It looks like it really won't be long before you'll be able to get a latest-tech big screen LCD TV from an established brand for under a grand. Already some stores are discounting end-of-the-line 27in-30in LCD TVs to around the £800 mark - and today we have a 27in offering from Sanyo debuting at just £1,100.
Increasingly, manufacturers aren't just relying on an LCD TV's basic flatness to give it sex appeal and Sanyo is no exception. The CE27LC3 looks slick and futuristic in its high-gloss, deep grey fascia, especially given how sweetly this contrasts with its metallic light-silver speaker section and desktop stand.
The CE27LC3's connections roster is rather less easy on the eye. Unfortunately, the TV carries no digital video inputs (DVI or HDMI), no component video inputs, and no PC inputs. At a stroke, this rules out hi-def compatibility (Sky or otherwise) and progressive scan, not to mention anyway of using your PC.
We might just have been able to forgive the lack of high definition friendliness on such a cheap and cheerful screen, but no progressive scan as well is a bitter pill indeed. It's not even as if Sanyo has replaced the high-end connection options with lots of more basic TV staples. You get just two Scarts, and there isn't even a four-pin S-video jack.
Further signs of cost-induced corner-cutting materialise with the CE27LC3's features - or shortage thereof. When the only significant finding is a Light Monitoring option which adjusts the picture in response to the ambient light levels in your room, you know you're in trouble! This lack of tricks is a double shame, since the CE27LC3's excellent operating system could easily have handled a bit more feature sophistication.
The CE27LC3's pictures largely live down to the expectations formed by its connections and features. Exhibit one is the fairly excessive amount of smearing over motion. This suggests a rather underwhelming LCD response time, which in turn suggests that the core panel technology at the CE27LC3's heart is probably not the most up to date in the world.
The CE27LC3 also falls at that other fairly fundamental LCD hurdle - contrast. This affects the picture during dark scenes in three ways: it limits depth of field; it mutes colours and frequently gives them an unnatural tone; and it reduces the amount of background detail and texture you can make out.
The CE27LC3 isn't a total dead loss, though. Under the least trying of conditions - by which we mean fairly static, bright, controlled, studio-shot footage like Sky News or GMTV - the smearing and contrast issues fade into the background and colours take on a much more vigorous, pleasing hue.
The screen also has a decent inherent fine detail performance (it's just a shame that this is only free to impress when not sullied by the smearing problem). In fact, we'd go so far as to say that, at times, the CE27LC3 can actually look rather good. It's just a shame these times are too few and far between for comfort.
The CE27LC3 doesn't really up its game sonically. There's a fundamental lack of bass, which makes the soundstage flat during action scenes and voices thin even during quiet, 'chatty' scenes. At least the soundstage gets thrown surprisingly wide, and has quite a lot of detail in it.
We admire Sanyo for pricing the CE27LC3 so aggressively, but if this is the sort of quality such a low price gets, we'd frankly rather try and save up for an extra few months for something better. John Archer