Dell's managed to pull off a rare feat with the W1900 LCD TV -- it's a TV that's a perfect design match for its existing range of desktop PCs and notebooks. This is a TV that looks like a Dell -- and we're not just talking about the little Dell logo badge that sits plumb in the bottom middle of the main screen. Dell's pitch for the W1900 is that it's a perfect screen for TV or computer usage, and based on the design, in silver and black, we're inclined to agree with them. Like the rest of Dell's range, it's a design you'll either warm to or loathe, but if you've got existing Dell equipment, perhaps in a home office that you want to give more of an entertainment flair to, the W1900 would be a solid buy.
Out of the box you get the main 19" LCD screen panel, which incoporates all of the unit's electronics and connections, along with a stand that clips simply onto the back of the screen to provide its own stand; it's also conceivable that you could wall-mount the W1900, although given where some of the connectors reside, you'd want to get your cabling right the first time if you went down that road. In a nice touch, the polystyrene packaging also includes a full compliment of cables, so you could easily connect up multiple video sources without needing to hunt around for just the right cable.
The LCD panel on the W1900 features a total resolution of 1280x768 in a 16:9 widescreen configuration, which is fine for both DVD watching and PC output, presuming the video output of your PC is up to it.
Dell claims a contrast ratio of 600:1 and a brightness of 450 nits, which in real terms means that the W1900 displays a pretty clear and bright screen in most lighting conditions.
Where the W1900 really shines is in connectivity; essentially put if you've got a video setup that can't be connected, one way or the other, to the W1900, we'd be very surprised indeed -- it can handle composite, S-Video, component, coaxial, DVI and VGA inputs, and thanks to its picture in picture capabilities, you can display multiple input sources side by side -- although there is a slight catch to that, as we discovered in our testing -- but more on that later.
The W1900's remote continues the unmistakable Dell styling -- it lights up blue when buttons are pressed, and otherwise does everything you'd expect of a conventional TV remote, with particular attention paid to the unit's multiple inputs and picture-in-picture capabilities.
As a regular 19" TV, the W1900 performs well, and certainly if you were just looking at it as a simple TV for a smaller room in the house it'd be a solid buy. We suspect, however, that a reasonable number of these units will make their way into small home offices and private studies, simply to act as better than normal multimedia monitors, thanks to the picture-in-picture capabilities. It'd certainly make an interesting bedfellow with any Media Center PC.
In our testing we did discover one notable flaw with picture-in-picture, and that's that you're limited in which inputs can go into the secondary picture field. If you're using any of the connectors that run down the left hand side of the screen -- basically the composite and S-video connectors -- then you'll quickly discover that you can't run signals from both at once. You can, if using the other (DVI, VGA and component) have either component or S-Video as the secondary source -- but not both together. Depending on your video setup and needs, that may be a dealbreaker, or it might be a non-issue. Something else that was less of a non-issue cropped up intermittently when we had composite video set as the default -- sometimes when powering on, we'd be met only with a screen of green interference. This was solved by cycling the power, but that's far from ideal.
The speakers that are built into the W1900 deliver a pleasant enough sound, although naturally if you are looking at the W1900 as a primary home entertainment hub we'd suggest sending audio output to a dedicated speaker setup regardless. We did find the W1900's remote to be a touch fiddly -- in some areas, most notably volume, it tended to shoot up and down way too quickly, while in others, especially menu functions, it was notably laggy. In real usage terms very few people constantly hammer at their remotes, but it's still something that irked us.