The twin attractions of HDTV and the World Cup have brought a flurry of new HD Ready LCDs onto the market from hitherto unheard of companies in the flatscreen world. Already a brand of some note in Europe, Acer - better known over here as a PC manufacturer - has moved into the UK market with this simply designed 32in unit which it has cutely named the AT3205.
Chubby but wall mountable, the TV sits atop an ugly desktop stand. Its bulky frame is fl anked by wide speakers, which can be removed.
Overall the haul of connections is impressive. As well as the HDMI input, there's also a DVI input that's HDCP-compatible and so able to take a second HD feed. A year ago it was almost impossible to fi nd a TV with two digital inputs and now they're appearing on budget sets.
While budget HD Ready TVs such as this one rarely have much in the way of picture processing, the AT3205 boasts 'Acer empowering technology'. Comprising of a grey button on the remote labelled with a huge 'e', it brings up a menu, which can store favourite channels or settings - almost like a post-it note that can be accessed at any time.
While we're here it's worth mentioning the remote control, which features nicely laid out buttons. There's even a button for selecting sources including TV, Scart and PC, but there's no mention of any of the higher quality inputs.
Other features include a digital noise reduction setting and several picture and sound preset.
A blast of 720p HD footage via the component video inputs starts off our test on a strong footing. Although colours are rich and well saturated and detail is as good as we've seen on the AT3205's contemporaries, there's some blurring and judder over movement during extreme close-ups. It's not as serious on other budget TVs we've seen, but other minor issues with jagged edges and picture noise over dark areas of the picture are a shame. However, there's a good deal more contrast here than you've any right to expect, backed up by our very healthy lab-measured contrast ratio of 630:1. Toggle on the digital noise reduction and things get a touch cleaner without impacting on the image's sharpness.
Other sources look distinctly second best on the AT3205. A run through of our high octane Transporter 2 test DVD - upscaled to 1080i from a HDMI DVD player - looks decidedly soft and features a lot of picture noise, again in dark areas. Attach a Scart and things get a little softer, obviously, but also messy, with blurring more obvious and quite distracting.
Freeview channels, meanwhile, are tuned in quickly and look good.
Aside from HD pictures, the AT3205's speakers are the other highlight. Stereo's decent but the SRS WOW mode really widens the soundstage (although the sound in general could do with more bass).
All of which means that the AT3205 isn't just another HD Ready cheapie display - there's enough quality here in both picture and sound to make this a good value, if basic option. Jamie Carter