Marantz is a firm known primarily for its high-class hi-fi gear, but it's also doing its best to make an impression on the home cinema market, launching feature-laden DVD players and plasma screens, and now this mid-sized LCD. As with other Marantz products, the 30in LC3050 radiates quality: it is reassuringly solid and reasonably stylish, with a classic silver and black finish and desktop stand.
There's no separate multimedia box here. Everything - tuner, speakers and socketry - is fitted neatly into the screen's compact frame. The lack of component video is a disappointment but you get two Scarts and an S-video input, as well as VGA and DVI sockets for a PC. The DVI is also HDCP compliant, for connecting to HDMI and DVI-outputting DVD players (Marantz is one of the few companies that makes one: the superb DV12S2), and it will be able to handle Sky's planned high-def broadcasts. A couple of stereo audio inputs are included - one phono, one 3.5mm - as well as a connection for hooking up an active subwoofer.
The LC3050 is ideal for those that aren't confident around technology thanks to automatic tuning and a clear, well laid out on-screen menu system that is easy to navigate with the remote control. There isn't a ton of extra functionality, but you do get picture-in-picture (and picture-on-picture) and basics like teletext and a sleep timer.
The screen is a 30in TFT panel with a pretty generous resolution of 1,280 by 768 pixels, but a closer look suggests that Marantz has opted for an older model. First, it's not a true widescreen shape, its aspect ratio being 15:9 rather than the standard 16:9. Then there's the unimpressive 450:1 contrast ratio, and the response time isn't particularly speedy - which leads to rapidly moving objects creating a small but nonetheless visible blur.
These symptoms put the LC3050 at an immediate disadvantage when facing the brand-new panels sported by some rivals in this test; these have a true 16:9 shape and are blessed with higher response times, resolutions and contrast ratios.
The 15:9 aspect ratio is perhaps this TV's biggest weakness. So much of what we watch today is shown in widescreen, and the LC3050 has to squash this slightly to fit it on to the screen. Sometimes you won't notice it, but occasionally you can tell that the image is just that little bit off being perfect - like we did with our widescreen King Arthur DVD - very irritating.
Blinding with science
However, while it may not impress us as much as other, newer screens, the LC3050 does provide a decent enough image for the most part - perhaps thanks to a dizzyingly extensive list of processing features. A built-in de-interlacing mode, for example, helps cut down the flicker and jaggies - if not wipe them out completely - caused by interlaced scanning. If you are one of those lucky enough to own a DVD player equipped with an HDMI or DVI output, then you can expect to see a picture that boasts wonderful clarity and (depending somewhat on the DVD you're watching) is almost completely free from ugly video noise.
Surprisingly for a company with Marantz's proud hi-fi history, the built-in stereo speakers provide only a respectable accompaniment to the picture and, as is usual, those looking for something truly impressive will want to add some dedicated home cinema speakers.
It's hard not to feel disappointed with what Marantz has offered up here. So much has been done well - usability, styling and connectivity - that it makes the flaws in performance seem all the worse.