We wouldn't expect to find a great many fancy features on a TV as cheap as the CE32LD81, and it doesn't let us down! After an in-depth trawl of the dated-looking onscreen menus, all that's worth a mention are a noise reduction routine and a Film Mode for boosting motion handling during movies. And so with that, we find ourselves getting stuck into the performance part of this review rather earlier than we normally would. Just as well, then, that there's plenty to talk about, most of which is not that complimentary, unfortunately.
Things start badly, when it turns out that our CE32LD81 doesn't actually work properly with our Sky HD receiver. To explain, we've got our receiver set to its ‘Auto' output - definitely the one that everyone should use to get the best picture quality from all the different resolutions available - which means it automatically shifts between 576p and 1080i output depending on whether the source material selected is HD or standard def.
Normally, the box's switching from a standard def to a high def channel merely results in a momentary blanking of your TV's screen as it adjusts its output from standard def to HD. But with the CE32LD81 the HD picture appears without the sound, which takes almost a minute to suddenly rejoin the picture. Weird.
The situation is even worse if you change to a standard def channel from a high def one, as this invariably causes the TV to ‘crash', requiring you to switch it off and on again. Nuts.
The grumpiness naturally raised by this Sky HD debacle is hardly alleviated by first impressions of the CE32LD81's picture quality. For starters, black levels are pretty much as weak as we'd feared from the 1,200:1 contrast ratio claim. There's clear evidence of the tell-tale greyness over dark picture areas that always characterises TVs with contrast problems, at times making some of Halo 3's darker corners quite difficult to see into - not what you want when you've stupidly decided to do the campaign on Legendary level. There's also a distinct lack of subtle background detailing in dark parts of the picture, leaving them looking hollow and dislocated from the rest of the image.