A fair-to-middling all-round performer, but it is a bit expensive
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Sooner or later, the famous Sky logo was bound to grace a television's frame as well as the contents of its screen, and so it is with the 17in SLCD1701.
Encased in a cute glossy black screen frame with silver speaker section beneath, Sky has one over the other LCD screens in this test in the shape of a curved slot on its right side to play DVDs.
Nice feature, but it comes at a cost - connectivity is hit and miss. On the plus side there's a standard D-Sub PC jack. But on the downside there's just a single Scart, and no video or audio output options for the DVD deck. This means you can't use the DVD player with a bigger screen or, more significantly, pipe out a digital soundtrack to an external home cinema system. Shame.
What's more, day-to-day use of the SLCD1701 is rather nightmarish due to its use of ridiculously puny on-screen menus that you need a magnifying glass to use without straining your eyes. And some of the remote control's buttons are too small for comfort.
At least you won't actually have to spend long with those retina-damaging menus, since they don't contain enough features to tempt you back into them very often! In fact, only the DVD deck's ability to play HDCD discs is worth mentioning - even though nobody in their right mind would want to play these better-than-normal-CD discs through this TV's built-in speakers.
The SLCD1701's performance boasts one or two qualities that make us feel a touch happier. Particularly striking is the naturalism of the picture. For instance, colours look rich but not preternaturally so, and also boast one of the most authentic tones we've seen from an LCD screen.
Also impressive is this TV's relative immunity to LCD's common smearing issues. No major motion problems are apparent as the hopelessly puny Average Joe's dodge shots from Globo Gym's impossibly athletic players on our Dodgeball test DVD, and the image remains pure and clear. It's sharp too - even though this seems to be more down to the lack of smearing and impressively contained and noiseless edges than any particularly noteworthy fine detail response.
The SLCD1701's biggest picture weakness is its contrast. Although it has a bit of a better stab at presenting decent black levels than JVC's LT-17C50 (see page 54), greyness nevertheless stops dark scenes having any field depth or background texture. Things aren't helped by strips of what appears to be seepage from the backlight on the top and bottom of the picture.
DVD playback is okay, but nothing more, with the screen's contrast issue being joined by a general slight softness and traces of MPEG noise. But then, we guess that the SLCD1701's one-box compactness will probably offer great appeal to its target audience - and perhaps they won't be put off by reasonably minor performance issues.
The SLCD1701's speakers manage to avoid the sorts of distortion and 'phutting' common with small LCDs. Trebles sound a bit less harsh than usual, the soundstage is surprisingly large and there's a reasonably credible mid-range. Bass is at a premium, though, and the maximum volume available is hardly earth-shattering.
The SLCD1701 just about passes muster - though this is more due to the uniqueness of its proposition than any spectacular talents. There may be few 17in LCD TV/DVD combis, but DMTech's DML-3117WD has a screen almost as good, a better built-in DVD player and a digital audio output - and costs just £600. Therefore we would insist that Sky cut the price of the SLCD1701 before we would even consider jumping for joy.
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