With the death of VHS came a new opportunity -- recorders that simply store digital TV on computer hard drives instead of on messy, bulky, low-quality tape. It's a fantastic way of simplifying your living room and it's a lot easier to used than traditional tape based recording.
With this new technology comes a size advantage. The hardware needed to record digital signals to a hard drive is all very small. The drives themselves are also compact, so they can be built into the television, and with few moving parts, the risk of failure is reasonably small, too.
For around £570, does the LG 32LT75 manage to offer an all-in-one solution for both watching and recording your favourite TV shows?
If someone hadn't told us that the 32LT75 had a Freeview Playback PVR hidden within its piano black walls, we would never have guessed by looking at it. The attractive TV isn't hampered at all by its built in 160GB hard disk.
The TV is very pleasant to look at indeed. We'd go so far as to say it's one of the nicest screens from the Korean giant we've ever seen. It's well designed, too -- the stand comes in the box, but isn't attached to the screen. It's a simple matter of four screws to secure it to the base. You can also opt to wall-mount the TV if you like. Although a bracket isn't included, the VESA holes are ready and waiting to be used.
At the back of the screen, you'll find a pair of HDMI sockets -- about standard for a 32-inch TV, but we'd like to see three. There are also VGA, component and two Scart sockets.
The remote control is quite large, but it's also sturdy and well built. The remote's buttons have a positive feel to them and everything operates smoothly when you press something. There doesn't seem to be a noticeable lag between pressing a button and the TV reacting. Good stuff -- just what we like to see.
Obviously, the main feature of this TV is the 160GB PVR that's built in. What we found especially pleasing about this feature is that it's so well integrated into the TV, not just physically, but the way the software allows you to control it.
As you would probably expect, the PVR is tied to the TV's electronic programme guide. Selecting a show to record is as simple as entering the EPG, picking the programme you want and pressing the record button. This being a Freeview Playback-compliant TV means you get an eight-day EPG from which to select what you want to record. Freeview Playback also offers features like accurate start times -- so you don't miss a programme if it is delayed -- and split recordings -- where a film or other programme is split into two -- by the news, for instance.
You can also use 'series link' to record every episode in a series. Pretty handy if you forget Spooks is shown on a Tuesday, or can't remember which nights Eastenders is on.
The LG 32LT75 also has other tricks up its sleeve. It's a 720p TV, but it can happily accept a 1080p signal and downconvert it to 720p. While this probably won't be a huge selling point, it's good to know the TV can handle any signal you can throw at it.
Here's a rarity in this PVR -- where most can only copy with digital TV, the LG can record an analogue TV signal. If you aren't lucky enough to live in an area with digital terrestrial television yet, this will almost certainly be of interest to you. It also means you can record a signal from the Scart or composite video inputs, which is handy for recording programmes from Sky.
The TV can also output Dolby Digital or PCM digital sound via its optical audio output. Although Dolby Digital isn't generally used on Freeview, its still nice to have a digital audio output to connect the TV to your AV receiver -- you will be able to get Dolby Pro Logic from movies in this way.
First impressions on connecting this TV were good. It takes about five minutes to scan for both analogue and digital TV channels. The TV makes this totally painless and all you have to do is sit back and wait for it to finish.
Once everything was set up we spent a few minutes doing our regular picture calibration. We don't generally use any special tricks for this. We just pick a random channel -- usually one of the main broadcasters -- and adjust the brightness, contrast and backlight until we find a setting that looks good. This is the sort of thing you should do once you buy your new TV, too. It's dead easy and will improve the picture on your TV no end.
We checked the power consumption of the TV in standby and it consumes about 15W average. While that's higher than a normal TV, it's actually less than some TVs we've seen and it's even better if you consider that it means you don't have to have a separate PVR chewing up power all the time.
The PVR portion of the TV does add some operating noise to the TV. Because it uses a hard disk, some sound is produced by the disk spinning constantly. We tested it in a quiet room, and with the sound off, we could just about make it out when we were really close. Honestly, it's not going to bother you when you're watching TV.
Picture quality on Freeview was good as 32 inches is around the sweet spot. It's not so large that every picture fault shows up, but it's big enough to suit all but the most enormous living rooms. The quality of recorded programmes from Freeview was also good and we could see no discernable degradation.
Recordings from analogue also looked as good as you can hope, but when we test it here at the office, the tall buildings around us make analogue a nightmare of ghosting. If you have a strong undistorted picture from your analogue, this TV will do a good job recording those signals.
HD performance from our HD DVD player, the Toshiba HD E1, was excellent as well. The Matrix look superb, with scenes taking place within the computer program suitably green looking -- as the directors intended -- and scenes outside the Matrix looking suitably stark and gritty. Upscaled DVD also looked good. Our Mission Impossible: II test disc looked good, although the lack of detail in certain shots is pretty much unavoidable on standard definition material.
Our only major complaint performance-wise was the weedy sound. This TV only puts out around 10W per side, and with our HD DVD material -- which tends to be a little on the quiet side -- we had to have the volume up to full to hear everything properly. This wasn't a problem on Freeview, though.
The LG 32LT75 is an example of a very well thought-out product. It provides a solution to the problem of finding a simple way of recording TV programmes without paying for a PVR plus a TV. It is elegant and simple and that makes it a great choice for people who want an all-in-one solution that anyone can use with minimal training. The menu integration and ease of use make this a cracking main TV, or even a second TV for the study or bedroom.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday