Full HD TVs seem to have made the journey from minor videophile concern to the mainstream in about a fortnight.

Mirai's DTL-742TE600 is at the vanguard of a wave of large affordable, flatscreens with 1080p panels that suddenly seem to have infiltrated the AV market and is among the cheapest sets of this size and specification we've seen.

Inside Mirai's budget LCD

Everyone wants to get their hands on 1,920 x 1,080 machines at the moment, and the need to keep cost down and make this must-have resolution available to all, is reflected in a set that has more than a whiff of compromise about it.

The build quality, for example, is pretty iffy. While the chunky styling makes the set appear larger than 42in, the lack of solidity to the hollow-sounding, plasticky casing immediately suggests that corners have been not so much cut as hacked off with a big rusty saw.

It's full HD, you know. That's right, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, which means you can watch Blu-ray discs and top-quality broadcasts in their unadulterated, maximum resolutions. And did we mention that it's really cheap for a 1080p panel? Because that's about your lot.

Okay, it's got an arguably miserly two HDMI inputs, various picture modes and one of those pseudo-surround modes that never really works properly, but if these, or any of the other uninteresting entries on the spec sheet turn you on, then we are afraid that we are unable to provide you with the kind of help you need.

Infuriating to operate

You might be supposing that the more stripped down and entry-level-oriented a set is, the easier it should be to use. And in most cases, you'd be right.

The Mirai conforms to this norm in the sense that its menus are relatively straightforward and reasonably intuitively laid out. But a few boneheaded design touches make it occasionally infuriating to operate.

The one most likely to drive you into a techno-cidal rage is the remote control. It's an ugly brute, for a start, with the company's usual large, glow-in-the-dark keys set in a lightweight zapper that looks like it has escaped from the 1980s.

The trouble with those ostensibly fairly useful buttons is that they are about as responsive as a sedated tortoise. Sometimes the telly ignores the remote entirely, or, even more irritatingly, finally does your bidding after a short delay, by which time you've already over-ridden what you originally asked it to do by repeatedly jabbing the same key.

That said, any even-tempered simpleton should be able to get the set up and running within minutes, and even quicker if he or she is fore-armed with the knowledge that you have to select 'digital TV' as a specific input before you can start tuning in Freeview.

Garish Freeview pictures

Having reviewed a fair amount of low-end models, we know it would be unfair to expect anything particularly spectacular from a 1080p set as inexpensive as this. However, it cannot be denied that this one sucks.

For starters, its treatment of Freeview rates among the most unpleasant video experiences currently available to mankind. It's garish, juddery and crudely rendered to the extent that the ageing filmstock of Murder, She Wrote, after being stretched across 42in, ends up looking like a pointillist study of the morbidly obese in washed-out Technicolor.

Modern broadcasts barely fare any better and, while much of the fault lies with the fact that Freeview rarely survives being blown up any larger than 32in with any dignity, the overall effect is pretty grim.

Underwhelming high-def

Standard-definition video sorts things out to a degree; the effect of the increase in image data is like increasing the focus on a camera and all those pixels are finally put to something approaching worthwhile work. Colours are still pretty dreadful, though, and blacks bottom out way too early for our liking.

High-definition is pretty much the same, but with a handful of extra detail thrown in. Blood Diamond looks reasonably cinematic, but the inherent weaknesses of the panel and its drivers (unrealistic colour and feeble blacks) make the Mirai unlikely to blow away anyone who has seen a genuinely capable full HD display do its stuff.

Good value for money?

That chunky speaker array running along the bottom of the screen suggests some fairly powerful audio, but unfortunately this doesn't prove to be quite the case.

The Mirai packs an adequate amount of power to fill the average front room, but doesn't really have the presence or low-end thump to give movie soundtracks the treatment they deserve.

Still, if you're looking for a screen of this size, the chances are that you'll also have a surround system on your shopping list, so the mediocre audio performance won't come as a devastating blow.

This may be one of the cheapest 1080p TVs currently on the market, but we can't think of any particular reason why you would want to purchase it when there are significantly cheaper and better sets around such as the LG 42LF66