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With every new generation of flat TV, I find myself convinced that manufacturers just won't be able to keep offering more for less. As in, more features for less money. But then one - quite often LG - comes along to prove me wrong.
And it's happened again with LG's 32LH4000. For despite being a 32in LCD TV with a Full HD resolution, JPEG- and MP3-capable USB 2.0 input and '24p Real Cinema' playback, it can be yours for under £500.
LG has even managed to make the 32LH4000 quite a looker. The main bezel is chic and glamorous in its glossy black surround, while an elegant strip of subtle 'indigo blue' along the bottom edge adds a welcome touch of colour to proceedings.
It turns out that the USB slot we mentioned isn't the only attention-grabbing thing about the 32LH4000's connections, either. Its provision of three HDMIs is likeable for such a cheap TV too, and unlike some budget rivals, the 32LH4000 offers a D-Sub port for PC connection.
Things get even better as you head into the TV's onscreen menus. For a start, the menu interface provided for this TV is excellent; easy to read, well structured, and even quite pretty. The remote control's well laid out too, for the most part, making this one of those rare TVs that even your dear old nan would have little trouble handling. To ram this point home, the 32LH4000 even carries a Picture Wizard feature that guides you through image optimisation using a series of helpful test signals focussed on most of the key TV picture elements.
The other great point about the 32LH4000's menus is that they're bursting with features - or at least, there's much more flexibility on offer than you get with any other sub-£500 32in TV I can think of. Among the most useful of the myriad options are a multi-level dynamic contrast setting, a dynamic colour system, multi-level noise reduction processing, gamma adjustment, a black level booster, and even an Eye Care mode that ramps the image's brightness down to protect your peepers.
The set also features LG's Twin XD Engine processing doing its stuff behind the scenes, leaving an Edge Enhancer processor as the only feature we didn't get much joy out of. As with a similar system found on Samsung TVs, while the 32LH4000's edge enhancer does make pictures look crisper, it also makes them look harsh and inconsistent, especially if you set it any higher than its Low level.
LG can generally be relied on to play the 'numbers game' pretty well, and so as well as the Full HD resolution mentioned earlier, the 32LH4000 boasts a very eye-catching contrast ratio of 80,000:1. Naturally, this figure needs to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt. But it's impressive enough to at least have me hoping for some of the best black levels yet seen at the 32in level.
With Eco features currently hot property in the TV world, I'll also add that the 32LH4000 has earned an official Smart Energy Saving Plus recommendation for its energy efficiency, and carries LG's Intelligent Sensor II, which can adjust the image's brightness in response to the light level in your room.
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