Screen stars: Ten HDTVs on test
Time for a new gogglebox?
Toshiba Regza 26C3030DB
Toshiba's excellent Regza brand of LCD HDTVs - ugly name - has received a welcome shot in the arm recently with a full revamp, from which we have chosen the soon-to-be-released C Series 26in baby of the bunch - the perfect TV for your kitchen, bedroom or study.
A great looking, but unpretentious design has won plenty of Regza fans, and while we prefer a little more statement in top-end behemoth models, its plain black livery is perfectly suited to the smaller end. Wall or stand mounted, it's a subtle and versatile option sure to suit any room in the house at a great price that's not yet confirmed but should be around the £500 mark.
Two HDMI ports are in attendance for hooking up the necessary Sky HD and next-gen disc player, and sit alongside the usual connections options, including component-video, two Scarts (one RGB) and PC input. There's also a built-in Freeview digital TV tuner, which is surprisingly crisp and clear.
Like most TV manufacturers, Toshiba boasts a veritable smorgasbord of image processing technologies, in this case the pick is called Active Vision LCD and it certainly does its job to good effect. The 20W SRS WoW sound system is also very meaty for the TV's size, with a clear and concise soundstage, meaning a separate speaker set-up is in no way necessary for decent second-room movie viewing.
The inclusion of all this technology is very welcome on a set of this size, and while there are some minor glitches in picture and sound performance in comparison to top end models, they are barely noticeable and without consequence on the 26in display.
Hitachi is best known as a dependable middle-range manufacturer within the TV market, and the 37LD9700 sits at the top of its line-up, but still comes in with a wallet-friendly price tag of under a thousand clams.
Style-wise the Hitachi is a decent-looking set, though suffers in comparison to some of the more aesthetically minded like the Philips or the Loewe. It's well-built though, and not too big thanks to that bottom-mounted speaker. Plus it has a motorised remote control stand, which always impresses our mums.
There's a good range of well-ordered connections, with two HDMIs, three Scarts (two RGB), component-video output, and VGA for hooking up your PC. A USB and SD card slot on the side let you view photos and the like.
Hitachi claims the 37LD9700 has one of the widest viewing angles for any LCD TV - 176° visibility apparently - and it showed, with a picture that remained vibrant and well defined from all angles.
Once you're back in front though, there are endless picture tuning options to have a play with adjusting everything from backlight strength to colour temperature. It all combines to create an excellent visual experience, if you feel like a little tweaking.
The Hitachi is an LCD TV, which immediately renders it far more energy-efficient than its plasma-orientated nemeses. This means it's friendlier to the environment as well as cheaper on electricity. The 37LD9700 is one of the most efficient LCDs currently available too, using 150W when switched on and only 1W in standby - significantly less than many of its rivals.
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So Sony has finally unleashed its demon lovechild PS3 and is slowly taking over the world with its ludicrous technology and mind-blowing processing power. But that's not enough - Sony wants you to go the whole hog and mate its console with the best possible viewing panel. Enter the KDL-46X2000U, 46 inches of prime Sony 1080p-supporting TV mania.
It's a typically good-looking set, all very serious and corporate cool with the black screen fading away to a glass surround. In the flesh, it's surprisingly imposing. Alongside the three Scarts and two sets of component-video inputs, the two HDMI ports mean you can keep your Sky HD box and PS3 hooked up for constant use – no need for a third as the PS3 is a Blu-ray Disc player too. And because the Sony supports full, unmolested 1920 x 1080 signals, it aims to get the very best out of all three.
But none more than the PS3, as Sony believes every game will come prepped to 1080p so you'll need it to take full advantage. A quick(ish) game of Gears of War at the recent Sony European showcase proved as much.
It's not just about the PS3 though, honest. The KDL-46X2000U features Bravia Engine EX, crazy techwizardry that boosts standard-definition signals by four times to create "Digital Reality". Nice. No matter what the source, though, this TV kicks out simply brilliant HD images as lifelike and balanced as almost any other out there.
Things are just as capable sonically, thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Pro-Logic II and BBE Digital amplification. Which essentially makes the Sony X Series your PS3's new best friend.