Although 'combi' sets like Ferguson's HD Ready, 26-inch F2620LVD LCD TV and DVD player don't seem very fashionable with manufacturers at the moment, we're still convinced there's a place for them -- especially now that more and more people are installing LCD TVs in second rooms, where having piles of separate kit isn't an option. It's a shame, then, that the £330 F2620LVD isn't a better advert for the combi concept.
The first thing that strikes you about the F2620LVD is that it looks cheap. Its bodywork looks and feels like pure, unadulterated plastic, and the featureless shape of the black chassis couldn't be less interesting if it tried.
The TV's connections are also bad. There's just a single HDMI input when even the most basic TVs these days generally manage two. The built-in DVD player means there's one less thing you might need to attach to the F2620LVD, but we still don't think a single HDMI input is enough.
Aside from its HD Ready resolution, there's little to excite us about the F2620LVD's other screen specifications, either. There are practically no picture features or processing options to speak of, and the set's claimed contrast ratio of 700:1 is scarily low compared to that of most rival LCD TVs.
The built-in DVD drive, accessed via a slot on the side, provides some cause for cheer, though -- it can play MP3 audio and JPEG photo files, as well as CDs and DVDs.
But the cheery moment is short-lived. The DVD player doesn't support DivX playback, and flatly refuses to pull any discs into its slot unless you've first selected DVD playback via the TV's horribly flimsy remote control. Quite why the DVD slot can't just pull discs in whenever they're presented and then have the TV automatically turn to the DVD channel is beyond us.
The single biggest problem, though, has to be the screen's dismal contrast. Watch any dark scene, and it's impossible not to feel depressed by the amount of low-contrast grey mist hanging over anything that's supposed to look black.
To make matters worse, the extent of the grey mist is by no means the same in all parts of the screen. Rather, there seems to be a sort of banding effect, whereby some vertical stripes in the picture look even more affected by the greyness than others. This backlight inconsistency during dark scenes is severely distracting -- it's like trying to watch telly through ghostly prison bars. Where we find poor contrast we usually also find poor colour tones. So it proves with the F2620LVD, as dark colours look washed out and dull.
There are some performance plusses, though. The DVD deck plays films without introducing much decoding interference, for instance. Also, during bright scenes, colours tend to look much more credible and dynamic than they do during dark ones. We were surprised, too, given the TV's other classic LCD failings, to find that it didn't suffer too badly at all from motion smear. High-definition pictures look noticeably more detailed than standard-definition ones, which is no mean feat on such a small and cheap screen.
The last statement needs to be qualified by saying that the F2620LVD's standard-definition pictures are less crisp than usual. Plus, of course -- no matter what positives we manage to scrape up -- they're always overshadowed by the screen's dire contrast problems.
It seems only fitting that the F2620LVD's sound should be almost as ropey as its pictures. There's no bass worthy of the name, vocals sound unrealistic, and audio generally just sounds flat and uninvolving.
While it's all well and good for Ferguson to sell the F2620LVD for relative peanuts, the company's forgotten to pay attention to AV quality. In fact, the F2620LVD's performance is so poor that £330 doesn't look like such great value after all.
Edited by Charles Kloet