Hannspree is probably best known for producing computer monitors, but the company now also makes budget TVs. At around £400, the 1080p, LCD Hannspree SJ42DMBB is one of the cheapest 42-inchers you can buy, but has this rock-bottom price tag led to compromised picture performance?
Cheap dressed as steep
Apart from its rather deep chassis, which measures 97mm thick, the set's design does little to give away its budget origins. The bezel around the screen is narrower than that of Toshiba's 40RV753, for example, and its glossy black finish and chrome bar across the bottom of the display combine to make it reasonably attractive by budget TV standards.
The SJ42DMBB has a standard-definition Freeview tuner, so if you want access to the high-definition channels offered by the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV, you'll need to invest in an external Freeview HD or freesat HD box. There's no Ethernet port or Wi-Fi on board, so you don't get any of the fancy media-streaming or internet services that you do on sets from the likes of LG and Samsung. There is a side-mounted USB port but, unfortunately, this is for service use only and doesn't support digital-media playback as you would perhaps expect.
Apart from this, the range of connection options around the back is pretty good. There are three HDMI ports plus a set of component inputs for hooking up your high-definition kit. For those still stuck in the analogue world, Hannspree has provided two Scart sockets. There's also an optical-audio output so you can feed audio from the set's Freeview tuner to an external surround-sound decoder.
The TV's electronic programme guide is a tad basic, but it's reasonably fast and easy to navigate. Disappointingly, you can't view programming data for any other channel but the one you're watching. When you switch channels in the EPG, the TV automatically changes to that channel. The EPG also uses a vertical layout, in which all the programmes coming up that day are listed in a single window. This means you can't easily identify timing clashes between shows like you can with more traditional brick-in-the-wall-style EPG layouts. The menu system is also rather basic. It does offer a reasonable amount of control over the picture, although the settings aren't as comprehensive as the ones you'll find on budget sets from big-name manufacturers.
The TV's panel has a 1080p resolution and uses traditional CCFL backlighting, which isn't a surprise at this price point. Unfortunately, the set's overall picture performance isn't great, even taking into account its rock-bottom price tag. While the TV produces indisputably bright pictures, this brightness comes at the expense of black levels, which are quite poor. Blacks in darker scenes look decidedly grey. Even turning on the X-Contrast feature, which seems to be a dynamic backlight mode, doesn't improve matters.
Pictures are quite noisy by modern standards and edges can appear fuzzy when they should be pin-sharp. It's pretty obvious from the way the set deals with skin tones that colour accuracy isn't that hot, either. By default, skin tones tend to look jaundiced and, although turning on the Flesh Tone setting improves matters slightly, skin tones end up looking too reddish. The TV suffers from blatant motion judder, something that's very apparent when you're watching movies on Blu-ray. It's the overall absence of decent picture-processing that leaves this TV lacking. It simply doesn't produce the same finesse in terms of image quality that even cheaper models from well-known manufacturers can manage.
The audio from larger TVs like this one is generally better than what you get with smaller sets, simply because companies are able to squeeze in bigger speakers. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case here. The Hannspree sounds quite weedy. In fact, even when you crank up the bass control using the on-screen graphic equaliser, it never really delivers the goods. As such, it's definitely a set that's crying out to be twinned with an external surround-sound set-up.
The Hannspree SJ42DMBB may be cheap, but that doesn't make it a bargain. Its picture quality is too rough around the edges and its audio too lightweight to make it a good budget option. If you're looking for a big-screen set that's available at an affordable price, we'd recommend you check out Toshiba's 40RV753 instead. It may offer a slightly smaller screen, but its pictures are vastly superior to the SJ42DMBB.
Edited by Emma Bayly