Ever fancied an LCD TV on your bedside table? No, nor have we, but this tiny, portable photo album with a TV tuner inside is an unusual - and surprisingly versatile - machine that could do the job, and certainly qualifies as a 'novelty TV'.
It's probably of best use as a luxury photo album for a desktop or even a living room, as two slots in the top allow for slideshow playback from a plethora of media cards - although it can't play XD cards, so owners of Olympus cameras look away now.
From most other formats it can play JPEGs, MP3 and WMA music files stored on a card, and even MPEG video footage. A USB input taking memory sticks would have been nice, but maybe that's asking too much from such a tiny TV.
So, a rolling slideshow of family pictures is on offer for the sentimental, while those of a more solo disposition can use the Visart as a TV thanks to its aerial input and integrated analogue tuner. It's also got basic composite video and left and right audio inputs, so it's possible to connect a DVD player or games console for some small (but perfectly formed?) movie/games action.
There's also a function to make all of those inputs work as outputs, so you could put a media card into the Visart and view them on any TV or projector.
As for placing, the Visart can be hung from a wall, but its vertical viewing angle is so restrictive that unless it's hung in your exact line of sight it's unlikely to impress. Better to use the adjustable stand - which works just like a picture frame's support - to get the optimum picture.
While its black with orange stripes design is a little brave, the Visart looks compact and very slim, and also manages to house basic functions on its right side. The remote control loads on all other functions, although it's so small you might mistake it for a media card!
Not that any mistakes are possible on the on-screen menus, which are easily navigated and simple to operate. Toggling between modes and inputs - photo viewing, media player (music), TV and DVD/games console - couldn't be simpler, and a file library system gives you easy access to individual files stored on a media card. There are also options to tweak brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation, hue and colour temperature until you find the ideal combination. And this does take some time.
Our hopes for the Visart's performance weren't exactly sky-high because of its limited screen resolution of just 640 x 480, and true to these specifications, pictures from a variety of media cards did look low on contrast and sharpness. Blacks looked washed out and grey - as did most colours - while backgrounds were noisy and soft. The zoom function only makes things worse.
Analogue TV pictures suffered from an equally small colour palette and a lot of picture noise, although we can't blame Visart for inherently poor quality broadcasts. Things were better both with DVDs and an Xbox console hooked up via composite video, however, with less noise on show.
The audio from the two tiny speakers on the Visart's top-end are, predictably, far too small for anything demanding. While behaving well with simple TV, there was no audible bass even at its highest setting, so DVDs, games and especially music were treated to a functional run-through at best.
Poor viewing angles, washed out colours and lots of picture noise: it's like the bad old days of LCD, only in miniature! We can see what Visart is trying to do with this multi-functional product, but it just doesn't do it with enough attention to quality.