The Humax 32in LP32-TDR1 has an unfair advantage over its rivals: it comes with a built-in hard disk drive (HDD) and two digital TV tuners.
The implications of this are far-reaching in the flatscreen world, as it ups the ante as to what we expect an HDTV to deliver. Once a startlingly low price of £900 is thrown into the equation, the LP32-TDR1 almost sounds too good to be true.
The LP32-TDR1's built-in 160GB HDD (which renders buying an external HDD, or even DVD, recorder redundant) can hold 36hrs of programmes in its best quality mode and four times that in the lowest quality recording mode.
The HDD is backed up by two Freeview tuners, which means viewers can watch one digital channel while recording another. This is a feature rarely seen on most Freeview adapters, let alone built into TVs.
The LP32-TDR1 backs up this feature count with a HD-ready specification, but no surprises. The screen has a resolution of 1366 x 768, quoted contrast ratio of 1600:1, and quoted brightness of 500cd/m2.
Connectivity is a bit of a mixed bag. The biggest disappointment is the single HDMI, meaning it's necessary to chop and change every time you want to use a different hi-def AV source. Other connections of note include component video jacks (an analogue hi-def video connection), two RGB-enabled Scarts, and a PC input.
Useful, not user-friendly
The LP32-TDR1's ease of use is also a little on the disappointing side. Firstly, the touch-sensitive buttons on the screen may look pleasing, but they are sluggish to operate and soon become a distraction. If they're not to your liking, tough - there's no way of deactivating them.
There are also issues with the Freeview tuners. In theory they are a great idea but, in practice, operation leaves something to be desired. The TV defaults to one recording quality setting for every recording scheduled, unless you go into the setup menu and alter the setting before each programme begins.
Also, the electronic programme guide (EPG) can't be used while playing back a recording or rewinding one while it is being made. While this is irritating, it's common in external HDD recorders.
In the all-important picture department, the LP32-TDR1 puts in a credible hi-def performance, but nothing to rival the frontrunners in this class.
Setting our HD DVD test disc of Hot Fuzz spinning, it soon becomes apparent that the Humax LP32-TDR1 is capable of coming up with some vibrant colours and impressive levels of fine detailing. The TV's black levels aren't its strongest point, though: the night scene where Angel stumbles upon the insane coven at the abbey suffers from too much greying over to be altogether convincing.
Freeview footage aggravates these problems, but the LP32-TDR1's performance with a standard-def DVD of the same movie was better than we expected.
The future of TVs
There's no denying that the idea behind the LP32-TDR1 is a strong one - and possibly the shape of things to come. But there are tweaks to be made before the LP32-TDR1 reaches its full potential.