As the recession continues to bite, TV manufacturers are having to work ever harder to sell their wares. We've found the 32-inch, HD Ready Toshiba Regza 32AV635DB LCD TV selling online for the eye-poppingly affordable price of £350. Even more remarkably, the 32AV635DB is really quite good.
Splash of panache
In some ways, the 32AV635DB looks its money. Its lines are fairly unimaginative, and its finish looks and feels plasticky. But, in a cheeky two-fingered salute in the general direction of Sony, the Toshiba logo on the centre of the bottom edge is illuminated, adding a dash of panache to the otherwise entirely unremarkable exterior.
The 32AV635DB goes way beyond its budget call of duty with its connections. For starters, it's got four HDMI ports where we would only really have expected two or, at a push, three. Plus there's a dedicated D-Sub PC port, and even a USB jack able to pass onto the screen JPEG photo files from USB storage devices.
Even more startling is the presence on the 32AV635DB of Toshiba's Resolution+ technology. This is a clever processing system that's designed to deliver superior upscaling of standard-definition images to the screen's 1,366x768-pixel, high-definition resolution.
Joining Resolution+ on the processing front is Toshiba's always respectable Active Vision II system, which targets everything from colour and contrast to motion and sharpness.
The 32AV635DB's rather bland on-screen menus play host to yet more unexpected features. Our explorations uncovered, among other things, gamma adjustments, two types of noise adjustment, and even a quite sophisticated colour-management arrangement, whereby you can tweak the hue and saturation levels for each of the six key video-colour components.
At first, we found ourselves slightly disappointed by the 32AV635DB's picture performance, for one simple reason: once they'd been calibrated, images just didn't look very bright compared with those of most LCD TVs.
Once you've got used to this -- and you will get used to it, as long as your living room isn't particularly sun-drenched -- you'll start to notice that, in many other ways, the 32AV635DB's pictures are surprisingly accomplished for its price point.
Particularly outstanding compared to the budget competition are its black levels, which are far less blighted by grey clouding than expected. Then there's the 32AV635DB's standard-definition performance. Thanks to Resolution+, it reproduces material from its Freeview tuner with more sharpness and less picture noise than many TVs that cost three times as much. Also, colours look saturated and likeable, and there's nothing like as much motion blur as we'd usually find at the Toshiba's price level.
But it's not all good news. Apart from the brightness issue, the 32AV635DB's budget nature manifests itself in other ways. Its picture becomes desaturated if watched from much of an angle, for instance. Plus, colours during dark scenes can look a touch unnatural at times, HD pictures don't look as sharp as we know they can, and, while black levels are deep, dark scenes can also look slightly short of background detail.
The 32AV635DB's audio is nothing to write home about either. While voices sound quite believable and there's a fair amount of sound mix detail to be heard, bass levels are scarcely deep enough to do justice to a Blazing Saddles fart, never mind a Terminator 2: Judgment Day nuclear explosion.
If you're looking for a 32-inch TV on a tight budget, you'd be crazy not to at least give the Toshiba Regza 32AV635DB an audition. While it might not have the chops to scare most premium-priced TVs, it's streets ahead of any other sub-£400 32-inch TV that we can think of.
Edited by Charles Kloet