Humax LB-17E review

  • £650

Upgradeable Freeview at a bargain price

Our Verdict

A fine first screen from Humax, with some great features and flexibility. The price is good too!

For

  • Features

    Performance

    Price

Against

  • Picture

    Design

    Weedy speakers

As a relative newcomer to the British consumer electronics world, Humax is certainly going out of its way to make a name for itself, win friends and influence the right people.

The manufacturer has been busy launching enticing kit left right and centre (a Freeview box/hard disk recorder combi, a DVD recorder, several standalone digital TV receivers to name but a few) but this interesting 17in LCD is its first stab at a television.

Design-wise, the LB-17E is a fine first effort. While it doesn't share the same copious measure of stylishness as, say, one of the new compact Panasonic or JVC LCD screens, it's a fairly sleek and handsome affair, with curves in appropriate places and a nice overall feel of solidity.

The dull gunmetal colour might not appeal to everyone's tastes, but at least it makes a welcome change from the usual unimaginative silver or black finishes.

It comes supplied with a tilting desktop stand, although you can detach it from this and wall mount it if the fancy takes you (you'll need a bracket, which of course will cost extra). There are also several other useful accessories bundled in the box, most notably Scart and PC monitor cables.

Obviously, then, the TV has a Scart socket (which is compatible with RGB) and PC inputs, as well as S-video. Perhaps a little surprisingly, Humax has made the decision to leave out a composite video input, and unlike some LCD offerings there is no DVI socket.

Still, on balance the connection selection is pretty decent, and you even get a Dolby Digital 5.1- compatible digital audio output, which will come in very handy should Freeview ever start broadcasting in surround sound. Lastly, there is a common interface slot at the back of the TV, giving viewers the chance to upgrade the basic Freeview service with the newly launched Top-Up TV subscription package.

Setting up the LB-17E is a real doddle, with a menu screen popping up the first time you switch the unit on; this asks you to connect an aerial and press a button, then goes ahead with the laborious process of finding and storing all thirty or so of the Freeview channels for you in a matter of minutes. Should you desire you also have the choice to switch to an analogue tuner, however, both tuners use the same aerial socket.

Humax's Freeview receiver is well designed, with clear, easily readable info bars and very little delay when switching between channels. There are a handful of very basic video games thrown in with the usual Freeview trappings like a 'now and next' EPG and interactive text service.

In addition to the TV channels, it also gives you access to a selection of digital radio stations, although listening to these through the LB-17E's fairly puny speakers isn't ideal; the digital audio output comes in useful here.

Performance

The image quality offered by the LB-17E is good, if not astoundingly so. The 1,280 x 768 display resolution (1,024 x 768 if you're using the PC input) ensures that it is able to pick out fine details quite well, and colours are bright and vibrant. The contrast ratio isn't particularly great however, and darker areas of the picture often tend to look quite murky and undefined. The Freeview picture is decent, too, with only a small amount of MPEG digital blocking visible most of the time.

The screen doubles up nicely as a PC monitor, and boasts a nicely speedy response time to keep movement blurring or 'ghosting' to an absolute minimum. You could certainly use the Humax as a monitor when playing PC games, for instance.

Overall, this is a very respectable debut TV effort from Humax, which bodes well for future launches of which we are assured there will be plenty. Pleasingly, the LB-17E combines interesting and useful technology, expandability and good quality performance with a temptingly low price tag.