If you want the very cheapest electrical goods these days, more often than not the place to go is your local supermarket. And to prove the point we've got our hands on the Dual DLCD3211: a 32in LCD TV with a digital tuner selling at your local Asda for a mere £850.
Mind you, its price is really the only thing that's eye-catching about the DLCD3211; its design couldn't be plainer: just a plain rectangle of bland grey plastic.
Also disappointing - though not surprising at this price - is the fact that the TV carries no high definition video support. There's no HDMI jack, no component video jacks, and while there is a DVI jack for connecting a digital camcorder, this jack is not HDCP enabled and so won't play HDCP-protected HD sources correctly. Similarly a provided D-Sub PC jack isn't configured to accept HD component video signals.
The set does at least boast an HD-level of native resolution: 1,366 x 768 to be precise. But this is pretty much the end of the impressive specs, with neither a claimed contrast ratio of 600:1 nor a claimed brightness of 450cd/m2 exactly causing us palpitations.
Features beyond the digital tuner are in pretty short supply. There's support for the 7-day Freeview electronic programme guide, complete with the facility to set onscreen reminders when your chosen programmes are about to start. Otherwise the only surprise is a set of picture-in-picture facilities.
Nothing about the DLCD3211 so far has raised our hopes about its performance. And our fairly low expectations prove largely justified.
The main picture problems are all the classic ones we've seen on early and budget LCD TVs so many times before. For starters, motion looks blurred and smeared thanks to the LCD panel's response time not being up to snuff. Next, colours often have a slightly over-ripe and unnatural look to them, especially during dark scenes. Finally the picture just doesn't look very dynamic thanks to a simple lack of brightness (measured at 137fL in our lab) with which to propel the image off the screen.
On the upside the set's black level response is OK, backed up objectively by the healthy contrast ratio reading from our lab tests. Sure, dark areas certainly aren't devoid of the tell-tale grey mist that gives low-contrast screens away, but there's still enough depth to grant dark and dingy scenes at least a modicum of depth and scale.
The DLCD3211's tuner pictures also look more natural and noiseless than with many rivals - even considerably more expensive ones.
The set's sonics are, like its pictures, about average. Treble detailing is decent, and voices sound quite clear. But there's little bass to speak of, and the soundstage quickly becomes harsh during action scenes or at loud volumes.
We guess price alone may tempt a few shoppers to pop a DLCD3211 into their trolley with the week's groceries. But be aware, in terms of features and performance, you only get what you pay for. John Archer