Building on its investment in terrestrial digital set-top boxes, Humax is pushing this integrated digital LCD television into the cheaper end of the flat TV market.
This 17in 15:9 widescreen model is its debut LCD, and as such it is being relatively cautious and sticking with John Lewis as its sole distributor. Not only should this aim it at an image-conscious market, it will provide a good indication of just how ready the market is for small, integrated LCDs.
Design-wise, the screen is relatively sedate and cutesy, boasting none of the lavish attention to detail that market leaders are currently bestowing upon their prestige products. Its curvy corners hint at stylishness, but the outer trim has a plasticky and cheap feel.
The same is true for the remote control, which is certainly not as nice to use as other Humax efforts, although it bears most of the same physical characteristics.
The main problem is that it's a bit too thick to be comfortable, but switching between sources is easy enough and the connections are tucked away on the bottom of the unit.
Setup is straightforward, thanks in part to the few connection choices that are actually available. Component and DVI video feeds are omitted in favour of a solitary (but RGB compatible) Scart, with an S-video and 15-pin D-Sub sitting alongside for PC connection.
The latter turns the LB-17T into an acceptable PC monitor, coping well with the demands of both desktop work and gaming alike. The response time is reasonable, if not up to the fast-twitch gameplay of Doom 3, but the detail on offer makes this display suitable for media centre PCs.
However, plug in the RF aerial, let the Humax set itself up, and you'll be enjoying the relatively clear results of digital terrestrial TV within a few minutes. Humax's on-screen display may not be that interesting, but it is functional, with Freeview's eight-day Electronic Programme Guide easily navigable - a yellow button skips forward 24hrs at a time.
The guide has recently received a firmware upgrade to make it load up faster than the 15mins it took before, so make sure you set the unit to scan for this during setup. The tweaking options are not extensive, which could be down to the size of the screen, but there are a number of preset visual modes which aim to cater for normal, filmic and videogame use.
The standard setting is probably the best, as 'Game' proved to be far too dark for all but the oversaturated colours of Sonic the Hedgehog.
The contrast ratio is quoted optimistically at 500:1, with the brightness rated at 450 cd/m2; in truth I felt that that the picture from the unit suffered in terms of contrast to all but DVD feeds. The lack of detail that some Freeview channels have become notorious for presents the usual problems here. If you want to show the screen at its best, stick with above average DVD transfers.
The integrated tuner is standard fare. However, I tested the RGB input with another Freeview source, purely out of interest to see how it compared. To keep things fair I used Humax's own PVR-8000T. Interestingly, the results were far worse than the integrated digital component of the television itself; somewhere along the way the signal turned into a blocky mess whenever the camera panned more than 5°.
Strangely enough, the ideal test came from one of the more annoying Saturday morning kids TV shows, where the presenter dances with a crowd of bored kids. As the camera panned quickly past, the individuals could barely be made out, becoming a blocky mass of colours in an MPEG compression nightmare.
Similarly, games didn't look that sharp through the display. Ninja Gaiden for Xbox is one of the most beautiful games ever made, but the detail is lost and the colours aren't as vibrant on a similar-sized CRT.
DVD results are superb, however. Even using a low-end Pioneer DVD player through the RGB Scart it punches higher than its price would suggest, with sharp contrast and accurate colour definition on everything from the energetic Finding Nemo through to the more sedate Finding Forrester.
In terms of upgradability, it is nice to see that a Common Interface slot is also included on the underside of the unit.
Those looking for an affordable small-screen IDTV will be attracted to the LB-17T. As a TV source, the Freeview tuner is reasonable, but you'll want to combine this with a decent DVD player for optimum results.
It also doubles up as a functional PC and games display. Predictably, the speakers clock in at a measly 2W, so in this mode you'll need some extra amplification. Humax has compensated for this by providing an S/PDIF digital audio output for those with a mini-system.