This well-priced LCD debut from set-top box brand Sagem boasts plenty of features that make it stand out from the crowd, but what we really like is its extra media channel. Simply insert a memory card (Compact Flash, Smart Media, Secure Digital, XD Card or Memory Stick) directly into one of the two multimedia card slots on the left-hand side of the screen and the set transforms into a luxury, high-resolution photo album - a great excuse for showing off a new flatscreen to friends and family!
Aesthetics aren't run-of-the-mill either and, despite not being particularly flat, the HD-L27 is well-built and appealing, with a curved back (don't worry, it's still easily wall-mountable) and glossy piano-black screen frame. Combine this with the fact that you'll be getting 27in of screen for as little as £850, and this set looks like a good bet for replacing that fat-boy CRT in the living room.
That price looks even better when we discover that not only is the HD-L27 HD-ready in terms of screen resolution (1,280 x 720), but it also has a DVI input that is HDCPcompliant. Other connections are plentiful, too, and number component video inputs (for top-notch progressive scan and analogue high-def images) three Scarts (two of which are RGB-capable), composite video, S-video, analogue stereo inputs and outputs, a headphone jack and a PC audio input.
On the audio side, there are two 12W speakers which output both Nicam stereo and Virtual Dolby sound.
Ease of use is another boon - something that shouldn't be taken for granted. The remote control is nicely laid out and makes changing between inputs child's play, while on-screen menus are impressive in their simplicity - which is also handy for when you want to use the screen as a photo viewer.
With pictures from the HD-L27's analogue tuner, we were pleasantly surprised. Many LCDs struggle with low-quality feeds like this, but here news and studio footage looked colourful, while edges were as sharp as we can expect from such pictures.
The good news continued when we put the HD-L27 to work with our test disc, the outrageous political satire Team America. Colours, in particular, were vivid and textured throughout, from Team America's bright reds, whites and blues to the deep reds and browns of Kim Jong Il's palace. What's more, there was no sign of 'fizzing' on these colours, and in fact picture noise in general was virtually absent.
While detail is good in bright scenes, however, we did find that more gloomy sequences - like when Gary gets thrown out of a bar at night and proceeds to vomit in a back-street - tended to look a little greyed over, suggesting that contrast and black level response isn't up there with the best. Our only other complaint is the slight blurring effect that can occur with fast camera pans and motion - but it's nothing that LCDs thrice this price would be ashamed of.
Unsurprisingly, with high-def from a D-VHS machine the HD-L27 just improved on the strengths we've already mentioned, and images looked even more richly textured.
The Sagem's audio lets the side down - it's thin and can't provide the oomph that action scenes from DVDs like Team America require. Still, we'd always recommend hooking up a TV to a dedicated surround setup if it's to be the centre of your cinema.
Despite a couple of performance niggles, the HD-L27 provides enjoyable pictures, HDTV - compatibility and an unusual photoviewing facility for a very reasonable price. That makes it a bargain in our book!