroDrives, SD cards, MMC cards, and Memory Sticks (MS, Duo and Pro). There is a button on the remote to access the card reader and you can select the picture, video or music files that you want to view, making it very easy to take content directly from your digital or video camera and view it on the AT3705.
The MGW designation of the AT3705 stands for "Media Gateway" and the unit can be connected to a media server to deliver content directly to your TV. From the server side, there is a piece of software called "e-Console" that you will need to install and configure. You can use the software to share media, create playlists and favourites folders for viewing on your TV.
In addition to the wired Ethernet port on the back of the AT3705, the unit also has a wireless card built-in, so you don't need to string an Ethernet cable across the house to connect to your media server. You can search for and select from a list of wireless SSID's and connect to your wireless network, including WEP-secure networks and access your content that way. If you don't have a home network setup, don't despair -- you can also make a wired peer-to-peer connection or an ad-hoc wireless connection to connect your computer to the unit.
The AT3705 performed well under a variety of inputs and playback options. As we ran the unit through its paces, we found that the best quality pictures came from the pre-set configurations available through the "Empower" button on the remote control. Some did require minor tweaks, but overall the pre-defined settings provided optimal results.
When viewing DVDs and digital TV the unit performed flawlessly, with deep, dark black tones and crisp, true-to-life colours that did not require any additional tweaking. On the gaming side, the unit kept up with even the most graphic-intensive games and scenes, providing smooth scrolling, motion and perspective throughout the entire game, with no visible lags or stutters, even when the action got hot and heavy.
Viewing analogue TV posed a problem, as the unit showed a "ghosting" effect when viewing live-action television with quick camera cuts and pans. We viewed a fast-paced game of football on analogue and found the ghosting to be annoying, but well within the tolerance limits. We spent some time working with the settings to minimize this effect, but only with limited success. On the flip side, a similar program viewed on digital TV provided crisp, clean images with no ghosting effect.
On the audio side, the included speakers performed well across testing the various audio modes, providing rich, deep bass tones as well as crisp, clear highs with a well-proportioned middle. DVDs sound as the maker intended them, with every sound effect clearly enunciated. The Dolby Digital surround was a surprisingly solid performer on digital channels and during our testing, provided stunning sound from the programs we watched.
The setup for the Media Gateway was quick and painless, with little or no PC experience required to get things up and running. Connecting to a media server was equally as easy and even the most novice user should be able to connect and select content they wish to view. Both the wired and wireless access worked well, with the only concern being the wireless bandwidth -- we recommend using an Ethernet cable for the best results, especially when there is more than one computer or device in the household accessing a wireless connection.
In total, the unit is a stand-out among the LCD units we have seen on the market in the past six months. Even if you are not interested in the media gateway features, the unit performs well under a variety of conditions and is a pleasure to watch. Enough thought has been put into the remote, on-screen menus and settings to make this the perfect LCD for when you just want to watch high-quality content without worrying about tweaking every little setting. In short, a solid performer with enough tech features to keep even the most advanced videophile happy.