Probably the single biggest problem of being a home entertainment addict is the clutter that you'll have to live with. By the time you've got a decent-sized TV in your living room, a home cinema receiver, maybe a Sky box, a set of speakers, and a DVD recorder, you're already looking at quite a pile of kit.
Perhaps what we need are more products that combine two - or more - bits of AV gear into one box. Products like Humax's LP32-TDR1, in fact: a 32in LCD TV that happens to also sport a built-in 160GB hard disk recorder.
The Humax reinforces the impact of its clutter-busting appeal by boasting an elegant design. The chic gloss-black screen bezel is a good start, which is built on by a tilted speaker section along the bottom edge and a cute set of red LED readouts under the screen's lower right corner.
Connectivity is a mixed bag. The set sports only a single HDMI input, denying you simultaneous digital connection of, say, a Sky HD receiver and an HD DVD/ Blu-ray deck.
Elsewhere there's the de rigeur component video input (ideal for your Xbox 360), two Scarts, a VGA PC interface, S-video and composite video, and a couple of connections linked to the LP32-TDR1's digital tuner: an optical digital audio output to ship Dolby Digital 5.1 broadcasts to suitable AV receivers; and a CI slot for adding subscription TV services.
A native resolution of 1366 x 768 completes the TV's HD Ready status, and a rather clunky remote control gives access to a well-stocked set of onscreen menus.
These menus house a suite of picture-in-picture facilities, SRS TruSurround XT audio processing options, picture tweaks, and the facility to choose between three different PVR recording qualities: High, Standard and Long Play. Naturally, you can fit more recordings into the 160GB HDD if you use the lower-quality options.
Easy to use
When it comes to using the HDD, you can either just initiate instant recordings by hitting the remote's record button, or use a well-presented 7-day electronic programme guide to set timer recording events.
The LP32 provides memory slots for up to 12 recording events. The set automatically caches what you're watching too, so you can instantly rewind something if you miss a crucial bit, and there's also support for live TV pausing.
The set carries two digital tuners, meaning you can record one digital channel while watching another. Plus you can record one programme while playing back one you've recorded before.
Please note, though, that you can't record anything from the PC, HDMI or component video jacks.
With the set also boasting Faroudja's DCDi image processing engine, the LP32 is rather well-specified for a TV costing just £800, even with the single HDMI input.
The LP32 is a very nice LCD performer. HD sources deliver a dynamic image with a vibrant colour fidelity. The dynamic range between the blackness of space and the glinting space ships in Battlestar Galactica (Sky One HD) is striking and attention-seeking in all the right ways.
For the most part this vibrancy isn't detrimental to the set's colour toning either, as skin tones look engagingly natural. HD footage is decently sharp, with good motion handling, too.
With standard-definition the LP32 does better than expected, avoiding the overt softness that characterises SD playback on so many LCD rivals, especially at this budget-end of the market. Even motion smearing is kept to a minimum.
However, the LP32's images do have one significant flaw - a lack of black level. At first glance you might feel that the darkness of outer space in Battlestar Galactica doesn't look as greyed over and milky as you might expect.
Look closer, though, and you'll soon realise that the blackness is rather forced; depressing lack of greyscale information and shadow detail leaves it appearing flat and empty - more like holes in the picture than an integral part of it.
Dark scenes also show signs of backlight seepage into each of the picture's corners.
Turning to the LP32's recordings, they're rather good. They're not as immaculate as the completely transparent efforts of a Sky box, even in the Humax's HQ mode, thanks to the introduction of some gentle glowing noise over dark backgrounds. But good nonetheless.
The quality doesn't drop off significantly when you step down to the 'standard' recording mode, either. Even the usually best-ignored LP option is more than adequate for casual timeshifting.
Sonically the LP32 has just enough range to avoid the thinness that budget TVs can suffer with. Voices sound quite natural and normal TV viewing is sonically acceptable. Action scenes uncover a lack of bass extension, though.
There's little doubt that we'll be seeing more screens incorporating a built-in PVR in the near future, but as a pioneer, this Humax has a lot going for it. If you're in the market for a clutter-busting TV/PVR combi, the LP32 can be considered good value at £800.