Westinghouse is a brand name that's both familiar and unfamiliar. Though the name (and logo) are those of the classic Westinghouse Electric founded in 1886, Westinghouse Digital Electronics is an independent company that licenses its name from the CBS Corporation (part of Viacom, Inc.) , which has owned the Westinghouse brand and its divisions since 1998.
The true identity of the company behind products produced by "Westinghouse Digital Electronics" is unclear. It's likely an Asian-based manufacturer of LCDs looking to use a moderately familiar brand name to break into the U.S. market rather than work on developing an entirely new brand identity. That's perfectly fine, but consumers should know that their Westinghouse TV isn't exactly from the Westinghouse they might think.
Nevertheless, Westinghouse Digital Electronics has established itself as a maker of low-cost, budget LCD televisions that call out to shoppers in big-box stores with their big screens and low prices. The Westinghouse TX-42F450S definitely fits the mold. With a manufacturer's suggested retail price of only $699 (sure to drop even further due to in-store sales and promotions), the TX-42F450 undercuts competition from Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic by several hundred dollars. It's a significant savings for what is, on its face, a television with relatively good specifications.
What It Offers
The Westinghouse TX-42F450S is a 42-inch LCD television capable of displaying content in 1080p, the highest high-definition resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels, progressive scan). In general the extra pixels afforded by 1080p are beneficial only in televisions of 50 inches or more, though some videophiles would argue they are necessary much lower on the size scale. In certain situations, like when paired with a next-generation HD video game console or Blu-ray disc player, a consumer may wish to indulge in 1080p as low as 42-inches. For the most part, however, the cost savings in choosing 720p over 1080p in lower size brackets is considerable and worthwhile. The TX-42F450S largely escapes such a concern, as it is already very inexpensive.
One possible point of concern is the TX-42F450's contrast ratio, generously disclosed in the TV's press release as a "high 1,000:1 contrast ratio." Let me be clear: 1,000:1 is in no way, shape, or form a "high" contrast ratio when compared to other LCD panels in this class. Contrast ratio is a bit of a sticky specification to begin with, as there is no real standard way to measure it, and numbers given by manufacturers are typically exaggerated or use questionable quantification. Recently, many brands have taken to listing "dynamic" contrast ratio, which allows them to use higher numbers. Westinghouse has chosen to use the static contrast ratio, a lower number, which is more honest, but still falls short of the static contrast ratio of other TVs which are usually at least 7,000:1.
As far as connectivity, the TX-42F450 is well equipped, with four best-quality HDMI inputs for hooking up high-definition accessories.
From a design perspective, the TX-42F450 is an attractive television. Though its bezel is quite big, it's done in an appealing matte-black finish that gives the impression of a picture frame. It encloses the display nicely, and does not detract from the viewing experience. The layout of the inputs is slightly unusual, on the back of the TV, half are pointing left and half are pointing right. That could be irritating if you need to run a cable in a specific direction and need to loop it around to the opposite site. All 4 HDMI ports are pointing in one direction.
The menu system on the TX-42F450 is helpful and direct, though there are a few navigational quirks. Menus are separated into four segments: favorite channels, video controls, channel controls, and input controls. Each is represented by a large top-level icon which, when selected, reveals a vertical menu of options. The menus are long, and it can be irritating to have to continue pushing downward to reach your desired function. Some of the menu lists are paginated, meaning there are more options than room on the screen, options that are hidden until you scroll down to find them. It's not always obvious that they are there. Giving 'favorite channels,' which determines what channels the A, B, and C buttons on the remote will jump to, its own menu vertical seems like overkill.
Still, the menus are clear and helpful, thanks to a context label that appears at the bottom of the screen, telling you what each menu item does when it is selected.
The remote control is uncluttered and large, and could certainly be used by viewers of all ages without impediment. The quick-jump A/B/C buttons are a handy helper, and overall the large buttons sizes and spacing make it easy to tap in what you desire.
I used the TX-42F450 to watch some high-definition television and it did an adequate job. In vivid or brightly colored scenes, it performed quite well, rendering images as they are most likely intended to be seen. There were some downsides, perhaps due to slow or inefficient image processing in the set. Dark areas of the picture suffered from a smattering of speckled image noise. The TX-42F450 does have a noise reduction feature, which is turned off in the default settings. Turning it on (to "high") did manage to smooth out some of the roughness, but it did not fully eliminate the problem.
For a low-cost HDTV, the Westinghouse TX-42F450 is reasonably impressive. While it may not blow your socks off like a more expensive set from a major brand name would, it performs admirably and is not a complete disaster. If a big name TV with a big price tag is out of your reach, but you'd still like to experience high-definition entertainment, you could feel comfortable investing in the TX-42F450.