Sadly, many manufacturers seem to see the small-screen TV market as an unimportant sector, and don't put much effort into such matters as picture quality and feature sets. But LG, at least, seems hell-bent on bucking this dismal trend. The 22-inch, HD Ready 22LU4000 LCD TV, available for around £300, does more than just the basics.
There's never been a 22-in TV that looks anything like the 22LU4000. For starters, it's clad in a distinctly iPod-esque glossy white finish. Extra cuteness comes in the form of its tastefully arched and rounded screen shape, and subtle see-through trim.
If you consider yourself particularly macho, you might find the 22LU4000's looks rather effeminate. But, since we're in touch with our feminine side, we personally think it will look very good in any conservatory, kitchen, bedroom or study.
In fact, it's particularly suited to a study, since, as well as a respectable two HDMI ports and a component video input, the 22LU4000 has a dedicated PC port so that it can double up as a computer monitor. This is by no means a universal feature once you get down to the £300 price point.
The set's solid specifications also include an HD Ready resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, LG's decent XD Engine video processing, and a claimed contrast ratio of 8,000:1. While this contrast figure is far short of the tens of thousands to one -- and higher -- numbers bandied around in the big TV world, it's actually remarkable for such a small TV, raising hopes of some really exceptional picture quality.
The 22LU4000's on-screen menus are also good. Surprisingly, the TV enjoys the same excellent graphics-heavy user interface that we've enjoyed on LG's recent larger TVs. What's more, there are far more picture-adjustment options at your disposal than we'd generally expect to find at the sub-26-inch level of the TV market. Highlights include a black-level booster, separate backlight and brightness adjustments, edge-enhancement processing options, standard and wide colour gamut settings, and various gamma presets. If all this sounds intimidating, fear not -- LG has thoughtfully included a series of test signals to guide you step by step through optimising picture performance.
As we hoped, LG's efforts in the picture department haven't been in vain. Right away, for instance, the screen's contrast -- particularly its presentation of deep black colours -- proves to be in a whole different world to that of most small-screen LCD sets.
Other welcome surprises are the picture's brightness, and the set's ability to present high-definition sources with so much sharpness and detail that you really can tell they're HD, despite the screen's diminutive dimensions. HD pictures further enjoy some rich but also generally believable colours, despite the TV only sporting relatively low-powered, 8-bit video processing. Also, the set doesn't suffer nearly as badly with motion blur as we anticipated.
While the 22LU4000's picture quality generally holds up well with good-quality DVD pictures, though, things do go slightly awry with standard-definition broadcasts, particularly when it comes to some of the lower-quality channels that make up part of the Freeview platform.
When showing these, the 22LU4000 struggles to portray quite such natural and dynamic colours, as well as suffering much more with smearing when objects move across the screen. But the picture is still enjoyable overall.
The 22LU4000's audio, however, is anything but easy on the ear. As with many other small TVs, it sounds devoid of bass, one-dimensional, flat and compressed. It's pretty much the TV audio equivalent of two tin cans and a piece of string. This may be good enough, perhaps, for daytime TV and casual PC use, but it's hardly sufficient for a typical Hollywood blockbuster.
If you're intending to watch plenty of films on the LG 22LU4000, in whatever second room you put it in, its audio is bad enough to potentially rule it out, despite its impressive pictures. But, for more casual use, especially in a kitchen or conservatory, where sound quality isn't as important, the 22LU4000 is a real contender -- especially if you're keen to unleash your inner interior designer.
Edited by Charles Kloet