Over the past months there's been a succession of low-cost bigscreen LCD and plasmas coming from major manufacturers. Mirai's 37-inch model marks the lowest price point these LCDs have reached. Unfortunately for Mirai, it's obvious that a lot has been sacrificed to keep the cost to the consumer down, and the company's mark-up high.
To start with, this TV is not pretty. Neither is it ugly, but when a TV's stand is the most attractive thing about it, there's a definite lack of style. The speakers, which run around the sides and part way under the screen, can be removed to give a different (although not a radically improved) look to the set.
On paper this TV is a performer - it's HD-ready, compatible with the 1080i and 720p formats, and has digital HDMI and analogue component video inputs; has plenty of connections (including a spare set of analogue video and audio ports) - but when its features list is compared to other LCDs in this price range, it falls short.
There's no digital tuner for accessing Freeview, while picture-tuning options are limited to a few preset modes and customisable settings (including the backlight's brightness). Despite our hopes for this LCD, it's a poor performer. Playing Fight Club (upscaled) reveals colours that are bright and high detail levels. When nothing moves. As soon as the camera shifts position, or someone walks across the screen, the Mirai struggles to keep up.
The impressive (and gross) opening sequence, showing a camera moving through the skull of the Narrator (Edward Norton) and into the pistol lodged in his mouth, is a mess of smeared pixels. As is the horizontal tracking shot of the Narrator strolling through his Ikea-filled apartment.
The disappointments don't stop there - noise was present in bright scenes, and grain packed into shadows (which never manage to be black). The picture from an HDMI DVD player upscaling our test DVD produced the best this TV could manage, but even in this pseudo-HD mode, the Mirai failed to excite.
The audio performance is an improvement, but fell short of our expectations. There are some useful tweaks, including a simulated surround sound mode which gave Fight Club's soundtrack a boost, but there's a lack of bass.
The poor picture performance shows how badly this LCD needs a decent picture processing system. Without it, the T3715 is just not worth the money. What Plasma