It's hard to know where you stand with Sanyo. Just when you think you've got the company pegged as the last word in cheap and cheerful kit, it surprises you with something spectacularly ambitious - like the aggressively priced, full HD CE47FD51. However, reaching for the stars isn't the same as getting there, as this 47in LCD TV has room for improvement in one key area - picture performance.
A 47in LCD TV with a resolution of 1,920 x 1080 pixels is hardly the sort of thing you'd expect a budget-only brand to be getting involved with, but it's not the only surprise that Sanyo's CE47FD51 has up its sleeve. But, sadly, not all of the surprises that this 47in LCD TV has in store are necessarily pleasant.
Fortunately, its connections are decent enough. Two HDMIs lead the charge, followed by component video input, a PC port, and twin Scarts. Digital audio and subwoofer line out jacks are also included - still far from standard on even pretty high-end TVs and a surprising inclusion considering this one's relatively affordable price.
Those HDMIs are the pinnacle of HD-friendliness, able to handle the 1080p/24fps format now output from many Blu-ray and HD DVD players. The CE47FD51 also has a 'no overscanning' mode for direct pixel by pixel presentation of 1080-line sources.
It's a shame that the feature count pretty much stops abruptly there. With the exception of its built-in digital tuner (pretty much standard issue), there's precious little to write home about. The only things of even vague note are a 3D-Panorama audio mode for producing a pseudo-surround sound effect, and a noise reduction system. Exciting stuff, we're sure you'll agree. However, there is a mitigating factor: money. The CE47FD51B is only £1,400 - a really low price for such a large full HD TV - which goes some way to putting the slender feature count into perspective.
The low price doesn't excuse the claimed contrast ratio of 1,000:1, mind; extremely low by today's standards. Unlike pretty much every other big LCD TV we've seen in recent times, the CE47FD51 does not include a dynamic contrast system, where the backlight can be dimmed when dark scenes are detected to boost black level response. This inevitably raises concerns that darker scenes willbe spoiled by the dreaded grey mist effect that is so common in the flat TV world.
Ease of use
The CE47FD51's remote feels cheap to the touch, but is effective in its layout, quickly getting to grips with the basic onscreen menus. The lack of features to stress the user out could even be argued to be a blessing rather than a curse.
Unfortunately our concerns about the CE47FD51's black level response prove largely well-founded. Piping in a dark scene, such as the opening black and white sequence of Casino Royale on Blu-ray, quickly reveals that blacks definitely look greyer, flatter and less natural than we'd like. Dark scenes don't have much depth or vitality to them, and tend to lose critical amounts of background detail behind the misty grey veil, leaving them looking rather hollow.
The CE47FD51's merely average black levels also negatively impact colours during darkish scenes, leaving them looking slightly muted and off-key. It's a decidedly lacklustre high-definition performance. Standard definition fares little better, falling prey to a considerable amount of noise and further colour tone issues.
However, it would be unfair to accuse the CE47FD51B of being an unmitigated disaster - there are a couple of performance points that go some way towards making up for the frailties. For instance, thanks to its 1080p resolution, its HD pictures are surprisingly sharp, crisp and detailed.
Even better, this extreme clarity is produced without any common side effects such as grain, dot crawl, or glowing edges. Pictures are also exceptionally bright for a budget big flatscreen TV, helping deliver dynamic colours during bright scenes that are a million miles away from the muted efforts experienced with dark material.
Finally in the plus column, the CE47FD51's handling of rapid motion is surprisingly clear for a screen that boasts no 100Hz (or similar) processing to circumvent LCD technology's traditional response time problems.
Underwhelming in the audio department, the CE47FD51's speakers just about hold up with dialogue-heavy programmes like news and chat shows. But, at the first sign of any aggressively mixed action scenes, the soundstage quickly sounds thin and weedy.
While there's definitely some merit in being able to get a 47in full HD screen for just £1,400, the CE47FD51's picture quality is a bitter pill to swallow. If you are on a budget, it's arguable that you're better off with a smaller screen that's a more capable performer for the same money.