A French company known for its mobile phones decides to make a rear-projection television? It's a move into the smallest part of the already niche market of big-screen TVs -- like Apple suddenly deciding to make electric cars. Not that that hindered Sagem with its first range, and now that everyone is demanding high-definition compatibility, the company has decided its Axiums are ready for an upgrade.
We're finally starting to see the benefits of a ratified 'HD Ready' standard, and as a result Sagem's new HD-D56 will be future-proof for many years to come. True, it is based on projection technology, so there are limitations such as lamp life and viewing angle, but if you are attracted to the more cinematic picture of rear projection, then you're not going to find better value for money.
The sheer size of the HD-D56's screen is amplified by it sitting atop a much smaller stand. It's a class act, with only a thin black bezel around the screen and no fancy logos to spoil the main attraction. The silver/black combo is particularly alluring, making it feel like a luxury item.
There's not much else to be found in Sagem's package, particularly not in the way of cables. Sagem's remote control isn't amazing. It's small, but it doesn't feel like it belongs with this premium TV. In terms of usability though, it's ergonomic and the main buttons for changing channels are easy to find without looking.
Connectivity is housed around the rear and sides of the TV, and thanks to HD Ready approval, it caters for all possible needs. All current AV hardware will fit right in with the three RGB Scart inputs -- the most you usually get is two RGB. This means you should never have to use the composite or S-video inputs, but two of each have been included anyway.
If you're making an investment in rear pro, you shouldn't be doing it just for the screen size -- Sagem's TV is fully high-definition compatible too. The DVI input sitting inconspicuously on the rear is a glimpse of tomorrow's technology today. Unlike current standards such as Scart and even component, the DVI standard keeps all video signals digital, so they're less susceptible to degradation. DVI's higher bandwidth also means you can transfer more information, and in 2006 there will be a number of new video formats that will up the resolution of standard video to offer far more detail. If you're a picture-quality junkie, you'll want to invest in it, and even if you're not, the difference is likely to convert you. You can also use the DVI input to connect a computer up to the TV (if you have an older desktop or laptop, you can use the VGA connector on the right panel). The TV's component inputs are also HD-compatible, but Sky HD will require DVI. All in all, it's a remarkably complete package that's missing nothing.
Audio connectivity is just as good. As well as a multitude of standard stereo inputs to accompany composite and S-video, there's a coaxial connector that can be used as an input or output. This is an excellent addition for two reasons. If you're using the television's built-in speakers, you can connect your DVD player up and the HD-D56 will process a Dolby Virtual Surround soundtrack. If you've got a home cinema setup (and you should have, if you're getting a TV this size), you can output your TV sound via coaxial and let it amplify the audio. Either way, it's another feature on the HD-D56 that you're unlikely to find elsewhere.