It's fair to say that 32in TVs selling for under £600 are pretty rare. Especially when they've got 100Hz processing. And even more so when they boast Thomson's exclusive picture processing. Yet it's precisely such a beast that we have on our test bench today, in the comely form of the 32WM403. But what's had to give to make the price possible?
The Thomson doesn't look cheap. Its creamish colouring distinguishes from the budget TV hordes, while some acute angling of the rear-end almost kids you into thinking this is a flat-panel rather than traditional CRT TV.
The screen's connections are more run of the mill - just a couple of Scarts and a set of front AV jacks. But technophobes will appreciate how easy the Thomson is to use thanks to its no-nonsense onscreen menus and general dearth of user-adjustable features. The remote control's tiny buttons aren't very finger-friendly though.
The 'extra' picture processing feature we mentioned earlier is a little something called High Focus. This is an umbrella term for a number of different tricks, including automatic, continual optimisation of the set's digital processing according to the incoming picture's qualities. It incorporates a signal amplifier too. This is all well and good, but there's not much here that other 100Hz TVs don't do - albeit not usually for under £600...
With Gangs of New York as our test disc, we found ourselves impressed by the 32WM403's contrast. Dark scenes, like where Leonardo DiCaprio fights off two muggers in his basement, possessed oodles of field depth, and emerged without first having to pass through a filter of grey.
The Thomson's colours are also first-rate for the money. The dazzlingly vibrant Gangs scene where an increasingly unhinged Daniel Day-Lewis performs his knife-throwing act on a red-draped stage looked so sumptuously rich on the Thomson that our retinas practically tingled with joy.
Also performing way above its £600 station is the screen's 100Hz processing. Even actionpacked scenes, like the huge brawl that opens GONY, revealed not a trace of processing-induced lag, smearing or blurring.
Ultimately just one thing lets the 32WM403's pictures down - a lack of fine detail. For instance, our test movie's opening shots of snow-covered slum buildings looked rather soft and indistinct, when they should be textured and sharp.
Audio-wise the Thomson can go pretty loud without the cabinet rattling or speakers distorting, and the soundstage is distributed far and wide. But vocals can be a bit feeble, and there's not quite enough sparkle at the treble end to bring raucous GONY scenes, like the naval bombardment of New York, to life.
Thomson's 32WM403 is a very attractive proposition. We have our doubts about the impact of High Focus processing, but the benefits of 100Hz on such an affordable TV are unquestionable. And although we'd have needed more fine detail before we could have given it an unreserved recommendation, the Thomson is a great option for anyone on a strict £600 budget who never dreamt this would afford them a 32in, 100Hz TV...