Everyone wants a flat TV, and those with nouse want a HD-ready version to last into the age of high-definition TV. One problem: money. A Samsung, Panasonic, Hitachi or Sony is going to fill up a new credit card at best - it's worth dropping down the market to look for a bargain screen.
If you do, this £900 32in screen from Funai is likely to cross your path. And it's a good option for those getting into HDTV.
Not ugly, but hardly risking becoming a style icon, the silver finish with black screen frame and black desktop stand is respectable enough.
So too is connectivity, which features a DVI input. We would have preferred a HDMI input for easier hook-up to a HDTV receiver or HDMI DVD player, but a simple adaptor (about £20) means this TV is easily HD-ready. A set of component video inputs sit alongside, as do a VGA PC input, with two Scarts and a subwoofer line out the other highlights.
Its high resolution 1,366 x 768 panel, 800:1 contrast ratio and 550cd/m2 brightness make for impressive reading, even if the dodgy remote doesn't control the onscreen menus with much aplomb.
The menus contain a few surprises in the form of some rudimentary manual picture settings. The backlight can be adjusted for brightness, there's a setting for reducing pictures noise and a module that promises mock surround sound from the TVs speakers. Natural colour tones are available as a separate setting - as opposed to if you're using this Funai as a PC monitor - and there's also a setting for skin colour tones.
Burn baby burn
A run though of our test discMan on Fire reveals some talents - and a few problems. First to impress is colour rendition, which is clever with tricky skin tones and also richly saturated. Impressive.
Not so contrast. Deep blacks don't exist, dark areas lack detail and look grey and washed-out. A flat picture is the result.
That's not unusual on a LCD a lot more expensive than this and explains why the makers of more expensive plasmas are still doing good business. At least the shots of Pita's kidnap in Man on Fire don't suffer too much blurring or image lag as Creasy tries to stop the attacks in Mexico City.
Another forgettable experience is watching pictures via the built-in analogue TV tuner, which looks soft, noisy and blurry with anything approaching fast movement.
And yet, sample pictures of hi-def footage look sparkling. Sharp, textured and not a little 3D, the Funai puts in a performance that can't be termed 'budget'. That goes double for sound, which is fairly expansive despite occasional problems with tinny dialogue.
All in all, the performance depends on the source. Hook-up an upscaling DVD player via the DVI input and pictures have a lot of detail, (even more so with hi-def). So while this is a decent budget option for those after Sky's HD service (it's worth bearing in mind that normal Sky pictures through a RGB Scart look fairly good too) this is hardly a versatile TV.
And analogue TV tuners won't even exist in five year's time, so that's not really an issue. Ultimately though, it's the Funai's skill with HDTV that gives it four-star status.