Many of the traditional 'quality' brands are now trying to get a bit of the über-budget action, with Toshiba being the latest to give it a go with the £430 28Z44.
Surprisingly,the 28Z44's low price hasn't prevented Toshiba from gracing it with a variant of its hugely popular Picture Frame design, whereby the exceptionally skinny screen frame allows a 28in TV to occupy the same sort of space usually taken up by a 24in TV.The fact that this svelte bodywork also wears an eye-catching near-white colour doesn't do any harm either.
Connectivity is almost scarily basic,though.Toshiba has managed to run to a pair of Scarts,but only one of these can take RGB,and there's no sign of other mainstream favourites like stereo audio outputs or a four-pin S-video jack.
At least the features list isn't quite so basic. Slightly unusual (for this money) touches include a contrast booster,a slightly bizarre facility for adjusting the picture's width, a multi-level bass booster and noise reduction.
The really great news about the 28Z44,though,is the fact that its pictures are surprisingly enjoyable. Not in the sense that they excel in any particular department,but in that they manage to avoid practically all of the nasty stuff that usually characterises the ultra budget end of the market.
Take contrast, for instance.Where many really cheap - and even some mid-range - TVs fail to deliver anything like a deep black level,the 28Z44 goes really quite dark before the familiar grey mist sets in.
The picture is also surprisingly free of noise.Fine details are affected by impressively little moiring,edges are generally free of tizzing,ghosting or haloing,and of grain or dot crawl there's nary a trace.
Next,colours stay neatly contained within their proper boundaries,which helps the picture in general look a touch more sharp than that of many low-rent rivals.
There's really only one area where the 28Z44 betrays its cheap and cheerful position,and that's with its colour saturations. Compared with the similarly priced, similarly specified Philips 28PW6518 we looked at recently,the 28Z44's colours look a little muted and flat, so that the picture tends not to engross your eye so fully.
The 28Z44's sound is better than anticipated. The Picture Frame design requires the TV's speakers be tucked under the screen,but this doesn't prevent them sounding reasonably potent and the soundstage appearing decently wide. There's even a pretty solid amount of bass to underpin proceedings.Yes,the mid-range can get overloaded and treble subtleties are conspicuous by their absence - but again,we have no complaints for the money.
As a total package, the 28Z44 is a very attractive proposition.To be fair, it's not the last word in performance quality - the Philips 28PW6518 delivers better pictures for the same sort of money,for instance.But don't forget the 28Z44's space-saving Picture Frame design or the fact that we've found it online for actually quite a bit less than its Philips rival.