Acer is probably best known for producing laptops, but the company also makes computer monitors and now it's turning its attention to TVs. The 23-inch LED Acer AT2358 is available for £250 from Simply Acer and includes some tempting extras, such as the ability to record TV to a USB key or hard drive as well as playback of DivX and MKV video files.
Slimline small screen
Smaller TVs often have the design appeal of a 1990 Lada, but the AT2358 certainly doesn't follow the herd in this regard. Thanks to its use of LED backlighting, the set is impressively slim, and its overall look is very appealing. The display is framed by a curved, glossy black bezel that has a semi-transparent lip running around the outside edge. The same finish is carried over to the small pedestal stand, which can be tilted forward and backward, but unfortunately doesn't swivel.
The TV doesn't skimp on ports, despite its slim profile. Around the back, you'll find an HDMI socket sitting alongside a VGA input, a set of component connectors and both composite and Scart inputs. There's a second composite input on the left-hand edge of the screen along with a USB port and another HDMI input.
Acer has made good use of the USB port -- the TV lets you play back a range of different digital-media formats. Along with JPEG pictures and MP3 music files, it also supports video formats such as DivX and even high-definition MKV files. The playback quality of video files is extremely good. There are proper fast-forward and rewind controls, with the speed variable ranging from x2 to x16, which is something that is often missing from digital-playback features on cheap TVs.
If you plug in a memory key or hard drive of more than 1GB in size, you can use it to pause and rewind live TV, or record a whole programme. Unfortunately, you can only record shows manually using the remote -- you can't schedule recording via the electronic programme guide (EPG). Also, the implementation of the recording feature isn't as user-friendly as it could have been. When you want to watch something you've recorded, you have to go into a computer-style file menu. Here, recordings are simply listed by channel number, not by programme name. Still, it's a handy feature to have, especially if you're watching a show and the phone rings.
The TV's menu system is generally quite basic, but it's laid out logically and therefore easy to find the settings you're after. That said, the range of picture-tweaking options is limited to pretty standard contrast, brightness and colour controls -- you can't tweak hue and saturation for each colour, for example.
Unfortunately, the EPG is also quite rudimentary. It's very similar to the EPG you'll find on Toshiba's 22DV714B. It has a vertical layout where the channel names are listed on one side, and all the upcoming programming for the selected channel is listed on the other. This can make it tricky to plan an evening's viewing as you can't easily spot clashes between different shows on around the same time. More annoying, however, is that you can't view what's coming up on another channel without actually switching to it. As you move around channels in the EPG, the TV automatically follows suit and switches between them. This tends to make navigation quite sluggish.
Time to shine
The TV uses a 1080p panel so, unlike most small-screen sets, it's able to display all the picture detail from Blu-ray discs. High-definition pictures from Blu-ray or a Sky box look fantastically sharp, but even standard-definition channels on Freeview are crisp and clean. Thanks to the set's edge LED backlighting, pictures look extremely bright, too, and colours are very punchy.
You can see some slight haloing from the LEDs at the edge of the screen during darker scenes, however, and this was especially true in the bottom left-hand corner of our review model. Skin tones can sometimes have a slight orangey hue and, unfortunately, we found the 'flesh tone' setting in the picture menu didn't really help much with this. Overall, though, the picture quality is surprisingly good by small-screen-TV standards.
The set's audio isn't too bad, either. It's loud enough to fill even larger rooms and, although it's a tad lacking in bass, it does have good mid-range presence, so dialogue sounds crystal-clear.
At the end of the day, the AT2358 is a great little TV from Acer. Sure, the EPG could be better, but the set delivers great-looking HD and SD pictures, and produces decent sound quality. The ability to record TV shows to USB and play DivX and MKV files is a major boon.
Edited by Emma Bayly