Have you ever found yourself wondering if any of those no-brand TVs piled on the shelves of your local supermarket are actually any good? We know we have. So we thought we'd get our hands on one: the HD Ready, 32-inch Technika LCD32-209 LCD TV, available from Tesco for a cool £280.
Considering how phenomenally cheap it is for a 32-inch TV, the LCD32-209's provision of two HDMIs among its connections is pretty good. Its two digital audio outputs and subwoofer line out come as a pleasant surprise too.
The LCD32-209's on-screen menus are also better than anticipated. They're attractively presented, easy to read and sensibly organised. They even contain one or two sophisticated features, such as a multi-level noise-reduction processor, a game mode, a film mode -- which adjusts the TV's progressive scanning for film rather than video sources -- and an optional dynamic backlight system that reduces the backlight output during dark scenes to boost the set's black-level portrayal.
This dynamic-backlight feature is particularly welcome at the LCD32-209's price point, and does exactly what we'd hoped it would do -- help the TV produce very respectable black levels. Shots with a mixture of bright and dark elements look punchy and dynamic, while predominantly dark scenes aren't nearly as badly afflicted by the dreaded 'grey mist' effect as they are on most other ultra-budget TVs.
The LCD32-209's sharpness with high-definition sources is also pleasing. It makes its HD Ready resolution count in excellent fashion by reproducing such minutiae as facial pores and individual blades of grass with more accuracy than some TVs that cost twice as much, or more. Also, when watching HD sources, the LCD32-209's pictures offer startlingly vibrant colour saturation.
In terms of audio performance, although the LCD32-209 delivers a fairly average combination of dynamic range and clarity, even that's something of an achievement at this level of the market.
The LCD32-209 looks its price, with a plasticky and bland design. While some of its connections are okay, the lack of a dedicated D-Sub PC port comes as a blow.
Similarly, while the LCD32-209's on-screen menus are good, its remote control is a cheap and not particularly cheerful affair, with an unhelpful button layout and unsatisfying, lightweight feel.
When it comes to picture performance, the LCD32-209's main failing is the upsetting amount of smearing that occurs whenever an image contains much movement. This problem is still common across much of the LCD world, but there's no doubt that the LCD32-209 suffers from it more than most -- and with HD, as well as standard-definition, material.
Other lesser concerns are the rather grainy, fizzy look of both HD and standard-definition pictures, and the way colours tend to lose tonal accuracy with low-quality standard-definition sources.
At first glance, the Technika LCD32-209 suggests that there might be gold on them there supermarket shelves. But, on further inspection, it becomes clear that the LCD32-209 falls prey to rather severe motion blur -- something that's particularly annoying if you're a fan of action movies.
Consequently, while the LCD32-209 might just about warrant consideration as a second-room set, given how cheap it is, we certainly wouldn't recommend it as a main TV.
Edited by Charles Kloet