Olevia recently sent us one of their new 42-inch LCD sets to review. The 542i is a very capable set for viewing content from various sources, both high-definition and standard. While there are a few features we wish were included, or quirks we would change, for its mid-range price, it's going to be very hard to turn this display down.
Read on for the full review
First off, the basics: The 542i has a native resolution of 1366x768 and 814 square inches of display, and an MSRP of $1799, although a quick search online shows it for as low as $1470, perhaps even lower. It comes with a built-in ATSC/NTSC tuner with PIP, and a sole HDMI connector. It also has the usual range of three component and two composite video inputs, as well as VGA and audio.
The picture quality was very good, much better than I expected given my limited experience with Olevia's brand and reputation. The contrast and blacks were on par with other sets, and there was good reproduction of color. Olevia claims the 541i has a 1600:1 dynamic contrast ratio. I calibrated it using an Avia test DVD, although out of the box one of the first things it asks you is if you want it in vivid mode or theater mode, so even novice users should be able to get good settings. You can also set the backlight strength using a button on the remote, to quickly deal with differening light sources throughout the day in uncontrolled rooms.
The scaler did very well with whatever content I threw at it, whether 480p, 1080i, or 720p, via component, over the air, or HDMI, and put out the best image it possibly could. Of course, these days it's all about 1080p in display technology, so while this won't exactly be the cutting edge of technology, it does do very well without costing nearly as much as even others in its class. There is an option for 1:1 pixel mapping, so if you are connecting a computer or some other content that requires some underscaling, you can do that as well. The viewing angles are obviously much better than my rear-projection CRT at home, with 178 degrees of viewing, so you can see it from nearly anyplace you'd want to put it in a room, and the response time of 8ms was enough for any of the fast action sports or movies I put on the display.
The Olevia also contains some other features normally reserved for high-end Elite- and Diamond-level models on other manufacturers, namely RS-232 control and firmware upgrades via USB. Those with specifically-sized enclosures can also note the speakers are botttom-mounted and can be put on the sides with an add-on kit. The included universal remote is backlit and very workable, and includes everything you'd expect from it.
My only real issues were ones that I could easily dismiss given the market the set is presumably intended for, with a sole HDMI input that can be added onto with a simple HDMI switcher or receiver, and a lack of digital audio input, only an output from the HDMI connector. It would be nice to be able to output from the set to an external amp, but again, with a fully-featured home theater this shouldn't be a problem. The tuner is good but a little slow to lock onto channels, although I was using rabbit ears here in the Dallas market so I can't lay all the blame on the set. The PIP can be set for side-by-side or inset modes, and works well. The only other thing I didn't like about the display were the menus: they were very limited in functionality, and not entirely intuitive, but as with most menus once you set the basics and calibrate it with Avia or Digital Video Essentials you don't need to change them very often at all. The favorited channels are also quirky, and are tuned based on the order you set them in, not the order they are numerically, but I wouldn't be surprised to see this fixed in a future firmware update, or I could have just removed them and reset them in the order I wanted them.
All told, considering most of the Olevia's competition costs hundreds of dollars more than the 542i, and you get all the same capabilities plus a few bonuses thrown in that you don't expect, I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a set for home theater, bedroom, or den.
The Bottom Line
Pros: Pretty darn good picture and scaler; RS-232 and USB firmware upgrades; Speakers on bottom; Good viewing angles; Good response time; 1:1 pixel mapping capability; Backlit remote; Value for price is really really great.
Minor Cons: Only one HDMI input; No digital audio in, only out; no 1080p.
Quirks: Menus are awkward; Favorites quirky; Tuner speed could be better, but picks up ATSC channels decently.
Olevia 542i specs, features, and product page
The following pictures are examples of the user interface for the ATSC tuner, shot using an external camera, so the contrast and brightness aren't representative of the original picture.