Happily, the days when the only way to get a reasonably priced flat TV was to go for a 'no-name' brand offering few features are long gone. Take this 27in LCD from Toshiba, for example.
Part of the brand's latest flatscreen TV range, the 27WL56P is HD-ready, boasts Toshiba's Active Vision technology and costs around just £850. But of course, the fact that many manufacturers are now reaching such low price points means that this screen will have to work even harder to impress us.
Subtle in silver
With the same simple lines and grey colouring as Tosh's previous models, it isn't going to wow us with it looks - but at least it doesn't draw undue attention to itself.
More eye-catching is the HDMI input on the 27WL56P's rear, which can handle HDCP-protected high-definition feeds. The lack of component video seems a strange oversight, but you can still get component video signals - including analogue high-def - into the 27WL56 via its PC input and a (not included) component-to-VGA adaptor cable.
A native resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels complements the HDMI input and ensures that the 27WL56P is fully HD-ready, while the other key specs - a quoted contrast ratio of 900:1 and brightness of 500cd/m2 - also bode well. Then there's Toshiba's Active Vision processing, designed to triple the picture's pixel count, produce smoother colour gradations, make fast movement look clearer and stretch the contrast range.
A run-through of our trusted Gladiator test disc finds Active Vision doing its job, presenting a picture that's sharp and colourful. The scenes set in the Colosseum are brimming over with detail, and on the Tosh everything - from the thousands of animated spectators to the sand on the floor of the arena - is fabulously textured. This is helped no end by the fact that there's no grain, moiring or dot crawl to be seen.
Active Vision presumably also has a hand in the fact that fast motion - such as the swishing swords and galloping horses during the vicious battles in the arena - is unaffected by LCD's common smearing problems, and looks smooth throughout.
Perhaps most impressive at this price point, however, is the 27WL56's black level performance - vital for our test movie's many dark scenes. As the Gladiators receive a pep talk from their trainer in the gloomy cells of the Colosseum, for example, the image is full of depth and scale thanks to the fact that the black parts of the picture are only slightly affected by the greying over and bluish tone that are so common in the LCD world. The only problem is that very dark areas can look slightly 'empty', and as a result marginally over-dominant - but it's still a much better presentation that we've a right to expect from such an affordable screen.
Audio is also decent for a set of this size and price. There isn't much in the way of bass, but this ensures that dialogue is clear and that trebles have enough room to sound rounded, rather than harsh.
In summary, the 27WL56 is impressively future-proofed and boasts great pictures at a very reasonable price. What's not to like?