Essentially the Goodmans’ pictures fall flat in three key areas. First and worst, its black levels are very underwhelming by today’s standards. Trying to play some courses on the Xbox 360’s Project Gotham Racing 3, for instance, proved a nightmare thanks to the way the screen greys over dark areas. I just couldn’t see the corners coming up until I hit them. Well, that’s my excuse anyway…
When it comes to TV and film viewing, the black level problems were just as irritating. For example, during the night assault on a Berlin factory in Mission: Impossible 3 on HD DVD, it was actually quite hard to make out what was going on at times, so flattened and obscured by greyness were the picture’s darkest areas.
Below par black levels such as these inevitably have a knock on effect when it comes to colour tones. And so it proves with the LD2661HDFVT. Skin tones during HD movie and especially TV-tuner viewing looked pretty odd at times, giving actors a decidedly sickly pallor. And the usually sumptuously rich, vibrant colour palette of Viva Pinata on the Xbox 360 suddenly looked a little drab and lifeless – as if I hadn’t been tending to my plants and animals properly!
The last big problem concerns the screen’s susceptibility to that age-old LCD problem of motion smearing. As Bond chased down his man in the ‘free running’ sequence near the start of Casino Royale, his movement lost considerable resolution thanks to the panel’s difficulties in refreshing itself fast enough to keep up with the action.
If you can be bothered to see past this fairly fundamental trio of glitches, the LD2661HDFVT isn’t wholly without talent. Brightly lit scenes with very few dark areas can look quite agreeable and passably dynamic, while very detailed HD scenes like the shots around Bud’s trailer in Kill Bill Volume 2 look surprisingly sharp (until things get moving at any speed, that is).
Oddly, it also seems to know its video scaling onions, making standard definition look rather less noisy than it does on many LCD TVs costing twice as much. However, it’s back to the grim stuff with the LD2661HDFVT’s sound. Vocals sound unrealistic and divorced from their sources, and even the most gentle of action scenes uncovers a near-criminal lack of bass.
On paper, the Goodmans LD2661HDFVT is one of the biggest bargains of this or any other year. But the reality is that while not quite a complete dog, the amount of performance compromises it asks you to make ultimately ensure that you really do only get what you pay for.