With Viewsonic having wowed us recently with its über-cheap 27in LCD, it's with interest that we unwrap this 30in LCD from Akai, a Japanese company that is making a comeback in the UK AV world. The £800 price tag makes the LM-H30CJSA the most affordable 30in LCD yet.
Let's make it clear from the start, however, that this is more a CRT killer than an LCD starlet - something that's obvious from its no-expense-spent grey fascia, which, while more attractive than many CRTs, isn't exactly the last word in flatscreen style. Still, it looks solid enough, and the nicely contained sidemounted speakers certainly add something.
Unsurprisingly, the roster of connections doesn't include digital video inputs, and therefore there's no compatibility with Sky's upcoming high-def broadcasts. Not too much cost-cutting has occurred, though, because there are still progressive scan-capable component video inputs, and an RGB Scart - although more than one would have been nice.
Happily, there's also a PC input - essential on this type of low-end LCD, for it enables the screen to double-up as a PC monitor. With a WXGA screen resolution of 1,280 x 768, that's got to be tempting, especially as a picture-in-picture mode allows you to watch a video stream while you (pretend to) hammer away on a keyboard.
As far as features go, there really isn't anything worth lingering on. Aside from the fact that the analogue TV tuner is Pan- European - for those who like to travel heavy! - there's just the bog-standard Teletext, child lock, pan and zoom functions.
This brings us to the remote control, which frankly, we wish didn't exist. Complex and fiddly, it lets the LM-H30CJSA down, as the on-screen menus are refreshingly basic and a breeze to stroll around.
Also breezy, and more than a little bright, are the LM-H30CJSA's pictures. The screen managed to deliver coherent and colourful representations of our two test DVDs, Seinfeld (series 4) and I, Robot.
First up is Seinfeld, whose studio-based, well-lit situations were ably reproduced by the Akai with colours, including peak whites, looking vibrant and surprisingly well balanced considering the TV's low price.
The murkier scenes of I, Robot, meanwhile, such as when Detective Spooner is trying to weed out the rogue robot from the ranks and a high-speed chase ensues, demonstrated both this set's avoidance of serious blurring over motion and its fair contrast levels. Neither aspect is worldbeating, but they're good at the price. Black levels, however, leave a little to be desired.
Pictures from a Freeview box via the Scart are also fairly pleasing, but there's a big drop in quality in pictures from its TV tuner. If you ask us, though, it's hardly worth having an analogue tuner these day - it's probably not going to be used much, and has never looked right on an LCD.
What Akai has done here is to strip LCD down to basics and sell it for peanuts - an approach that extends to the average-only speakers. Luckily, though, there's enough else here to convince us that this is a solid screen at a great price.