A Taiwanese manufacturer building TVs in Europe? Sure enough Taiwan's Tatung is knocking out high spec LCD TVs right under Philips' nose in Holland. As if to rub a little exotic spice into the wound the first model to arrive at our offices is a sleek looking 23-inch LCD, on the market for under £750 - £250 cheaper than Philips latest 23-incher. Feathers and indeed tulips have no doubt been ruffled.
The LM-H23 is no cheapie PC monitor with a TV tuner built-in either. The design is clearly aimed at the living room and the specification is up there with some of the best - 1280 x 768 WXGA resolution and super fast pixel switching.
Connectivity is so-so as you only get the one of each scart, component and s-video inputs, and the distinct lack of digital video input is going to limit its future appeal for high definition TV. On a positive note, the 15-pin RGB PC socket covers all the frequencies required to hook up a media PC and enjoy HD over analogue input.
While many manufacturers are dispensing with power lights or putting them subtly on the side, the Tatung has an intense green LED that wouldn't disgrace a Formula 1 starting grid. Thankfully this distraction is overpowered by a high output screen backlight that gives class leading picture brightness. However, this comes at a price.
With the Automatic Picture Control set in anything other than the 'dark' mode, the backlight punches through the switched-off pixels, kills the contrast, turns blacks into light grey and emphasises picture noise. As the lamp makes the TV rather warm we guess that this isn't the most energy efficient LCD on the market either. Strangely this over-brightness seemed only to affect RGB Scart input and switching to component is like watching a different TV.
The contrast is rather good through the on-board tuner with deep blacks and reasonable grey scale. Broadcast football has good colour saturation and the darkened terraces show good detail. There isn't the vividness of the best but as the action hots up the Tatung plays its trump card with superbly smooth scrolling.
There is just the faintest hint of motion blurring and the ball has none of the comet tail effect seen on some LCD TVs. The claimed super fast pixel response time rings true and gives the Tatung an image much nearer a good CRT. The motion is superb, detail top notch and contrast is good as long as you stick a bit of tape over the power light. For £750, it is no ugly duckling, the viewing angle is excellent and it even sounds fairly good. In fact, the LM-H23 is in danger of becoming a bit of a bargain.
But hang on a moment. Tatung has very limited distribution in the UK, and the full retail price is pretty much what you are going to pay. On the other hand you can pick up Philips' stunning 23PF9946 for £650 if you shop around and our money would be on the home team in that double-Dutch shoot out.