Not content with dominating the Pay TV market in the UK, Sky has now bought the right to put its famous logo on screens from third party manufacturers. This 26in LCD with a built-in DVD player is the most unique.
It certainly looks the part. Borrowing heavily from recent offerings from both JVC and Panasonic, the SLCD2603 sports a nice-looking glossy black screen frame, set over a silver undercarriage. Sensibly, the DVD slot is vertically mounted on the right side's rear, out of sight.
At this price we shouldn't expect all-digital connectivity. And at least there are component video jacks. But although these are capable of taking progressive scan and some high-definition material, they do throw up a few problems. Sky's announcement that its HD broadcasts next year will require users to have sets with HDCP-compatible DVI or HDMI inputs renders these component video inputs only suitable for carrying HD material from a D-VHS system, or via a media centre.
Still, you'll just have to do without cutting-edge all-digital connections at this price. Alongside component video is a 15-pin D-Sub PC connector and a coaxial digital audio output for carrying a DVD's digital sound to an external surround sound amplifier. Unhappily for a lot of users, there is only one RGB-capable Scart, although as a DVD player is included, maybe this isn't much of a problem.
A trawl through the on-screen menus reveals a paltry features list - just a single tuner picture-in-picture system and playback of MP3s and picture files from the DVD player. This may be a unique product, but it's also a very simple one.
The SLCD2603's performance could be summed up as the good, the bad and the ugly. Starting with ugly: the poor contrast grates. The screen is fine with the mostly bright footage found on TV broadcasts, but when the action does move into darker areas, such as with our test DVD, The Matrix: Revolutions, it's a different story. A grey mist permeates the darkness of the rain drenched streets of the Matrix as Neo squares up to Agent Smith, leaving the colours on show looking unnatural. This lack of contrast means that the detail in the background of Zion is blotted out, while a lot of other detail looks flat.
Moving onto the bad, this screen's low response time means that the CG action as the fast-moving sentinels smash their way ahead suffers from blurring and judder.
There are some good points. There's little dot crawl, grain or noise detectable, while bright scenes are presented with saturations so rich that we have to admit that, despite its flaws, this is one of the most vibrant screens we've seen. But this is only with bright footage, such as bog-standard studio-based news feeds. So while DVD playback via the on-board DVD player is somewhat disappointing, the SLCD2603 does generally cope well with TV broadcasts.
Sound from all sources is poor - par for the course on small LCDs. The thin speakers deliver a thin sound with virtually no bass, leaving both dialogue and action scenes sounding tinny and un-involving, but at least there's little distortion at high volume.
A 26in LCD TV with a built-in DVD player is an appealing idea, and if you're in the market for such a product the SLCD2603 is the proud leader. There are problems, however, especially (and ironically) with DVD playback, so you should think twice about going down this convenience route.