For our last TV review of 2007, it seemed only appropriate that we looked at a TV with its eyes set firmly on the future. More specifically, a future without analogue TV.
For like it or not, in an ongoing three-to-four year process starting pretty much now, parts of the UK are suddenly and dramatically going to find their analogue TV broadcasts being shut down, leaving the terrestrial digital Freeview service as their only means of watching any telly.
So it's nice to find in the shape of LG's 42in 42LT75 LCD TV that manufacturers are finally starting to pay more than mere ‘I guess we'd better stick a digital tuner in there' lip service to the Freeview system. What makes the 42LT75 different/special is its Freeview Playback accreditation. In fact, this is the first Freeview Playback TV launched in the UK.
Freeview Playback, in case you've missed all the recent TV ads about it, is effectively an attempt to bring the joys of Sky+ recording to Freeview's own digital service. And so any device - TV, separate receiver - that wants to be Freeview Playback-certified has to have, among other things, a built-in hard disk drive recorder, twin digital tuners so you can watch one digital channel while recording another, and - huzzah! - Series Link functionality whereby the HDD will automatically track and record every episode of your favourite shows, so you never have to worry about missing them again.
Freeview Playback devices also allow you to pause live TV, rewind live TV, or track live TV (as in, you watch a show a minute or two behind while it continues to record ahead of you). Plus you can set recordings/series links simply by selecting programmes from the 7-day electronic programme guide. So as you can see, Freeview Playback really does do pretty much everything for Freeview that Sky+ does for Sky Digital.
At this point, anyone who took a break from stuffing themselves full of turkey and chocolate to read our Christmas Day review of the Hitachi P50XR01 TV might be wondering what really makes the LG 42LT75 so special, as it merely seems to share much of its functionality with the Hitachi (which also had a built-in HDD recorder).
The answer is that as well as sporting the all-important Series Link system conspicuously absent from the Hitachi model, the LG 42LT75's recording and operating system has been developed completely in cooperation with Freeview technicians to meet a defined set of ‘Freeview Playback' standards. By comparison, the Hitachi just does its own thing.
And the results of the LG/Freeview collaboration are sublimely apparent in the 42LT75's operating system, which is as near perfect as you'll probably ever get on a TV with so many features to its name. For instance, making and accessing recordings on the HDD is incredibly easy thanks to superbly organised onscreen menus and a terrifically well thought-through remote control. And playback features such as rewinding, fast forwarding and ‘live pausing' fall to hand so easily that even the most nervous of technophobes will be getting the most from every aspect of the 42LT75 within hours.