Kogan is an Australian TV brand that's trying to break into the UK market. The company claims its tellies cost less than usual because it sells directly to the public via its website, rather than using third-party stores. Its prices are certainly attractive. For example, the 40-inch, 1080p Elite LED40 LCD TV costs £420, yet offers LED illumination and TV-recording features. But is its performance any good?
The shape of things
Out of the box, the LED40 doesn't look too shabby. The black finish is reasonably attractive and the Kogan logo has been kept to sensible proportions -- that is, small. The TV is also pretty slim, measuring a mere 35mm deep. That said, the chassis feels slightly cheap and plasticky, and certainly lacks the build quality of TVs from companies such as Panasonic.
Setting up the LED40 isn't quite as straightforward as it could be. The set has three HDMI ports -- two on the rear and one on the side. There's also a Scart socket and a set of component inputs, although the latter connection has to be made via a small adaptor cable. The main issue is that the ports are very tightly packed together and recessed to such an extent that it's a pain in the posterior to get the cables into the sockets.
Nevertheless, tuning the TV is a breeze and the menu system is very user-friendly. The electronic programme guide has a vertical layout, with channel names listed on one side and programming data shown on the other. The layout makes it rather difficult to compare what's on at the same time on different channels, but the EPG is still reasonably zippy. Channel changes are very sluggish, though, with the set often taking several seconds to actually display the video from the newly selected channel.
The set's TV-recording features are much more impressive. If you connect a hard drive or USB to the port on the rear, you can pause live TV, or just record a show. You can even schedule recordings via the EPG, just as you would with a normal PVR. There's only one tuner built in, though, so you can't record one channel while watching another.
The recording quality is excellent, as the TV is really just saving the raw digital Freeview broadcast to storage. You can even play back files on your computer using software like Media Player Classic.
Sadly, the Freeview tuner is standard-definition only, so you won't get access to any high-definition channels. That's fine if you already subscribe to a high-definition service from Sky or Virgin, but not so good if you're still getting your TV stations via your aerial.
Many cheap TVs suffer from a lack of subtlety in their picture processing and this is also the case with the LED40. Upscaling of standard-definition channels is on the rough side, with pictures looking either soft or noisy, depending on how aggressive you are with the sharpness control. While colours are generally quite rich, the TV's contrast performance isn't all that hot, so darker scenes tend to look muddy.
One of the supposed strengths of LED sets is their ability to produce brighter whites and deeper black levels. The backlighting on this TV is very patchy, though. Pictures are noticeably brighter at the corners and edges of the screen than they are in the centre. It can be very distracting, especially if you're watching a Blu-ray movie with black bars at the top and bottom of the screen.
The most troubling problem of all, however, is the 100Hz processing. There seems to be no way of turning it off, even though the effect it produces is terrible. It introduces what can only be described as tearing in the image, whereby parts of the picture randomly seem to lag behind the movement of the rest of the frame.
The set's audio quality isn't much better. The tiny speaker produces really weedy audio that sounds harsh and unnatural. It's hardly capable of troubling the bottom end in movie soundtracks either, and you have to carefully adjust the bass and treble settings to make dialogue sound okay.
Overall, the Kogan Elite LED40 is a missed opportunity. The set has some strong points, such as its low price, slim dimensions and USB recording capability. But its picture and sound quality aren't good enough to make it a genuine bargain.
Edited by Charles Kloet