Sky is continually extending its entertainment reach, and has recently launched a line-up of home cinema products. Components are sold through the satellite TV broadcaster's SkyBuy internet shop, offering mostly Sky-branded TV screens (with a range of different types and sizes to choose from) partnered with the newly improved Sky one-box home cinema system.
The package under the WHC microscope here combines a 27in LCD TV with a DVD player and surround sound speaker package. Both components are equipped with the technology to make the most of DVD and Sky digital satellite broadcasts (when linked to a Sky set-top box).
Sky's designers have been busy, and both components have the look and feel of sophisticated pieces of kit. The SLCD2702 LCD screen provides the biggest 'wow' factor. Perched atop of its elegant stand, its black frame surround and silver speakers make it impossible to dislike.
With the stand removed the screen has a depth of just 10cm, making it suitable for wall-mounting via a bracket (£80), and it's hard to believe that it incorporates stereo sound in the thin strips either side of the screen. There's also a built-in tuner for terrestrial TV broadcasts, and channels are tuned and stored in their correct presets.
Connections at the back of the SLCD2702 are impressive - it is fitted with two Scarts and top-notch component video inputs as well as lesser-quality S-video and composite video. There's even a DVI input for all-digital connection to suitably-equipped components, and a D-Sub PC connection.
The SDVD0002 system that completes the package is an attractive mix of silver, chrome effect buttons and blue back-lit controls, while the five silver-grilled satellite speakers and subwoofer look the business. Despite the main unit's compact dimensions it contains all surround sound amplification, while disc-spinning capabilities include picture CDs, for displaying digital camera images from CD-R/RW discs.
There's no provision for SACD or DVD-Audio playback however. Still, there are Dolby Digital and DTS decoders to take care of 5.1 DVD soundtracks and some Sky movie broadcasts, along with Dolby Pro-Logic II to provide convincing surround sound from stereo CDs and TV programmes.
Happily the system is progressive scan-compatible, which means it can deliver the very best DVD images to the high-definition-ready LCD screen via component video sockets. Other connections include an RGB Scart, as well as S-video and composite video sockets. And a digital optical input means audio signals from a Sky set-top box can be converted to surround sound.
When we came to check out the SLCD2702's pictures, we found that it has three factory-set modes - 'vivid', 'standard' and 'mild'. But these settings didn't get the best from the screen, and we found that overly rich colours and brightness flaring on whites made images tiring to watch over longer viewing periods. However, more natural images can be achieved by manually adjusting the picture settings via the 'custom' option. This yielded smoother and ultimately more detailed pictures that were much more watchable...
With both screen and surround sound system optimised to deliver their best performance, we tested the package using our Troy DVD. Images were a pleasure to look at, with vibrant colours and striking brightness levels. The screen's viewing angle is also very wide, meaning you shouldn't have any problems seeing clearly, regardless of where you're sitting.
The SLCD2702 is not without its picture flaws however and, while its black levels are strong, darker Troy scenes lacked a little detail in the shadows. The screen isn't perfect with fast motion either, and as the camera panned over Troy's Aegean Sea we noticed some jerkiness and loss of detail.
The SLCD2702's built-in speakers provide decent enough stereo sound with TV broadcasts, and speech is clear - if a bit thin. But naturally, using the partnering SDVD0002 provides more impressive results. With Troy the system created an immersive soundstage, with arrows flying overhead and swords wielded around the room.
Dialogue was convincing through the centre speaker, and firmly anchored to the screen. The subwoofer also did a good job of underpinning Troy's rousing soundtrack, while switching on the system's 'EX Bass' mode added a little extra bass weight to voices and oomph to surround sound effects.
The SDVD0002's hi-fi capabilities are surprisingly good. It put in a respectable performance with Josh Stone's Mind Body & Soul CD, providing good bass levels and a musical rhythm - even at lower volumes.
LCD screen technology still has a way to go to rival CRT for picture quality, but Sky's SLCD2702 puts in a very respectable performance, and ranks as one of the most affordable models for its size - and that's before you add the surround sound system! Inclusion of the SDVD0002 makes this a genuine bargain, whether or not you decide to hook it up to a Sky box.