What Video & Hi-Def TV Digital Edition #1

Page 1

the GUIDE TO TV ● recorders ● blu-ray

Digital edition issue 1

t 32in group tes

IN DEPTH TEST

sony’s 1st

LED tv five mid-size TVs go head to head -ray panasonic blu

awesome 46in screen revolutionises lcd ALSO INSIDE:

freeview EXPLAINED

the best hi-Def deck in the world?

freesat HD RECEIVERS TESTED Top SMALL SCREEN TVs RATED


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004 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

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/ digital issue one

Welcome Welcome to what I hope will be the first of many digital issues of What Video & Hi-Def TV. The following pages will give you a flavour of the sort of stuff that appears in every issue of our magazine, which you’ll find in your local newsagents (in the UK, at least). We review everything related to TV, from Blu-ray and DVD players to recorders, set-top boxes and projectors. We also run our expert eyes over cables, remote controls, portable media players and even camcorders. If it’s got anything to do with TV, we’ll look at it. Oh, and did I mention that we also review screens themselves? If it’s LCD, LED, plasma or OLED, we’ll test it. So what makes What Video & Hi-Def TV so special? We’ve been printing specialist reviews of AV kit for 28 years now and are the longest running dedicated TV buyer’s guide in the UK. Every screen that comes into our test lab is given a thorough workout using a wide range of video material from humble standard-def broadcasts through to state-of-the art full HD, to ensure that our reviews cover everything that you’ll be looking for in a new TV. Then, once the subjective testing is over, we put screens through their paces with some of the most advanced broadcast-standard test equipment known to man. Our Tech Labs enable us to collect reams of scientific data to back up our subjective findings. In short, the result is that if we say a product is worth buying, you can bet your life we mean it. Enjoy the issue,

© Future Publishing Limited 2009. All rights reserved. No part of this magazine may be used or reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. Future Publishing Limited (company number 2008885) is registered in England and Wales. The registered office of Future Publishing Limited is at Beauford Court, 30 Monmouth Street, Bath BA1 2BW. All information contained in this magazine is for information only and is, as far as we are aware, correct at the time of going to press. Future cannot accept any responsibility for errors or inaccuracies in such information. Readers are advised to contact manufacturers and retailers directly with regard to the price of products/services referred to in this magazine. If you submit unsolicited material to us, you automatically grant Future a licence to publish your submission in whole or in part in all editions of the magazine, including licensed editions worldwide and in any physical or digital format throughout the world. Any material you submit is sent at your risk and, although every care is taken, neither Future nor its employees, agents or subcontractors shall be liable for loss or damage. What Video & Hi-Def TV™ is the trademark of Future Publishing Limited.

Jake Day-Williams, Editor

contents / plasma & LCD TVs 04  Sony KDL-46X4500

/ 32in LCD TV group test 22  JVC LT-26DE1BJ

Stunning 46in LED Bravia for £3,500

Expensive Freeview+ TV with twin tuners

08  Samsung LE40B650

22  Panasonic TX-L26X10B

Hugely flexible full HD TV with limited internet browsing

Admirable entry-level LCD with HD Ready resolution

10  Panasonic TX-L37V10B

23  LG M227WD

Pricey, but well specified and capable LCD with web widgets

/ 32in LCD TV group test 14  Philips 32PFL9613

Exceedingly stylish 22in TV/PC monitor

23  Toshiba 19AV615DB

Surprisingly well-featured 19in telly with surround audio mode

15  JVC LT-32DR1BJ

/ Blu-ray players 24  Panasonic DMP-BD60

16  LG 32LH4000

26  LG BD370

Superb, state of the art set with Ambilight Sporadically impressive full HD TV with DynaPix HD Solid, reasonably priced, set for just £550

17  Panasonic TX-L32X10B

Sound, but ultimately uninspiring all-rounder

18  Toshiba 32AV555

Flawed, but extremely reasonably priced HD Ready TV

Sensational internet-equipped player for remarkably little money Quick-loading, nicely styled deck with YouTube access

/Freesat HD receiver 28  Technisat HDFS

HD-capable Freesat box with media streaming

30  Freeview Mythbusters

All you need to know about the digital TV Switchover

Digital Issue 1/ What Video & Hi-Def TV / 003


On Test / 46in LCD TV

Verdict HHHHH    Approx price £3,500

Sony

KDL-46X4500

The first true LED Bravia is a remarkable,   though pricey, full HD performer Stunning pictures; plenty of features B and connections; nifty design Pricey; audio could be better; no E internet functions; unhelpful presets

So far Sony hasn’t delivered the same sort of consistency with its flat TV picture quality that it achieved – to world-conquering effect – with its CRTs. But with the KDL-46X4500, the firm finally gives its Bravia TV name some mouthwatering quality to go with the dazzling ad campaigns and marketing spin.

Features HHHHH

The rivals / Philips 42PFL9803 HHHHH

Debut LED TV that’s smaller and without RGB dimming, but it still produces marvellous pictures. Reviewed: Issue 342

/ Panasonic TX-46PZ81 HHHHH

An affordable 46in plasma with an integral Freesat tuner into the bargain. Reviewed (42in): Issue 336

004 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

As you’d expect of a 46in TV costing £3,500, the 46X4500 is packed with technology and tweaks. The fun starts with the set’s design, which niftily has an expanse of clear glass to each side, into which have been inset some very swish silver ‘pole’ speakers. The set is extremely well connected, too, with highlights of four HDMIs, two component video inputs, a port for playing various multimedia file formats from USB devices, and even a DLNA-enabled ethernet port for streaming files from a connected PC.


Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 005


On Test / 42in LCD TV

Please note, though, that surprisingly, this ethernet port doesn’t let you connect to the new Sony online service, mentioned in the review in our previous issue of Sony’s KDL-40V5500.

We were caught completely off guard by the awesomeness of the pictures/// ///

The standout feature of the 46X4500, though, has to be its lighting system, which illuminates pictures using an ingenious array of separate, individually controllable clusters of LEDs. This is different to the static, edge-based LED backlight employed by the recently reviewed Sony 40ZX1 (Issue 345). 006 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

The main advantage of the dimming approach versus edgebased LED lighting or the static, single backlight of normal LCD TVs is that it enables really deep black colours to sit right alongside really bright picture elements. This is because the LED clusters in dark picture areas are switched right down, while those in bright areas can be run at full power. Cue a claimed contrast ratio for the 46X4500 of 1,000,000:1. The flatscreen also uses full RGB dimming for its LED array, rather than the much cheaper black and white option used by most rivals currently deploying similar technology. This method, Sony claims, should produce a more natural white balance. Other key 46X4500 specs include the inevitable full HD resolution, Sony’s admirable Bravia Engine 2 Pro video processing. The 100Hz

processing is further supported by the company’s MotionFlow system for inserting new frames of image data to make motion more fluid. Proprietary Live Colour Creation circuitry for enhancing colour vibrancy also features and, of course, there’s Sony’s 24p True Cinema for Blu-ray playback.

Ease of use HHHHH

Inevitably, the sheer complexity of the 46X4500’s myriad options make it rather complex to use. But to be fair, the TV’s so-called Xcross Media Bar interface, with its dual-axis approach, makes accessing everything the TV has to offer as straightforward and as fast as it probably could be.

Picture HHHHH

Although Sony’s recent LCDs have shown signs of improvement, we were still caught completely off


guard by the sheer awesomeness of the 46X4500’s pictures. Take its black level response, for instance. There’s practically no trace at all of the grey clouding impact during dark scenes found to some extent on any normal LCD TV. Even better, the rich, deep blacks sit right alongside dazzlingly bright whites and superbly wellsaturated colours. In other words, there’s practically no sign of the general flatness noted with singlelight screens when they portray shots containing a combination of dark and bright material. The remarkable dynamism of the 46X4500’s pictures doesn’t come at

Sound HHHHH

Audio is reasonably clear, decently loud, possessing of a respectable dynamic range and it’s underpinned by a passable dollop of bass. But at the same time, the sound doesn’t deliver quite the levels of power and precision that those glorious pictures deserve.

Value HHHHH

At £3,500 the 46X4500 is extremely expensive for a 46in TV, having said that, its picture quality is so good that it arguably justifies the expense. As the saying goes, if you want the best, you just have to pay for it. Better start saving now Z

Stable Mates As well as the LED X4500 (a 55in version is also available), you can get the 200Hz-equipped Z4500 models, and the Eco-friendly,

internet-enabled W5500, with room sensors that can turn pictures off to save energy if they detect that nobody is in the room.

/ Time in Lab: 11 days / Serial No: FA8330007 112mm

1,259mm

737mm

the exclusion of subtlety, though. The amazing colour range is blended with a finesse we’d previously only seen on Pioneer’s soon to be defunct Kuro plasma TVs; shadow details abound to give dark scenes a sense of depth, and the sharpness and clarity on show with HD sources is jaw-dropping. Making the set’s precision with fine detail all the more mesmerising is its excellent suppression of video noise, and the way objects move around the screen without anything like as much smearing and resolution loss as happens with most of Sony’s standard LCD TVs. Thankfully, all that digital processing doesn’t generate loads of unwanted video side-effects, either, provided you keep the MotionFlow system set low. While the 46X4500 is, inevitably, at its sensational best with HD footage, it’s also an adept standarddef performer. The latest Bravia Engine system does an excellent job of upscaling sources to the screen’s full HD resolution. If pushed to find fault with the pictures, we might say that occasionally dark scenes take on a fractionally green undertone. Also, some of the TV’s picture presets are pretty dire, making manual calibration a must. Finally, pictures set up to look their absolute best aren’t especially bright, but this won’t matter if you’re watching the TV in a sensibly darkened room.

Playback Test Colour temperature Contrast ratio Luminance Colour Frequency response

Rating 6,517K 96,598:1 28.23fL lllll lllll

Power consumption: Standby: 1W In use: 122W Lab notes: The Warm 1 preset was reasonably accurate but manual adjustment delivered perfect results.

Spec check Screen size and shape: 46in, 16:9 Tuner: Freeview, analogue Sound system: Nicam Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD: Yes Quoted contrast ratio: 1,000,000:1 Quoted brightness: N/A Processing: Bravia Engine 2 Pro Screen dimensions: 1,259(w) x 737(h) x 315(d)mm Weight: 38kg / Other features: Standard and MPEG noise reduction processing, black correction, adaptive contrast enhancement, 24p True Cinema,

USB photo/music/media player, Live Colour, DLNA functionality, RGB LED dimming. Audio output power: 20W left right, plus 24W total subwoofer output / Sockets: Inputs: 4 v1.3 HDMIs; 2 component video, D-Sub PC; PC audio; 3.5mm headphone jack, S-video; PCMCIA slot; composite video; RF; 2 Scarts (RGB); USB 2.0; DLNA ethernet port. Outputs: Digital Media Port; digital audio (optical); RCA audio; RCA audio. / Contact: 08705 111999 www.sony.co.uk

www.techradar.com/581324

Offers the best picture quality a Sony TV has ever produced. An awesome, if expensive, home cinema set Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 007


On Test / 40in LCD TV

Verdict HHHHH Approx price £950

Samsung LE40B650 Superb, extremely flexible set with internet capability Smooth Blu-ray playback; easy B wireless networking; huge file support Rudimentary internet browsing; E some blur during gaming

The rivals / Sony KDL-40V5500 HHHHH

With Sony’s AppliCast internet system, four HDMIs and a full HD panel, this set is only let down by backlight inconsistencies. Reviewed: Issue 346

/ Pioneer PDP-LX5090 HHHHH

Offers deeper and more believable contrast than this Samsung and is benchmark in its reproduction of almost total black. Reviewed: Issue 338

008 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

This Series 6 screen is proof that Samsung isn’t about to turn its back on standard, non-LED LCDs. Underneath its glossy, red-tinted frame are some unusual features, but while this TV’s internet connectivity and wireless networking will grab the headlines, it’s the completely re-worked approach to picture quality that makes it such a polished performer.

Features HHHHH

The LE40B650 goes well beyond the boundaries of a normal LCD TV. Advanced features come in the shape of Contents Library and PC

networking and Internet@TV. The latter is a set of widgets supplied by Yahoo that offer access to websites such as Flickr, YouTube and news sites in real time. Attached to a router either wirelessly (using a dongle supplied by Samsung for a further £50) or wired (by an ethernet LAN cable), the LE40B650 can also stream digital files from a PC. Samsung’s own Contents Library is likely to have less appeal. Stored on a built-in hard drive, it consists of a mix of arty pictures set to music, bedtime stories for kids, a decent recipe section and even some ‘wellness’ videos.


Ease of use HHHHH

Despite the LE40B650’s lofty ambitions with digital media, it’s a

squarely at Blu-ray playback, the technology actually goes further than simply doubling the refresh rate of video – it inserts its own guessed-at video frames to create a smoother look.

simple set-up procedure. It uses the DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) standard to locate any PC on the same broadband network, from which it can stream myriad video formats such as DiVX, AVI, MP4 and even MKV files. Unfortunately, the LE40B650 supports only MP3 music and JPEG photos through USB, with no video of any format recognised. A bonus is that a separate hard drive can be attached via one of the USB ports. Starting Media Player takes one button press on the bulky backlit remote control. Despite its exhaustive controls and intuitive design, the onscreen menu system is often unresponsive and regularly needs to be reminded that it’s meant to be doing something. This adds a sluggish feel to its otherwise impressive menus and the widget-based taskbar that drives the Internet@TV feature. Unusually, the LE40B650’s Motion Plus 100Hz comes with three settings: clear, standard and smooth, with a further user-defined option provided where you can choose your own settings for both blur and judder reduction. Aimed

Using a test disc of Gandhi on Blu-ray and with Motion Plus 100Hz set to ‘clear’, we didn’t notice any judder at all. Blur was also virtually banished from fast-moving scenes with only the occasional smear evident on a camera pan across some writing on a wall. There was also some smearing evident when using an Xbox. We’d recommend switching Motion Plus 100Hz off for gaming, though arguably even games can’t fail to benefit from the TV’s skill with colour. Realism and accuracy are guaranteed, even from dark pictures. Incredibly, pitch-black scenes seem plasma-like in their richness and, while not every detail can be discerned, the LE40B650 capably demonstrates liquid crystal’s continued march towards home cinema greatness. Utterly cinematic with HD, the screen also does a reasonable job with Freeview pictures, by upscaling an adequate, but jaggy, amount of detail to a broadcast of Newsnight.

Sound HHHHH

Alas, its lacklustre speakers quash the joy of using the LE40B650 with a hard drive stuffed with MP3s. Its SRS TruSurround HD audio option does a reasonable job at widening movies soundtracks and dialogue is presented clearly enough, but we’d recommend using the digital audio output to route everything into a separate audio system.

Value HHHHH

Gamers may be disappointed, but anyone who wants internet access or the ability to stream files from a PC should take a second look. Add in its excellent performance with Blu-ray, its deep blacks and smooth motion skills, and you’ve got a great value set that belies Samsung’s ‘entry level’ label Z

Stable Mates Above the LE40B650 in Series 6 are 46 and 55in versions, while 19, 22, 32 and 37in models are also available. All have Yahoo’s

995mm

79mm

Picture HHHHH

Capably demonstrates liquid crystal’s continued march towards home cinema greatness/// ///

/ Time in Lab: 7 days / Serial No: AVL131L5100014X

Internet@TV platform, DLNA to access to digital content stored on PCs, and Motion Plus 100Hz (the latter on 32in+ sizes only).

650mm

More important is the LE40B650’s use of an Ultra Clear LCD panel, which reflects the light in a room to make dark colours seem deeper. Just as crucial is the appearance of an impressive Motion Plus 100Hz engine and the birth of Samsung’s Crystal FHD Engine picture processor that claims to upscale standard-definition fare better. The LE40B650 looks to tackle LCD technology’s weaknesses head-on and offers plasma-like richness. Samsung is not the first manufacturer to try this, but as we’ll see, it’s one of the few to succeed.

Playback Test Colour temperature Contrast ratio Luminance Colour Frequency response Power consumption: Standby In use

Rating 6,522K 2,951:1 64.96fL lllll lllll

1W 140W

Lab notes: A little smearing is rewarded with almost perfect tones

Spec check Screen size & shape: 40in 16:9 Tuner: Digital & analogue Sound system:   SRS TruSurround HD & Dolby Digital Plus Resolution (pixels):   1,920 x 1,080 Full HD: Yes Quoted contrast ratio: n/a Quoted brightness: n/a Processing: Crystal FHD Engine Screen dimensions:   995(w) x 650(h) x 79(d)mm Weight: 14.5 kg

/ Other features: Wide Colour Enhancer; Motion Plus 100Hz; 24p Real Movie; Internet@TV; Content Library; Media Player; Game mode / Sockets: Inputs: 4 HDMI; component video; 2 Scarts; composite video; ethernet LAN port; RF; Common Interface slot; D-sub PC; 2 USB 2.0 ports; minijack PC audio. Output: optical digital audio; headphones / Contact: 0870 2420 303  www.samsung.co.uk

www.techradar.com/579899

This screen’s real skill is pin-sharp, blur-free HD with pictures   as cinematic   as any plasma Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 009


On Test / 37in LCD TV

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £1,300

Panasonic TX-L37V10B A feature-rich, full HD panel with limited internet capablity Features; good general picture B performance; gorgeous styling Slightly high price; limited internet E

the TX-37V10B may not be the first TV we’ve seen with internet connectivity, but few of its peers can match the well-rounded nature of its spec sheet.

Features HHHHH

The rivals / LG 37LG7000 HHHHH

Similarly excellent, but considerably cheaper LCD with Bluetooth, rather than internet, capability. Reviewed: Issue 346

/ Philips 37PFL9603D HHHHH

Superb, Perfect Pixel-equipped set with no internet, but better pictures. Reviewed: Issue 339

010 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

Leaving the Viera Cast web access aside for a moment, we note the 1080p panel and four HDMIs, one of which is located on the bottom of the chassis away from the main cluster, presumably for wallmounting purposes. The panel is driven by the fourth generation of the company’s much-envied V-real Pro processing suite.

Panasonic has dispensed with the increasingly obsolescent S-video input and criminally cruddy composite inputs, neither of which could be gainfully employed on a set of this calibre. An optical video jack channels digital audio to external amplification if required, while an SD Card slot accommodates photos and other mixed media. Viera Cast, then, is a clever, albeit heavily restricted, way of accessing the internet from the comfort of your armchair without having to go through a PC. The TX-37V10B is able to hook up to a handful of


tones are accurate, varying shades are blended with an impressive amount of finesse. Also, while there is no overt, Resolution+-style upscaling trickery, the set manages to map standarddef sources onto that 1080p panel neatly, without pictures looking awkwardly stretched. Pictures are also notably clean, with even typically difficult material, such as the monotonously beige, suburban scenes at Harry’s muggle home in the Prisoner of Azkaban, are rendered free of any specs, grain or general digital noise. Blacks are pretty solid. They never manage plasma/// type depth, but survive being watched in a darkened room and retain an acceptable amount of detail and distinction /// between shades. Predictably, HD inherently hobbled means of showcases the set’s ability to best accessing the web at their disposal. effect, but DVDs polish up well and with a pleasing amount of detail. Ease of use HHHHH Freeview looks about as ugly as it Panasonic’s is one of the better always does when blown up to this operating systems around and the sort of size, but the TX-L37V10B clear, no-nonsense GUI (graphical manages to make a tidy job of it, user interface) combines nicely with with acceptable edge discipline and a logical and intuitive architecture. decent overall stability. The EPG is also admirably clear and uncluttered, with the tuner’s Sound HHHHH operating system fitting seamlessly The slender frame and remarkably into the set’s general menu layout. discreet speakers make any kind of There’s also a new, extremely audio competence an achievement snazzy ‘Viera Tools’ submenu that of sorts, and the Panasonic uses photograph-style icons for the produces a generally faithful array of multimedia functions, performance with a surprising including photo slideshows and amount of muscle. Its bass won’t DiVX playback. The remote control, shake your floorboards, but it’s more meanwhile, is a lesson in handheld than adequate with TV broadcasts ergonomics, with big, clearly and makes a reasonable fist of labelled keys arranged with movie soundtracks. impeccable logic, so that the oft-used buttons fall comfortably to Value HHHHH hand (or rather, to finger). The TX-37V10B is one of the pricier LCD TVs of its size around Picture HHHHH at the moment, but it is also one of Expectation is high for Panasonic the best. Some may lay claim to TVs, and it’s credit to the better pictures, others may offer TX-L37V10B that it mostly lives up better value and not everyone is to, and in some cases even going to be persuaded by the surpasses, its illustrious forebears. benefits of Viera Cast, but few of its The colours are refreshingly realistic rivals combine the Panasonic’s without edging into being garish or looks, spec and general strident, as lesser liquid crystal sets performance in quite such a are occasionally wont to do. Flesh tempting package Z

Flesh tones are accurate and varying shades are blended with impressive amounts of finesse

Stable Mates The V10 series is at the leading edge of Panasonic’s current LCD lineup and is trumped only by the high-end Z1 plasmas. The next LCD

in the pecking order is the G15, available as a 37-incher with the Viera Cast, but lacking the V10’s super-slim profile.

/ Time in Lab: 7 days / Serial No: ND-9220007 896mm

67mm

578mm

news and entertainment websites including YouTube and the Picasa online photo-sharing facility. While this is all very smart and very ‘now’, we can’t help feeling that internet connectivity (here and on the other, similarly equipped sets we’ve seen) is merely a modish gimmick. The internet is popular because of its almost infinite scope, so limiting access to a few Panasonicpicked sites, and having to navigate by remote rather than keyboard, seems self-defeating. Not least because the sort of person prepared to splash more than a grand on a 37in TV probably has other, less

Playback Test Colour temperature Contrast ratio Luminance Colour Frequency response Power consumption: Standby In use

Rating 8,656K 722:1 96.55fL llll l lllll

1W 132W

Lab notes: Low reds and high blues pre-calibration aren’t entirely smoothed out by the picture controls

Spec check Screen size & shape: 37in; 16:9 Tuners: Freesat, Freeview & analogue Sound system: Nicam Resolution (pixels): 1,920 x 1,080 Full HD: Yes Quoted contrast ratio: 20,000:1 Quoted brightness: N/a Processing: V real Pro 4 Screen dimensions: 896(w) x 578(h) x 67(d)mm Weight: 11.5kg

/ Other features: 100Hz Intelligent Frame Creation; 24p Smooth Film; 10-bit, IPS panel; Viera Cast; Viera Link; Viera Image Viewer; Q-Link; DiVX playback; AVCHD playback; Dolby Digital Plus / Sockets: Inputs: 4 HDMIs; component video; 2 Scarts (RGB); PC; stereo audio; RF; satellite; ethernet; SD card slot; CI for CAM. Outputs: optical digital audio; stereo audio / Contact: 08705 357 357 www.panasonic.co.uk

www.techradar.com/596135

An ambitiously specified and generally impressive LCD screen, albeit at a rather expensive price Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 011


comparison / 32in lcd TVs

take five It’s time for the 32in face off For all the glamour and cinematic pleasures offered by today’s super-sized monster screens, there’s still something very appealing about a 32in TV. Not least because it’s arguably the only size around that can provide satisfactory service as both a main and a second TV. This probably goes some way towards explaining why it’s still one of the most

012 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

keenly contested areas of the TV marketplace, with manufacturers falling over themselves to give their 32in sets some sort of edge when it comes to design, features, resolution, price or performance. And it’s this situation that has given rise to one of the most diverse group tests we’ve compiled in a very long time. Let the fun begin!


Spec check

Type: Screen size & shape Tuner: Sound system: Resolution (pixels): Full HD: Quoted contrast ratio: Quoted brightness: Dimensions: Weight:

Philips 32PFL9613

JVC LT-32DR1BJ

LG 32LH4000

Panasonic TX-L32X10B

Toshiba 32AV555

LCD 32in, 16:9 Freeview, analogue Nicam stereo 1,920 x 1,080 Yes 55,000:1

LCD 32in, 16:9 Freeview, analogue Nicam stereo 1,920 x 1,080 Yes 40,000:1

LCD 32in 16:9 Freeview, analogue Nicam stereo 1,920 x 1,080 Yes 50,000:1

LCD 32in, 16:9 Freeview, analogue Nicam stereo 1,366 x768 Yes 40,000:1

LCD 32in, 16:9 Freeview, analogue Nicam stereo 1,366 x768 Yes 18,000:1

500cd/m² 828(w) x 543(h) x 109(d)mm 16.3kg

500cd/m² 791(w) x 570(h) 279(d)mm  13.2kg

500cd/m² 804(w) x 586(h) x 224(d)mm 12.7kg

N/a 798(w) x 551(h) x 217(d)mm  13kg

450cd/m² 800(w) x 550(h) x 220(d)mm 14kg

Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 013


comparison / 32in lcd TVs q

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £850

Philips 32PFL9613

/ Sockets   Inputs: 4 v1.3 HDMI;   2 Scarts (2 RGB); component video; composite video; S-video; D-Sub PC; stereo audio; CAM slot; RF; USB; DNLA network port. Outputs: electrical digital audio; stereo audio; headphone jack / www.techradar.com/ 592923

Gorgeous styling; great picture quality; impressive audio B Expensive; setup needs care; too labour-intensive extremely well saturated dynamic, E Easily our best specified contender, the Philips has got the price tag to match, but unlike some premium wannabes, this one is worth every penny. The love affair begins as soon as you look at the set: that slender, gloss black screen surround, offset by a transparent fin that curves forward around its outer edge, it really is gorgeous. Its aesthetic appeal is further enhanced by Philips’ Ambilight technology, where pools of coloured light spill from the TV’s sides in a display that’s been proven to make viewing easier on the eyes. The positive impression grows as we set about cataloguing its enormous set of connections, of which the USB can play multiple file formats, including MP3s, JPEGs, slideshows and MPEG video, while the ethernet port can import files from your PC. Note, though, this port is not internet-enabled. Exploring the onscreen menus, meanwhile, uncovers an intimidating array of options. Most are associated with the TV’s Perfect Pixel HD video system. Motion, 014 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

detail, colour and contrast processing... there’s little you can’t tinker with. Which is just as well, since if there was ever a TV that demanded extensive and repeated picture tweaking, it’s the 32PFL9613. If you don’t continually adjust such aspects as the Perfect Natural Motion tool, to suit different footage types, you’ll regularly notice distracting processing glitches.

Performance

If you can commit to giving it the attention it deserves, though, the set produces some of the finest 32in LCD pictures ever. Sharpness and detail levels, for instance, are extraordinary with HD. But so powerful is the Perfect Pixel HD engine that it also makes standard-definition material look closer to high definition than any other 32in TV around. . The combination of 100Hz and Philips’ HD Natural Motion processing also means there’s practically no loss of sharpness when pictures get moving. The 32PFL9613 impresses greatly with its colours, too. They’re

blended with almost incredible finesse and are superbly natural in tone. It helps the colours, too, that they’re really given room to shine by one of the deepest black level responses we’ve seen from a 32in liquid crystal TV. As if the extravagant picture glories weren’t reason enough to make a potential buyer drool covetously over the 32PFL9613, the set is also endowed with superb audio strengths, serving up levels of dynamic range, bass and treble clarity that seem to defy the laws of physics given the size of chassis they’re coming from Z

You need to work hard to get the best out of this TV, but it’s worth the effort, for when it is at its best, it’s an absolute belter

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

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Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £620

/ Sockets Inputs: 3 v1.3 HDMI (with CEC); 2 Scarts (1 RGB); component video; composite video; stereo audio; CAM slot; RF; USB. Output: Stereo audio; digital audio; headphone jack / www.techradar.com/593091

JVC LT-32DR1BJ

HD pictures are often great; connectivity is good B Some motion issues; dingy onscreen menus E Compared to some of the glamour queens we’re looking at in this roundup, this glossy, but rather unadventurous black rectangle is a little on the bland side. Connectivity is solid enough, though. A USB is on hand, for instance, to play back MP3 music files and display JPEG digital stills. Plus there’s a healthy trio of HDMIs and a D-Sub PC port – something conspicuously absent from a few recent JVC LCDs. Heading into the 32DR1BJ’s unremittingly bland menus reveals that they really don’t contain many hot features by the high standards of this group test. There’s the increasingly de rigueur option to deactivate the TV’s Dynamic Contrast system, and a Super Digipure tool that automatically adds contrast to low-contrast images, while doing the reverse with over-contrasted ones. Other than that, there’s really only an automated colour management option and MPEG noise reduction. Fortunately for the 32DR1BJ, though, there are a couple of interesting things going on behind

the scenes. Particularly promising is JVC’s latest DynaPix HD multifaceted video processing, a system that’s generally impressed us in former incarnations. We also hope the 12-bit Real Bit Driver signal generator will have the sort of impact that tends to elude standard 10-bit systems.

Performance

As with many previous JVC TVs, the 32DR1BJ can produce some mesmerisingly good pictures, but not consistently enough to earn an unreserved recommendation. The set is at its best with bright, colour-rich HD material. Animated fare such as Ratatouille on Blu-ray looks spectacular, and thankfully the TV’s rich hues, highly impressive detailing and excellent suppression of video noise also hold up when watching HD video, the likes of Casino Royale on Blu-ray. A very respectable black level response is another attribute. In fact, only the much more expensive Philips screen opposite delivers less greyness over dark scenes than the 32DR1BJ.

We must also stress that JVC’s DynaPix system does wonders with sharpening up SD pictures. It’s just a pity that the striking sharpness breaks down a bit when footage start to move, thanks to the appearance of classic – if gentle – LCD motion blur. The picture can also judder rather uncomfortably during camera pans, especially when watching 24p Blu-ray feeds. And still on a minus note, we must report that the 32DR1BJ’s sound isn’t very special; while the set has the raw power to go louder than many of its rivals, this volume sounds harsh in action scenes Z

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

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Has its moments performancewise and should be considered if you’ve got a separate audio system Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 015

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comparison / 32in lcd TVs q

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £550

LG 32LH4000

Good value; stylish; well-connected B Black level issues; small viewing angle E one thing that strikes you about the 32LH4000 right away is how well-featured it is for its price. Among its connections, for instance, resides a USB 2.0 port capable of playing JPEG picture and MP3 audio files and not something we’d ordinarily expect to see on a £550 TV. The 32LH4000 also hosts a surprising number of user tweaks within its attractive onscreen menus. Among the most unusual of these are a switchable dynamic contrast system, a dynamic colour option for boosting colour saturations, various noise reduction settings, an Eye Care mode, a black level booster, an edge enhancement processor and even the option to adjust the image’s gamma levels. LG has also equipped the TV with a genuinely handy Picture Wizard, which uses a series of test signals to help you settle on the optimum settings. The 32LH4000’s design also belies its lowly price. The minimalist styling and high-gloss finish are both seriously appealing, and it feels surprisingly robust, too, 016 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

notwithstanding some minor wobble on its desktop pedestal.

Performance

At first glance the 32LH4000’s early appeal also seems to extend to its picture quality. A striking combination of rich, vibrant colours; impressive sharpness with HD footage and extreme brightness – even by LCD standards – immediately grab your attention. Also contributing to the overt dynamism of pictures is a strikingly pure white balance, while the sharpness we noted is blemished much less than expected by LCD’s motion blur problems. The longer you spend with the 32LH4000, though, the more you’ll start to notice a flaw or two. First and worst, the picture loses colour saturation and contrast quite badly if watched from any angle greater than around 35-40°. Next, dark scenes in movies catch the 32LH4000’s black levels out, as a greyish blue cloud filters into the picture, flattening the image out and obscuring precious details in the shadows.

Finally, that bluish overtone to dark scenes can cause one or two colour tones during standard-def dark scenes to look off key. In the end, despite looking occasionally excellent, pictures are only generally average, as is the 32LH4000’s audio. For the ‘invisible’ speakers tucked away behind the set’s bezel fail to produce enough power to handle even a relatively low-key action scene. The sound system does handle most normal TV fare with clarity and conviction. It’s just with films and premium dramas that the cracks start to show, as is the case with many flatscreens Z

A perfectly decent LCD TV with an aggressive price and plenty of features, but performance is average rather than outstanding

/ Sockets   Inputs: 3 v1.3 HDMI; PC VGA; component video; 2 Scarts (1 RGB); composite video; stereo audio; RF; PC audio; USB port. Output: headphone jack / www.techradar.com/593474

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

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Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £670

/ Sockets Inputs: 3 v1.3 HDMI; component video; 2 Scarts (2 RGB); S-video; composite video; PC; stereo audio; tuner; CAM slot; SD card slot. Output: headphone / www.techradar.com/593512

Panasonic TX-L32X10B Easy to use; sharp HD pictures B Black levels need improving; muted colours E First impressions don’t bode Performance particularly well, as the TV’s simple black frame design fails to deliver any inspiration whatsoever. Its connections are more promising, though. Highlights include a solid three HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port and an SD card slot through which you can display digital photos. It’s a pity this particular slot can’t also play MP3s like the ones on many rivals. It’s also a shame there isn’t more to excite us in the TV’s menus and specifications. For starters, unlike three rivals in this roundup, the L32X10B is only HD Ready, not full HD. Also, the set’s limited video processing includes no sign of Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation motion-boosting system, or even 100Hz. When it comes to user tweaks in the exceptionally simplistic onscreen menus, the only vaguely interesting features are a standard noise reduction system, an Eco mode that adjusts pictures in response to the ambient light levels in your viewing room and an automated Colour Manager.

So far the L32X10B isn’t keeping pace with our other contenders and its performance isn’t quite good enough to rescue the situation. This is because we have some serious concerns regarding the set’s black level response. Any dark scene is clearly affected by the dreaded grey clouding effect, at least to a greater degree than we’ve witnessed with our contenders from Philips and JVC. What’s more, the problem is exaggerated by inconsistencies in the backlight that leave some areas of dark pictures looking slightly brighter than others. Also of concern is the way the TV’s dynamic contrast system causes visible ‘jumps’ in the overall brightness of the picture as it tries to adjust the TV’s backlight in response to the image content. Colours look slightly less vibrant than on most of our rival screens, and, finally in the negative column, the set’s audio is another average effort, thanks to a lack of bass and treble extension, and an overloaded mid-range.

As annoying as its problems are, the L32X10B isn’t completely devoid of any picture charms. Despite not being a full HD TV it reproduces HD sources with excellent crispness and detailing. This sharpness isn’t badly affected by motion blur either, considering the lack of a 100Hz engine, while it delivers natural and subtle colour toning despite its slight lack of vibrancy. Finally, unlike most of the other flatscreens featured in this group, it is possible to comfortably watch the L32X10B from quite a wide angle without its picture quality deteriorating badly Z

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The L32X10B is an okay all-rounder, but it doesn’t do enough to really stand out or justify its price Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 017

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comparison / 32in lcd TVs q

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £350

Toshiba 32AV555 Amazing price; performs above its station B Evidence of motion blur; weak audio E The 32AV555 is the cheapest TV in this group test by a country mile. But, happily, it doesn’t look it, because its has enough gloss in its finish and sufficient panache in its curved edges to make it prettier than some far costlier screens. There is evidence of its budget nature in its connections, though, as we find just two HDMIs, no D-Sub PC port, and no USB or SD inputs. Still, plenty of people would probably happily sacrifice a third HDMI and multimedia capability to save a few hundred quid. Surprisingly, given the threadbare connectivity, the 32AV555 includes Toshiba’s respectable, if unspectacular, Active Vision LCD processing among its features. Even more surprisingly, it is joined by Faroudja’s venerable DCDi system, for reducing jaggedness around diagonal and curved lines. The budget 32AV555 also manages to retain a dynamic contrast system that promises to deliver a respectable contrast ratio of 18,000:1. Other bits and bobs found within the 32AV555’s thoroughly bland 018 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

onscreen menus include MPEG and normal noise reduction circuits, and an impressive colour management mode that lets you adjust the hue, saturation and brightness of the six main colour components.

Performance

The pictures are certainly not the horror show we anticipated. A welcome surprise is the depth of black level reproduction, which actually outguns our Panasonic and LG contenders. Colours also catch the eye, with good saturation levels, plenty of dynamism and, best of all, generally very credible tones. It is very rare to find a truly budget TV that is able to make skin look as totally convincing as this one does. HD pictures look crisp and textured too, at least when they’re static, despite the set’s ‘mere’ HD Ready resolution. Standard-def sources also look okay, but only if they’re of a very good (DVD) quality in the first place. By comparison, the often soft and noisy Freeview pictures do look rough. The 32AV555’s pictures aren’t

/ Sockets   Inputs: 2 HDMI; component video; composite video;   2 Scart (1 RGB); stereo audio; RF; CAM slot. Output: headphone / www.techradar.com/593207

particularly bright, which could be a potential issue if you’re looking to use it in a conservatory. Plus, dark scenes are short on shadow detail and the set struggles with motion reproduction and displays more blur during action scenes and sports events than we’ve seen on any of its rivals in this group. The 32AV555 predictably fails to set the world on fire sonically, either. In the plus column, it produces treble effects surprisingly well, with clarity and no harshness. However, a basic lack of power leaves action scenes sounding one-dimensional and muffledZ

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

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Although far from perfect, if you’re on a tight budget, the 32AV555 gives you far more quality for £350 than you’ve any right to expect p


conclusion Almost every TV in this group test has relied on a different key selling point, reaffirming that consumer choice is alive and well even at the relatively small end of the TV market. But for better or worse, we’ve also found a slightly wider spread of abilities than we might have anticipated. Surprisingly, the most disappointing screen in this group test is Panasonic’s L32X10. We’ve seen some excellent LCDs from the company in the past, and so we expected great things from this one, despite its relatively lowly position in the firm’s latest range. But ultimately it just doesn’t have enough going on in performance or feature terms to justify the fact that it’s so much more expensive than the others.

Also ran

We were also a little deflated to have to put LG’s 32LH4000 in fourth place. The South Korean company often manages to deliver terrific value with its LCD TVs, but while our review candidate is a perfectly respectable set, it’s neither outstanding nor cheap enough to give us any really compelling reason to recommend it. Picking between Toshiba’s 32AV555 and JVC’s 32DR1 for third place is a tough call. For while the latter takes the honours in

performance terms, the former’s price makes it extraordinarily good value for money. In the end, after much debate, we’ve decided that picture quality takes preference over price on our list of key attractions, and so we’ve put the JVC in second place, despite that set looking just a touch expensive. But we would definitely say that if you’re looking for an affordable 32in TV for second rather than main room duties, the Toshiba is a no-brainer.

This leaves the Philips 32PFL9613 as our clear winner. As long as you don’t mind putting in the effort needed to keep this TV continually performing at its best, it rewards you with a level of picture quality that’s just in a different league to that of its rivals today. In fact, it’s so good that despite being easily the most expensive screen in the group test, we’d say that it’s very good value indeed for anyone who doesn’t like to compromise on quality Z

Verdict

Philips

JVC

LG

LT-32DR1BJ

32LH4000

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value Overall

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0906 1010 016 www.philips.co.uk

0870 3305 000 www.jvc.co.uk

Contact:

32PFL9613

Panasonic

Toshiba

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0870 6075 544 www.lge.co.uk

08705 357 357 www.panasonic.co.uk

08704 424424 www.toshiba.co.uk

TX-L32X10B

32AV555

Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 019


comparison / sub-32in tvs

Stream-lining space savers Drop the bulk and choose a high quality flatscreen that’s discreet and affordable Chances are you’ve already upgraded your main TV from a CRT to a flatscreen, but what about the tellies in the bedroom, kitchen or study? If you’ve still got a bulky cathode ray tube set taking up space there, then a flatscreen could be a great way to free up some more room. The surrounds around TVs are getting increasingly trimmer and it’s now possible for manufacturers to fit larger screens into casings previously reserved for smaller panels. So your flatscreen in the bedroom could be upgraded to a larger screen size without taking up any more valuable space. The average size for second room TVs tends to be 26-28in, as these are big enough to produce an impressive picture, but not so huge that they’ll take over the room. Smaller LCD panels of about 19in don’t have to cost the Earth and can be found from as little as £200. With all this in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best sub-32in TVs around for your perusal.

020 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1


Feature highlights

JVC

Panasonic

LG

Toshiba

£649 660(w) x 640(h) x 90(d)mm

£500 664(w) x 434(h) x 119(d)mm

£200 520(w) x 350(h) x 75(d)mm

£230 472(w) x 322(h) x 68(d)mm

LT-26DE1BJ Price: Dimensions:

TX-L26X10B M227WD

19AV615DB

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comparison / sub-32in TVs q

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £649

JVC LT-26DE1BJ Freeview+; two tuners; adjustable stand B Expensive; uncomfortable remote control E This 26-incher is a fantastic space-saving option as it comes equipped with an integrated digital recorder with 160GB of memory. What’s more, as this model has two

digital tuners, it enables you to record two channels simultaneously. The Freeview+ badge means you’ll also benefit from series recording and the ability to pause live TV. The

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £500

Panasonic TX-L26X10B Excellent picture performance; sturdy build B A bit pricey; lacks features E This entry-level HD Ready panel is not exactly the most attractive one around, but it does boast the piano black frame that’s so popular on current TV ranges, along with the 022 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

manufacturer’s reassuringly sturdy build quality. And while this model lacks most of the features found on Panasonic’s more highly specified versions, it certainly offers some

glossy black chassis is matched by an elegant blue light under the JVC logo. Despite looking a little flimsy, the four-legged stand does its job and even swivels left and right to establish the best viewing position. The clear onscreen menus make recording extremely easy. However, the remote control is far too long and heavy, and the most regularly used buttons are located at the foot of the handset, making it quite uncomfortable to use. Images are clean with clearly defined edges, while colours are reproduced with vibrancy and accuracy. The JVC also makes light work of fast action motion, producing far less judder than most screens at this size. The speakers are cleverly concealed beneath the screen and deliver surprisingly good sound, considering their size. As well as offering a strong performance on standard TV broadcasts, they also do a pretty good job with bassheavy movie soundtracks. It’s certainly not the cheapest 26in panel money can buy, but excellent picture performance and the inclusion of Freeview+ are compelling arguments in its favour.

/  Features  25, 000:1 contrast ratio; 1,366 x 768 pixels; 160GB hard disk; 2 digital tuners; DynaPix Plus Picture Engine / Sockets   Inputs: 2 HDMI; 2 Scart (RGB); component video; S-video; CI. Outputs: Optical audio out; headphones. / Contact:   0870 330 5000  www.jvc.co.uk

very strong selling points. The dynamic contrast system automatically adjusts the panel’s backlight to suit the picture, for maximum energy efficiency. And on the subject of carbon footprint, the set also has an eco mode for reducing energy consumption. Pictures are very impressive indeed, with normally grubby Freeview broadcasts appearing detailed and clear. With HD playback, pictures are pin-sharp and almost, but not quite, entirely free from motion judder. Whites are pleasingly pure while black levels are far better than you’d expect from a screen of this size. They’re not without fault, though, as some of the darker areas suffer from a slightly greyed-out look. The sound from the speaker strip beneath the screen is more than adequate for day-to-day viewing and also deals surprisingly well with the more challenging soundtracks on DVDs. Indeed, the audio capability far outstrips that of most similarly sized rivals. While not the cheapest 26-incher, the extra cash buys you some of the best pictures around. A great choice as a second room TV.

/  Features  30,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio; 1,366 x 768 pixels; Vreal 4 processing; eco mode; game mode; 3D Colour Management; Video Noise Reduction;   3D Comb Filter / Sockets   Inputs: 3 HDMI;   2 Scart; component video; composite video; PC input; SD card slot; Outputs: stereo audio; headphones / Contact:   08705 357 357  www.panasonic.co.uk

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

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Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £200

LG M227WD

Doubles as a PC monitor; stylish design B Weak speakers E The first thing that strikes you about this 22in TV is the luxuriously designed chassis, boasting a glossy black frame with a contrasting red finish below the screen and on the

back of the panel, as found on the maker’s Scarlet TV range. Along with its good looks, the compact screen also doubles up as a PC monitor, upping its space-saving

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £230

Toshiba 19AV615DB

Compact design; surround sound audio mode B No off button; sluggish EPG E Despite its budget status, this pint-size TV sports a gloss black bezel and is also available in white. A svelte profile is combined with a compact stand for the smallest

footprint possible, while the speaker grille is neatly tucked away under the screen. Setup took a little longer than we expected, as the channel scan

credentials even further. Also available as a 19in model, the TV sports a lightweight chassis that makes it easy to manoeuvre into position, while the stand can be tilted up and down for the optimum viewing angle. There’s also a handy cable-tidy integrated into the back panel of the screen. The onscreen menus are clear and simple, making setup totally foolproof. They are supported by a remote control that’s both intuitive and comfortable to use. Pictures are impressive for a screen of this size; they are clean and bright with pin-sharp edges and a pleasing amount of detail and texture. The panel copes particularly well with fast action scenes, producing pictures with minimal image blur, making this a great option for gamers. LG’s diminutive screen also makes a decent stab at black reproduction, although there is a considerable loss of detail in particularly dark areas. The TV’s only real letdown is the audio, which sounds rather thin and tinny. We’d recommend hooking the screen up to separate speakers if you’re planning on using it for movies or gaming.

/  Features 1,000:1 contrast ratio; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels; 5ms response time / Sockets Inputs: 2 HDMI; 2 Scarts; component video; composite video; S-video; CI slot; DVI-D; D-Sub. Outputs: optical audio out; headphones / Contact: 0870 6075 544 www.lge.co.uk

screen did not appear automatically and we had to search through the onscreen menus to find it. On the plus side, the menus are colourful, clearly laid out and easy to navigate. However, they can be sluggish to activate and sometimes a few clicks of the remote’s buttons were needed to get a response. Freeview images look a touch soft, but that’s standard, given the usual quality of the broadcasts. DVDs offer massively clearer pictures and more vibrant colours. There is a ‘flesh tone’ setting to enhance natural hues, but this was best left turned off to avoid overly orange skin tones. Images are further improved with the introduction of an HD feed, but the occasionally visible backlight and patchy black repro are a slight letdown. The remote control is light and comfortable to use with clearly labelled buttons. On the standard setting, the audio sounds weak, but then they are small speakers. Switching to the ‘surround sound’ setting opens up the sonics and works really well on film soundtracks, although it’s not a patch on a genuine surround speaker system Z

/  Features 20,000:1 contrast ratio; 1,366 x 768 pixels; Active Vision processing / Sockets Inputs: 1 HDMI; 2 Scart (1 RGB); component video; composite video; CI slot. Outputs: headphones / Contact: 08704 424 424 www.toshiba.co.uk

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

Picture Sound Features Ease of use Value

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Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 023


On Test / blu-ray player

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £250

Panasonic DMP-BD60 New web-friendly features mark Blu-ray’s next step forward Sensational Blu-ray pictures; Viera B Cast; ease of use Comparatively slow to load discs E

The rivals / LG BD370 HHHHH Also offers YouTube access, looks nicer and is quicker to load. But pictures aren’t as good. Reviewed: This issue

/ Denon DVD-1800BD HHHHH More expensive, but fails to justify its price with only Profile 1.1 spec and no Dolby True HD or DTS HD Master Audio decoding. Reviewed:   Issue 344

No-one has done more to push Blu-ray technology forward than Panasonic, and the Japanese company’s latest range of players is imbued with the same pioneering spirit that made its previous models such a success. The snazzy new addition to the feature list is Viera Cast, which, like the BD370, allows you to watch YouTube videos on your telly as well as to browse photos uploaded to Google’s Picasa website. The same technology is found inside some of Panasonic’s latest plasma TVs and marks the next step in the convergence between AV products and the internet.

Features HHHHH

Like the LG BD370 (reviewed overleaf), the BD60’s web content is limited by the current lack of download services in the UK. In the US, BD60 owners can download movies from Amazon VOD and watch Bloomberg.

024 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

The deck’s video credentials are bolstered by Panasonic’s now familiar arsenal of picture processing technologies, including P4HD and PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus. The former takes care of all the core video duties, such as 16-level motion detection, 1080p upscaling, i/p conversion and diagonal processing, while the latter boosts the strength and fidelity of colours by processing each and every pixel. The brains of the operation is the UniPhier chip, which /// packs the entire video signal processing circuit into a single piece of silicon and therefore brings about a 16 per cent decrease in standby power compared with the DMP-BD35. The BD60’s audio talents are also solid. It supports Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks, sending both as a raw bitstream via HDMI or converting them to PCM for HDMI-equipped receivers without the relevant decoders. However, there are no multichannel outputs on the back. Of course, the BD60 supports BD-Live and BonusView features,

and there’s an SD card slot on the front that lets you add the necessary memory for updates and web downloads. 1080/24p output for Blu-ray and 1080p DVD upscaling are also on board.

Ease of use HHHHH

Panasonic’s Blu-ray players are among the easiest to use on the market. The warm and fuzzy main menu and onscreen playback banners are all pastel shades and chunky text, and the layout is more

The amount of detail packed into the picture gives every scene depth and life-like lucidity/// straightforward than a Roman road. Changing settings in the setup menu is child’s play, thanks mainly to the player’s helpful explanations of the more complex options (such as HDMI audio). The excellent remote layout gives menu and disc navigation an intuitive feel, and there’s a new button towards the top for direct access to Viera Cast.


/ Time in Lab: 7 days / Serial No: PP000001002 430mm 49mm

249mm

Power consumption: Standby: 1W In use: 19W

Press it and up pops a menu offering YouTube on the left and Picasa on the right. With the former, you can choose from pre-selected video lists or search for content using the virtual keyboard. Both this and the Picasa portal are slick and enjoyable to use. The deck boasts a Quick-start mode that uses up more power in standby, but shaves seconds off the boot-up time. However, disc loading times are still up at about the minute mark.

Picture HHHHH

Picture quality is quite simply sensational, particularly with The Dark Knight in the tray. The amount of detail packed into the picture gives every scene astonishing depth and life-like lucidity; you really could be watching the events unfold right in front of you. Colours are forceful and pure, making the Joker’s white, make-up smudged face look starker than ever, while skin tones and other gentle shades are rendered with admirable sensitivity. What’s more, blacks are devilishly deep and the superb contrast level lets you make out detail within them, which is particularly useful when watching a film as dark and shadowy as this. The P4HD’s diagonal processing does a great job of keeping lines free from jaggies both with movies and the HQV disc’s rotating bar tests. Viewed at 24Hz on a compatible TV, the deck tracks

moving objects without any motion artefacts, leaving you with a picture that looks cinematic in every way. The hi-def performance doesn’t show any major signs of improvement over the DMP-BD35 or BD55, but it’s hard to better those exceptional players. However, DVD playback is far superior this time around, with a crisp, vibrant picture that boasts loads of detail, but no upscaling artefacts. But even this decent upscaling can’t prevent YouTube clips looking soft and gauzy, and sadly the deck doesn’t display HD movies in their native resolution.

Sound HHHHH

Whether you’re using the raw bitstream or decoded PCM, the quality of Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio soundtracks is of the highest order. The Dark Knight’s bracing, brutal True HD track is breathtaking through a decent system, with expansive, detailed rear effects.

Value HHHHH

Thanks to its extensive feature list and sensational performance, the DMP-BD60 offers excellent value for money. Its P4HD-boosted pictures make it a marginally better performer than the LG BD370, although LG’s deck is faster at loading discs. We hope the BD60’s value will increase as and when more content providers are added to Viera Cast Z

Stable Mates The step-up DMP-BD80 adds 7.1-channel analogue audio outputs, new playback info window, electrical digital output and the High Clarity Sound feature, which turns off

Spec check Profile: BD Live 24fps output: Yes Multiregion from box: No What it plays: BD-ROM/-RE/RE DL/-R/-R DL/DVD/-RAM/RW/-R/-R DL/+RW/+R/+R DL, CD-R/-RW, DiVX, MP3, JPEG (HD), AVCHD Dimensions: 430(w) x 49(h) x 249(d)mm Weight: 2.6kg / Other Features: 720p, 1080i, 1080p upscaling; Dolby True HD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS HD

bitstream output and decoding; P4HD; PHL Reference Chroma Processor Plus; High Precision 4:4:4 processing; 148.5MHz/12bit video DAC; Digital Noise Reduction; picture presets (Normal, Soft, Fine, Cinema, User); picture adjustments / Sockets: Rear output: HDMI v1.3; ethernet LAN port; component video; composite video; stereo audio; optical digital audio / Contact: 08705 357 357 www.panasonic.co.uk

www.techradar.com/589506

More Blu-ray brilliance from Panasonic. The BD60 offers classleading features and performance for less money than you might expect

analogue video for a cleaner sound and all for an additional £100.

Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 025


On Test / blu-ray player

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £230

LG BD370

LG adds YouTube access to its burgeoning Blu-ray portfolio BD Live and YouTube; quick disc B loading; swanky looks No multichannel analogue outs; E poor YouTube picture quality

The rivals / Pioneer BDP-51FD HHHHH Offers better pictures and build quality, but is only Profile 1.1 and is a bit more expensive. Reviewed:   Issue 345

/ Panasonic DMP-BD60 HHHHH This similarlypriced player also offers YouTube and Google Picasa, plus stunning pictures. Reviewed:   This issue

The BD370 is the step-up version of the BD300 (reviewed in issue 345) and is the first of a new generation of Blu-ray players that expand the format’s web capabilities beyond movie-related downloads. It provides access to YouTube via its internet connection, bringing the site’s plethora of movie clips into your living room.

Features HHHHH

The YouTube feature will no doubt be seen as a mere gimmick by some, but surprisingly, the feature doesn’t add a premium to the price so its inclusion is a bonus. The US version of the BD370 also provides access to movie streaming sites such as CinemaNow and Netflix, but the lack of such services in the UK means we only get YouTube. A shame, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Sadly the BD370 doesn’t include built-in memory for web downloads like the Samsung BD-P4600, so

026 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

you’ll need to plug a flash drive into the USB port on the front panel. This can also be used to play back DiVX, MPEG4, MP3, WMA and JPEG files. Around the back are all the usual connection suspects, ranging from the essential (HDMI, ethernet) to the useless (composite). The deck can also output Blu-ray discs in 50Hz or 24Hz (great if your telly supports both) and will upscale your DVDs to glorious 1080p – allowing you to hang on to that treasured copy of Battlefield Earth until it gets its eagerly /// awaited hi-def release. Dolby True HD and DTS HD Master Audio can be transferred to a receiver with v1.3 HDMI inputs and decoded externally. But if your amp can’t decode either then the digital signal can be fed as PCM. If your amp lacks HDMI then the lack of multichannel analogue outputs means you’re limited to Dolby Digital and DTS from the optical/coaxial digital outputs.

site’s easily recognisable icon found on the player’s main menu. A list of five videos is displayed at a time and they’re played in a small box on the right hand side, but you can expand them to full screen. You can’t control the clips using the remote’s normal playback buttons, instead you have to highlight the onscreen icons, but you can skip forward/back using the chapter skip keys. The feature’s seamless integration into the snazzy user interface, along with its fast

By far the fastest disc loader we’ve seen and lays the ghosts of old slower decks to rest///

Ease of use HHHHH

To access YouTube, connect the player to the internet using its ethernet connection and select the

buffering times and responsive menus, makes it a lot of fun to use. In fact the entire menu system is a joy to use. The Home button on the remote brings up a row of groovy icons providing access to different types of media available. It’s decked out in eye-catching colours (which you can change to suit your taste), and it operates with a slickness missing from several


/ Time in Lab: 7 days / Serial No: N/a

54mm

430mm

rivals. The remote isn’t bad either, but the buttons could do with being a bit bigger. The slickness continues when you load up a Blu-ray disc, as the LG gets even tricky platters like Spider-Man 3 up and running in around 30secs. It’s by far the fastest disc loader we’ve encountered and finally lays the ghosts of older, slower Blu-ray decks to rest.

BDP-51FD or Panasonic DMPBD55, but for the money the LG is a terrific picture performer. Less impressive is the quality of YouTube videos blown up to full screen, which are riddled with artefacts that give them a gauzy appearance. High-definition clips can’t be watched in their native resolution either, but none of this is a major surprise.

Picture HHHHH

Sound HHHHH

After a run-through of Iron Man, the LG proves itself to be a superb picture performer. The movie’s opening desert vista is beautifully rendered, with the deck keeping all of the dusty detail looking crisp and focused, while the sparse shrubs are similarly well-defined. And as the movie progresses it never loses grip on detail, making short work of fine facial features, busy backgrounds and tricky textures. The deck’s strong colour saturation ensures that bold colours look bright and radiant, backed up by a wide contrast range that delivers dazzling whites, deep blacks and clear shadow detail. Iron Man’s red bodywork looks particularly rich and absorbing, but it also knows how to handle subtler skin tones, with Gwyneth Paltrow’s face looking believably rosy as opposed to lobster-red. Videophiles looking for the very best pictures will probably prefer the extra depth, clarity and noise suppression offered by the Pioneer

The LG delivers a top-notch performance with Iron Man through our test system, nailing the busy action scenes with pin-sharp effects, full-bodied explosions and crystalclear dialogue. PCM-converted audio also sparkles, and CD playback from the analogue outputs is surprisingly good, although not up to the standards of the latest Pioneers and Denons.

Value HHHHH

We doubt many people would begrudge paying £230 for such a generously featured and versatile player, even without that YouTube support. The BD370 provides a generous range of features, loads discs quickly and boasts a superb operating system, leaving the video site access as merely the icing on the cake. You can get better picture quality if you’re willing to spend more and the missing analogue outputs might be an issue for some, but on the whole this is a fabulous Blu-ray proposition Z

Stable Mates The BD370 is joined in LG’s range by the Profile 2.0 BD300, which lacks YouTube functionality, but in every other way offers similar

Spec check Profile: Profile 2.0 24fps output: Yes Multiregion from box: No What it plays: BD-ROM/-RE/-R, DVD, DVD-RW/-R, CD/-R/-RW, DiVX, MP3, WMA, AVCHD, JPEG, PNG Dimensions: 430(w) x 54(h) x 245(d)mm Weight: 2.7kg / Other Features: 148MHz/12-bit video DAC; 192kHz/24-bit audio DAC; Deep Colour & x.v.YCC support; BonusView PIP; Last Scene

Memory; Cinema Zoom; DVD upscaling to 1080p; SIMPLINK HDMI CEC; quick booting and disc loading / Sockets: Output: HDMI v1.3; component video; composite video; analogue stereo audio; optical and coaxial digital audio; ethernet LAN port; USB port (front) / Contact 0844 847 5454 www.lge.co.uk

www.techradar.com/589481

A great-value deck that seamlessly brings YouTube into the living room – as well as making the most of Blu-ray discs

performance and features for about the same price.

Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 027


On Test / freesat hd receiver

Verdict HHHHH  Approx price £190

Technisat HDFS

Media streaming sets this Freesat HD box apart from the pack Easy to use; multimedia playback/ B streaming; nice build quality SD pictures a little soft; expensive; E more file formats needed

The rivals / Humax Foxsat-HD HHHHH Freesat HD/SD reception plus excellent build. Reviewed: Issue 336

Technisat may be an unknown quantity to some UK readers, but the German manufacturer has long been producing receivers for the European satellite market. It’s no surprise, then, to find its first receiver for Freesat (both standard and high-definition channels) also makes concessions for those who like to watch free TV channels from further afield than the satellites Sky and Freesat use. You may need to upgrade your dish installation to receive these (consult a local satellite installer for advice).

Features HHHHH / Metronic HD 100 HHHHH

Decent AV performance, slick software and it’s cheaper, too. Reviewed: Issue 343

The HDFS has smart looks to rival Humax’s Freesat boxes. It’s mostly black, but with fetching silver highlights topped off by an elegant control pad. A large alphanumeric display indicates, among other things, the name of the channel you’re tuned to, which is useful if you want to browse radio stations

028 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

and leave your TV turned off. Flip down the front and you’ll find evidence of the receiver’s multimedia capabilities in the shape of a USB port and MD/MMC/SD and Compact Flash card readers. A second USB port sits on the rear. The HDFS has the benefit of media streaming from a PC via the ethernet port or wi-fi. The latter is only possible by buying a £30 Technisat W-LAN USB adaptor and fitting it directly into the rear or front USB ports. The HDFS is currently capable of playing/streaming JPEG image, MP3 audio and MPEG2 /// video files, with Technisat promising to add MPEG4 and DiVX playback in a future update. Also on a well-stocked rear panel are twin Scarts (with RGB and S-video out on the TV Scart), an HDMI output, composite video out, plus both digital electrical and optical digital audio outputs and stereo phonos for audio. As well as streaming, the ethernet port ensures compatibility with Freesat’s promised broadband on-demand services, such as BBC

iPlayer (expected this year). The remote control is a cut above those found with many digital TV boxes, being solidly built with sensibly arranged buttons and the ability to control other Technisat receivers and TVs. A blue Nav button proves useful, thanks to its ability to bring up shortcut menus to the most oft-used features.

Ease of use HHHHH

The menus are sensibly arranged and supported by clearly written Help pages for the non-technically minded users.

Audio quality for TV and radio stations and high quality MP3 files is exceptional/// The receiver has two operating modes: Freesat and Technisat. In Freesat mode, the eight-day EPG looks dull and grey, but has lots of options. You can view a full screen grid for all channels or information for channels by genre or type (eg radio) or favourites only,


/ Time in Lab: 2 weeks / Serial No: 13001636432 310mm

200mm

scanning in two-hour chunks or day by day using the remote number keys. You can also see a list of Now and Next information for channels, view a list of shows for one channel, generate lists for all channels by genre, or search for programmes using an onscreen keyboard. You can set three programme timers including: wake up; VCR and a channel change timer. We also like the programme information bar, which enables you to view synopses for what’s on the current channels and others up to 12 hours ahead without needing to switch over. Technisat mode lets you search for channels not found on the Freesat EPG. Here you’ll find extensive support for advanced, motorised dish users and copious ways of sorting listings for the hundreds of extra channels you’ll find and an EPG. Multimedia playback features enable creation of playlists and slideshows, while video can be fast forwarded and rewound at up to 64x normal speed. Streaming from a networked PC is handled via the CIFS/Windows File Sharing method for which you will need to run Windows Vista/XP.

Performance HHHHH With no upscaling processing to speak of, picture quality is very

much broadcaster dependent. Unless you’re slumming it with one of satellite TV’s ubiquitous shopping channels, SD channels look as good (if a little softer) as they do on a good quality Freeview adaptor whether using the Scart output or (slightly better) HDMI option. Watching BBC HD or a Barcelona vs Chelsea football match on ITV HD, images look as crisp and vibrant as expected on our 42in Panasonic plasma both in 720p and 1080i. Audio quality for TV and radio stations and high quality MP3 files is exceptional, particularly using the digital outputs. Multimedia performance is also very acceptable. We were able to stream SD video from our Windows Vista laptop to the box wirelessly (with the box in the same room) without a glitch.

Value HHHHH

The HDFS ticks the boxes on most people’s Freesat wish list, with the exception of a PVR function (there should be a dual tuner HD PVR version ready for Christmas). The price is a bit steep if you also want the benefit of wireless streaming via the adaptor, but its included three-year warranty, decent performance and nonFreesat support make this one of the best Freesat HD receivers currently available Z

Spec check HD support: Yes Video formats: 576i, 576p, 720p, 1080i Dimensions: 310(w) x 200(h) x 52(d)mm / Other features: Receives HDTV signals (MPEG4, AVC/H.264 and MPEG2) 0.25W power consumption in standby; simultaneous output over HDMI and Scart; DVB-S2 and DVB-S compatible, ethernet support, EPG, Dolby Digital audio output (SP/DIF), automatic software upgrade via satellite, audio description; subtitles. HD channels: BBC HD, ITV (via

red button). SD channels / Sockets: HDMI; 2 Scarts (1 RGB); component video; composite video; ethernet; stereo audio outputs; digital optical audio; 2 USB (multimedia playback, WLAN –USB attachment); LNB input; Memory Stick/SD/MMC/ CompactFlash card reader / Contact: www.technisat.co.uk

www.techradar.com/591828

Multimedia streaming and decent overall performance make for an enticing Freesat HD receiver

Stable Mates Germany’s Technisat is new to the UK but has a history of making Euro-centric satellite boxes and IDTVs. A Freesat PVR and IDTVs

with Freesat/ Freeview tuners are expected early next year.

Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 029


Feature / busting freeview myths

Freeview

Mythbusters George Cole explores  and explodes the distorted stories surrounding the switchover from analogue to digital broadcasting

030 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1

The digital switchover is the biggest shake-up in television for years. By 2012, the UK’s analogue service will be switched off and all of us will be watching digital broadcasts. Moving from the old system to the new involves a few changes to our home electronics equipment and this is where it can start getting ugly. A number of myths have sprung up around going digital, with the result that you could easily be fooled into spending more money than is necessary. Although there’s plenty of good advice available online, for many of us, a high street retailer will be the first port of call. Sadly, not all of them are that well informed, and there will always be an unscrupulous minority who see the change-over as a great opportunity to make some extra dosh out of confused customers. So, to help you avoid the various pitfalls, here’s our guide to the main myths surrounding the digital switchover – and what you can do about them.


Myth 1 You need a new television to receive digital TV broadcasts

Myth 2 You need a new TV aerial for digital reception

It’s easy to think that, because your existing television receives analogue signals, it won’t be able to make sense of digital signals, but this isn’t the case. In fact, the situation with digital TV is similar to when digital compact discs replaced LP records. In order to play CDs, you simply plug a player into an audio system and that’s basically how it works with digital TV. You can get a digital set-top box for less than £20, connect it to your screen, and soon be watching digital TV. The best way to connect a set-top box to a TV is via a Scart cable, but if your television is old and doesn’t have this socket, you can use a set-top box with an aerial (RF) connection. Bear this in mind when you go to the shops, because Dorset Trading Standards found one electrical retailer telling a mystery shopper they’d need to buy a £1,000 set in order to get digital.

Your rooftop aerial should be quite capable of receiving both analogue and digital signals, so if yours is in good working order you shouldn’t need a new one. The first thing you need to do, however, is to check whether digital TV can be received in your area (around 75 per cent of homes currently can get digital TV). You can do this by using the postcode checker on the Freeview or Digital UK websites (see Useful Contacts box). Next, you can check whether your aerial is fit for digital by going to teletext page 284 on BBC, ITV and Channel 4 (484 for SC4) and checking the test pattern, details of which are provided onscreen. Note that poor digital reception can also be due to bad cable connections or TV transmitter work, so check your cabling and also go to the BBC’s transmitter works update webpage (see left). In some cases, where your home is on the fringes of digital reception, you might need a wideband aerial to improve signal reception. If digital is coming to your area soon, (check the Digital UK website); you might want to wait before investing in a new TV aerial. This is because the digital signal will be boosted after the switchover and this should greatly improve reception. However, if you need to use an aerial installer, go for one that’s connected with the Confederation of Aerial Industries Plus (CAI Plus), Registered Digital Installers Licensing Body (RDI-LB) or Independent Digital Standards Commission (IDSC) schemes .

Useful contacts

If you can get internet access (either at home or at a public library), you’ll find lots of useful advice on the digital switchover at these sites. www.bbc.co.uk/reception/transmitters/today.shtml www.cai.org.uk www.digitalUK.co.uk/08456 505050 www.freeview.co.uk/08701 111 270 www.freesat.co.uk www.freesatfromsky.co.uk www.idsc.uk.com www.rdi-lb.tv www.ricability-digitaltv.org.uk

p Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 031


Feature / busting freeview myths q

Myth 3 Your VCR will not be able to record digital TV signals All VCRs have an analogue tuner, so they can’t receive digital broadcasts directly. However, depending on your model, you should be able to connect the video recorder to a TV with a built-in digital tuner (an IDTV) or a set-top box and record digital programmes. If you want to record from an IDTV, you’ll need to check it has the right output sockets. Note that either setup means that you can only record the digital TV programme you’re watching. And if you record from an IDTV, the TV set has to remain switched on during recording. You could also purchase a separate set-top box and connect that to your VCR, allowing you to watch and record different digital TV programmes at the same time. A more flexible method is to use a dedicated digital recorder – some digital recorders even include a VHS deck for playing your old tapes. By the way, unless your DVD recorder has a digital tuner, it too will have the same recording limitations as a VCR.

Myth 4 Every TV in your home will need its own set-top box in order to receive digital TV You can connect more than one TV to a set-top box, although all the sets will receive the same digital channel. You can also eliminate wires and use a wireless video sender to do the same job. The advantage of using multiple set-top boxes is that every TV can receive its own channel, but this setup is not compulsory.

Myth 5 You can only receive digital TV with a rooftop aerial Although a rooftop aerial gives you the best digital reception (and we’d highly recommend this method whenever possible), there may be TVs around the home that use an indoor aerial (such as a bedroom or kitchen portable). If you’re living in an area with good digital reception, it might be possible to use a loft or an indoor aerial. Ricability (see box on previous page) has tested a number of indoor aerials and lists those that work best.

Myth 6 You need a new TV licence for digital TV No you don’t; your existing TV licence is fine.

Myth 7 You don’t need a licence to watch Freeview on your PC Oh, yes you do.

032/ What Video & Hi-Def TV / Digital Issue 1


Myth 8 If you can’t receive digital TV via an aerial, you’ll have to subscribe to a satellite or cable TV service Even when the analogue signal is switched off, there will be a small proportion of homes that cannot receive Freeview or all Freeview’s channels because of reception issues. If you’re among the unlucky ones, fear not, you don’t have to subscribe to cable or satellite to receive digital TV. The Freesat service offers around 140 digital TV and radio channels (about double the number on Freeview), and once you’ve purchased the equipment (a Freesat set-top box or Freesat TV plus dish) there are no additional costs. Note that not all Freeview channels are on Freesat. Sky’s Freesat offers 240 free digital TV and radio channels, plus the option to upgrade to subscription packages.

Cheap digital set-top boxes

You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg upgrading your TV or VCR to digital, as there are many low-cost digital set-top boxes on the market. Make sure you check whether your intended purchase has the correct video connections for your home equipment and the features you need. For example, if your TV doesn’t have a Scart socket, you’ll want a set-top box with a built-in modulator (mini transmitter), so it can be connected to an aerial socket. Shop around for the best price and note that some of these models may only be available in selected retail outlets. Alba STB8 £17.99 Argos Value LPDV205B £14.59 Bush DFTA16 £19.95 Goodmans GDB9 £25.00 Grundig GUDSTB1000 £19.65 Hitachi HDB72 £29.99 Linsar LDT1B £24.00 Sagem ITD58NG £21.24 Technika AESTB7 £19.84 Wharfedale DV832B £14.99

Myth 9 If you buy a digital TV you can also watch HDTV programmes Be wary of falling for this one. Not all digital TV sets can display high-definition TV (HDTV) images, although all HDTV sets are digital. If you want to watch HDTV programmes, you’ll need a) a TV with a screen sharp enough to display hi-def pictures, look out for the HD Ready logo and b) an HDTV set-top box. Freeview will eventually offer HDTV services, but you’ll need a new set-top box to receive them.

Myth 10 You’re on your own when it comes to getting help for the digital switchover In addition to the free advice offered from organisations such as Freeview and Digital UK, a national help scheme has been set up to offer free or subsidised digital TV equipment and installation for certain groups of people (such as the over-75s). Log onto the Digital UK website or call them to find out if you are eligible for the help scheme.

Digital Issue 1 / What Video & Hi-Def TV / 033


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