San Francisco-based company AOC has been turning out CRT and LCD displays for the best part of 20 years now. But to our knowledge it's never made a serious UK attempt to break out of the world of the PC monitor and into your living room. Until now, with the 20in, 4:3-ratio TV20542E.

Not that you'd know it from its looks. The plain silver bodywork feels plasticky, the AOC logo looks cheap and aside from a reasonably funky stand, the design is as haute couture as a paving slab.

Connectivity is fair, however, and includes a tuner input, an RGB Scart and a PC jack, this last socket doubling its potential usefulness.

Features are in understandably short supply. In fact, the only things worth mentioning are an unusually flexible black-level booster and SRS audio processing, with a mode for viewing anamorphic widescreen sources being notably absent.

Setting up and using the TV20542E involves one of the blandest remote controls ever and some utterly basic onscreen menus. But while not pretty, neither the remote nor the menus are at all complicated.

Considering it's the first proper TV we've seen from AOC, the TV20542E is not at all bad. The biggest surprise, given the company's PC roots, is its impressive black-level response.

Dark areas get much nearer to enjoying true blacks than is common with budget LCD TVs, and this helps the picture look dynamic and full of depth.

Full colours

Colours, too, are better than expected, with bright, fully saturated hues looking vibrant, noiseless and natural. Some skin tones occasionally look a touch plasticky and peak whites a touch green, but these problems occur sufficiently rarely not to make them a severe problem.

Edges are next on our tick list and are immaculately rendered, with neither edge noise nor colour bleed to moan about. What's more, this strength enhances the sense of depth, as well as creating the impression that the picture is more finely detailed than it actually is.

This last point brings us to the first of our gripes about the AOC: while the picture doesn't look soft, you can't actually make out as much texture in people's hair, faces and clothes as you can on some rivals.

Also, while black levels are good in terms of the depth they reach, really dark areas do look a bit hollow. Next, skin tones can sometimes look a touch processed and blotchy. Finally, the picture occasionally betrays smearing over motion - though to be fair, this is mostly only when the quality of your source footage is weak.

The TV20542E's audio is reasonably talented. There's a genuine if muted attempt to deliver some sort of bass, voices sound reasonably well rounded, and trebles don't often sound harsh. But the midrange occasionally makes the chassis hum and the soundstage feels rather thin.

Overall, it's hard not to be pretty taken with the TV20542E.

After all, while it's one of the cheapest three or four 20in LCD TVs in the business, it's very far from being the worst.