Hitachi was one of the first Japanese AV brands to officially ditch CRT technology so it's just as well that since then, it's mostly done very nicely with its plasma and LCD TVs. But with a price tag of just £230, can Hitachi's 15in 15LD3200 keep up the good work?
It's certainly far from glamorous. A bit of rounding along the top and bottom edges and some black side panels don't compensate for the drab dark grey colour scheme and overtly plasticky finish of the fascia.
And things don't improve much when it comes to connections. While the key video options (RGB Scart, composite video input, S-video input) are all present, there's no PC input, stopping you from doubling it up as a computer monitor.
There aren't many other features of interest, either. In fact, the only things worth a passing mention are an audio extension mode, a dynamic skin tone adjustor for tweaking the colour tone where flesh is detected, and a system where the picture settings can be adjusted to accommodate 'bright', 'normal' and 'movie' room light level options.
At least the screen's claimed specifications of a 1,024 x 768 native resolution and 430cd/m2 brightness level sound pretty promising although an underwhelming figure of 400:1 for the contrast ratio does raise concerns.
The 15LD3200 turns out to be a rather average performer. Its most striking problems concern its colours, which combine a general lack of vibrancy with some fairly off-key toning. And before you ask, the 'dynamic skin tone' adjustor does precious little to improve matters. Colours sometimes flare a little too, resulting in bleed and softness.
Elsewhere, dark portions of the picture tend to look rather hollow; more like black holes than integral parts of the picture. This situation is made worse at the top and bottom edges of the picture by some noticeable backlight seepage.
Yet another glitch comes from peak whites, which frequently appear over-exposed and can dominate the picture.
Maybe the TV can cheer us up with its sharpness? Not really. There are passable amounts of fine detail, but we're not talking anything special; the picture is softened by traces of LCD response time smearing over anything moving.
However, there are a few positives. First, the picture is slightly brighter than many of its ultrabudget rivals. Second, there's not much video noise to worry about aside from the smearing mentioned earlier. And finally, dark scenes do enjoy some reasonably deep black levels except for where the backlight seepage interferes.
As usual with LCD TVs of this size there's a fundamental lack of bass, and peak trebles can sound harsh. But at least there's a reasonably open mid-range that keeps dialogue clear and doesn't distort under pressure.
It's fair to say that the 15LD3200 is far from Hitachi's finest hour, proving uninspiring in just about every way. Still, perhaps this is no more than you might expect from one of the UK's cheapest LCD TVs.