I said the ST321MBB was HD Ready back there, but in fact the ST321MBB can do rather better than that. For it’s actually got a Full HD resolution - another notable achievement for such an affordable 32in TV.
There’s no denying, however, that the set’s other specifications don’t look quite so hot when laid side by side with those of our favourite LCD TVs. For instance, Hannspree only rates the ST321MBB’s contrast ratio at 10,000:1 in the set’s dynamic mode - a far cry from the hundreds of thousands, even millions to one now being regularly quoted (albeit optimistically) by most of the mainstream brands.
This relatively low contrast ratio obviously raises concerns over the likely quality of the TV’s black levels. And its quoted response time of 6ms, while not actually bad, still makes me wonder if I’m going to see quite a bit of response time-related motion blur in the ST321MBB’s pictures. Especially as the set doesn’t seem to have any significant video processing to talk of, aside from a pretty basic 3:2 pulldown system.
Of course, though, this is all mere supposition at the moment. So let’s switch the TV on via the flimsy remote control and see if my concerns prove well founded.
Sadly, they do. It takes all of five minutes, viewing pretty undemanding footage, to realise that the ST321MBB is a bit off today’s pace in the picture department.
Regarding motion blur, pictures pretty much continually portray that familiar lack of crispness over anything that’s moving with any speed, leaving action sequences looking soft and ‘misty’ - even if they’re coming in from an HD source. Actually, pictures even look soft if there isn’t much motion going on. This is especially true with standard definition, which some clearly uninspiring processing fails to upscale to the screen’s Full HD resolution with any real conviction.
But the ST321MBB sadly also fails to get the most from its Full HD resolution even when watching HD, as to my eyes its HD pictures lack the clarity and ‘sparkle’ that I’m increasingly expecting to see even on budget TVs. In fact, for much of the time I’d say that the ST321MBB’s HD pictures - even when pretty static - look more DVD than Blu-ray. Boo.
Dark scenes, meanwhile, look almost as greyed over and flattened as I feared they would, leaving them looking generally unconvincing and short of the sort of shadow details that help give dark scenes a believable sense of depth.
If I was being really picky, I’d say too that there’s a very slight trace of backlight inconsistency - though I only really noticed this a couple of times, and wouldn’t consider it anywhere near as much of a deal breaker as some of the other issues I’m talking about.