Far Eastern imports usually offer huge savings, but they come at the expense of overall performance, build quality and long-term reliability. And by supplementing Japanese technology with Taiwanese cost efficiency Mirai has developed one of the most affordable large screen LCD TVs on the market -- but you'll have to accept a few drawbacks.
The cumbersome design of the Mirai T37156 looks cheap and is strangely styled with a detached speaker system fitted to the frame. The specification does include high-definition compatibility but, unlike rival models, only features an inhibited analogue TV tuner. And, although there's a competitive range of functions, not all of them make a difference to picture quality. At least any fears about long-term reliability are eased by a standard two-year warranty.
However, with an emphasis on high-definition it's unusual that the HDMI-induced images actually appear dull and subdued compared to the more impressive analogue connected performance. But it's still great value for money -- even if you add the expense of a separate Freeview box and better speakers.
While most modern LCD TVs prefer understated designs, the Mirai's unique construction is anything but inconspicuous. The straight-edged, black screen is surrounded by a silver 'horseshoe' structure that awkwardly integrates a pair of detachable speakers on either side. It's a design that provokes a second glance -- and not for the right reasons.
The screen is also comparatively heavier and far deeper than its rivals, and build quality is overwhelmed by acres of plastic including an unstable, circular stand -- but that's the price you pay to save money.
At least there is a full compliment of connections to support your accompanying equipment. A front panel conceals several basic AV inputs, including S-Video, and the remaining connections are arranged beneath a pair of oversized, removable panels at the rear.
An all-important HDMI input allows the direct digital transfer of high-definition signals from devices like Sky's forthcoming HDTV receivers and compatibly equipped DVD players. Not only do digital connections generally offer improved performance and the convenience of a single cable but they also future-proof screens for the dawn of a new digital age.
Until then, there's also support from a varied range of alternative analogue connections. Component video inputs enhance picture performance, especially if connected to a DVD player with progressive scan. There are also two Scart terminals, both of which are RGB enabled for uncompromised quality. And PC users can connect to the screen using a standard VGA input supported by a PC audio input, which are sometimes ignored even in more expensive screens.
The lightweight remote is inundated with spongy controls and feels cheap, but it is intelligently arranged and responsive.
The T37156 Cobra, is the flagship screen in Mirai's limited range of LCD TVs. The specification is slighted by the lack of an integrated digital TV tuner leaving you a choice of only analogue terrestrial channels. Eventually analogue broadcasts will be replaced by digital so you'll ultimately need to invest in a separate set-top box. However, this is one of the most affordable high-definition compatible, 37-inch LCD screens available.