Super-sized TV is the exclusive preserve of the rich, right? Wrong. Dead wrong. I know this for a fact, as before me sits a 40in widescreen rear-projection TV, the Bush RP40TV, that'll set you back the unprincely sum of just £700.
While the fact that such a bargain basement TV is wearing a Bush badge may not be all that surprising, the fact that Bush should want to get involved in such an ostensibly niche area of the AV world comes as something of a surprise.
Despite its cut-price tag, the RP40TV manages to avoid looking cheap. A combination of an unusually thin frame round the screen and satisfyingly glossy base section make for an opulent looking box.
Backside connections on offer are adequate too, including as they do a trio of Scarts (only one is RGB enabled) and two sets of composite and S-video inputs. There are no progressive-friendly component jacks or digital video jacks, but come on people - it's hardly fair to expect such niceties on such a bargain bucket TV, is it?
For £700 you might reasonably expect a features count of precisely zero. But actually Bush has squeezed a few techno-goodies on to the RP40TV, including 100Hz picture processing. This is by no means a given on traditional CRT sets of similar value, so finding it on a 40in rear-pro model at such a price is remarkable.
There's also a twin-tuner picture-in-picture system, plus an auto convergence system for taking the manual fuss out of aligning the red, green and blue beams of the CRT image.
The good news continues with the user interface, which scores points by being more or less foolproof to use. Okay, I know what you're thinking: is this set just too good to be true?
Unfortunately, in the all too important arena of picture quality, this Bush baby is found wanting. Even compared with similarly-priced rear-projection sets, the Bush's pictures look decidedly average.
The first weakness that struck me was the lack of black level response relative to every other CRT rear-pro set I've seen this year. This manifests itself not in the customary grey mist over what should be black parts of the picture, but in a strange green murk that denies movies the sort of depth and background detail they need to really make you feel involved.
You won't be surprised to hear that this odd picture quirk does few favours to the RP40TV's colour fidelity during dark scenes, either.
The RP40TV's pictures are also lacking in fine detail, leaving a distinctly soft overall picture. This deteriorates the lower down the source-quality pecking order you go, to the point where ordinary tuner broadcasts look positively mushy. The picture's clarity - or lack of it - isn't helped by various picture noise issues, including dot crawl over rich colour saturations, ringing around hard edges, a distinct geometric distortion and a slight electrical flickering to the picture in general.
The RP40TV isn't inexcusably bad. Saving graces are its brightness (which stays uniform even into the corners), the quality of its 100Hz processing engine (which at least doesn't add digital processing artefacts to the TV's other noise problems), and the fact that with bright scenes at least, colours enjoy a natural tone free of the green tinge found during darker footage.
Given that there's plenty of space available in the RP40TV's bodywork for a potent set of speakers, its sound is actually a touch disappointing as well. When not stressed under duress, the RP40TV exhibits a well rounded tone. But a healthy action scene soon reveals the RP40TV's power reserves to be in distinctly short supply, causing dialogue to cramp up, bass to thin out, and distortions to set in.
While I have a lot of respect for what Bush is trying to do with its RP40TV (bring large screen rear-pro technology to a much wider audience than it's had in the past), I sadly can't bring myself to recommend that you buy one. Sure, there is acres of screen for your money, and the feature count is prodigious - but I'd have happily traded all the fancy features in the world for a little more in the way of picture quality. John Archer