Enjoyable images at a very enjoyable price - just don't expect audio fireworks
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While we were mightily impressed when we set eyes on Philips' 15PF8946, which offers 15in of screen for just £350, the renowned budget brand Goodmans has managed to go one better. Its new LD1701 has 2in on the Philips model, and costs a whole one hundred pounds less. In fact, it's the most affordable 17in LCD we've seen to date.
Double the fun
As such, we were expecting to find the LD1701 a bit lacking in connections, but we're happy to report that a D-Sub PC input sits alongside RGB Scart, S-video and composite video options. This mean that the screen can also be used as a monitor for a PC - a handy feature that many considerably more expensive small LCDs neglect to offer.
Looks-wise, a svelte screen frame and tastefully extended under section help the LD1701 to strike a pleasing pose - although it's not going to earn points for originality.
Much less attractive are the on-screen menus, which are both garish and difficult to read. It's just as well that there are very few picture tweaks to bother with!
Needing some aesthetic relief, we moved swiftly on to check out the LD1701's picture performance with our American Beauty DVD, and happily found much to enjoy. The most surprising strength at this price and size is the black level response. Our test disc is full of low-lit scenes, and dark areas in such sequences - like the one where Kevin Spacey has a sexually charged encounter with Mena Suvari's nymphet in the kitchen - suffered much less 'greying over' than we expected, giving the moody shadows a real depth. Moreover, this hasn't been achieved at the expense of brightness, as the picture had plenty of verve and dynamism.
Fairly static images are sharp, too, and we could make out fine detail and texture in the rose petals surrounding Suvari during our test disc's famous fantasy sequences.
The bright red of these petals was also well presented, with little of the bleed that such rich saturations can suffer from, and hues were in general are presented naturally - no doubt helped by the black level response.
The LD1701 does have a standout flaw, however: smearing over motion. It wasn't often noticeable with our test disc - so isn't too serious - but action-packed movies, like Van Helsing, for example, suffered a loss of detail in fast-moving scenes.
We have a couple of other grumbles. Peak whites are sometimes 'flared', while a slight lack of subtlety with colour can make skin tones 'plasticky' and unnatural. But, on a screen that costs just £250, these flaws really aren't a big deal.
The LD1701's sound is more what we'd expect at this price. While it's clear and mostly free from distortion, there's no bass, which left American Beauty's all-important dialogue sounding thin. It's fine for TV - just don't expect it to do justice to movie soundtracks.
That said, however, the LD1701's DVD pictures are much more impressive than we'd expect from a 17in TV - let alone the cheapest 17in LCD on the market. Which means we can't help but like it.
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