HD inputs are limited to single HDMI and component video ports. The latter is pretty much par for the course, but only one HDMI is pretty stingy these days, especially considering that more and more HDMI source devices are appearing – Blu-ray, HD DVD, PS3, Sky HD etc. You also get a D-SUB PC input, along with S-Video and composite inputs. Unusually, Atec has included both coaxial and optical digital audio outputs, just in case Freeview starts to broadcast Dolby Digital sound and you have an external amplifier or decoder. Finally there’s a couple of Scarts, one of which is RGB.
Obviously the inclusion of the digital audio outputs give away the fact that this TV has a digital tuner built in, which is quite a novelty at this price point, especially when you consider that it has an analogue tuner too. The digital tuner managed to lock onto the full complement of Freeview channels, even from the dodgy reception area of the TR offices. I also liked the way that when you change channels it tells you what’s currently showing and what’s on next. I was therefore surprised at how disappointing the EPG is. You can only look at the schedule for the currently selected channel, one day at a time – not ideal. You’re also stuck with the basic Freeview channels, because the Atec doesn’t have a CI slot, leaving you without the option for upgrading to subscription channels.
The hybrid digital/analogue tuner does give you the option of some picture in picture fun though. You can have an analogue channel playing in the corner of the screen, or even have the screen split 50/50 between the two. Of course this isn’t anything new, but it’s unusual to see it in a budget TV like this one.
Atec quotes a luminance of 500cd/m2, which is par for the course, while the quoted 1200:1 contrast ratio is well above average, but also very optimistic. I say that the quoted contrast ratio is very optimistic because the Atec exhibits very black levels. No matter how I adjusted the set, the pictures always maintained that grey cast that used to commonly plague LCD screens. To make matters worse, even though it’s nigh on impossible to achieve a solid black level, the Atec still managed to lose detail in dark areas. What’s interesting is that even though Atec’s website quotes a 1200:1 contrast ratio, as does Spot On (the supplier of the sample), the user manual that came with the AV371DS lists a far more believable 500:1 contrast ratio!