Checking out the C1973F’s other key specifications, we find a claimed contrast ratio of 850:1, a claimed brightness of 300cd/m2, and a native resolution which, at 1,440 x 900, is actually much higher than anticipated.
However, before HD fans start punching the air and getting all unnecessary, if you apply a bit of maths to the PC friendly 1,440 x 990 resolution, it works out to a native screen ratio of around 16:10, rather than the 16:9 we’d usually expect from a widescreen TV.
This ‘squarer’ native widescreen shape isn’t unique; we’ve witnessed it on a few other sub-26in TVs in the past too. But as you might expect, it occasionally has a disturbing impact on a video picture’s appearance, leaving widescreen images either looking squashed, or as if their top and bottom was missing. Hmmm.
Heading into the C1973F’s onscreen menus immediately sets my teeth on edge. For they fall into the classic, utterly stupid trap of being so small you can barely read them unless you stick your nose right up against the screen.
The remote control is a very hit and miss affair, too. On the upside it’s large and spaciously laid out, with easy to access DVD playback buttons at the bottom. But on the downside it’s extremely light and plasticky, and some key buttons are both poorly labeled and ill positioned, not falling to hand or eye at all readily.
Straining my eyes to explore the C1973F’s onscreen menus uncovers precious few feature surprises, as is probably to be expected given how much the set has already offered up for its sub-£300 price point. The only things worthy of even a passing mention are a noise reduction system, and a passable selection of themed picture presets (including Game, Sport, and Movie options).
Checking out the C1973F’s basic picture performance first, from HD (up to the maximum supported format of 1080i) and Freeview sources, it’s clear pretty quickly that it’s nothing to write home about.
Particularly disturbing during any sort of dark scene is the amount of backlight seepage you have to put up with. A grey line of light around a cm thick – or more – spills across the picture along the top and bottom edges, sometimes really distracting you from what you’re watching.
The screen’s colours aren’t anything special either, looking slightly muted generally, and suffering a few noticeably unnatural looking tones, especially when trying to show rich reds and blues. Skin tones, too, tend to look either a bit pasty or slightly over-saturated.
Some of these colour issues at least, can be laid at the door of another problem – an underwhelming black level response, which finds dark scenes looking cloudy rather than containing any nice, inky blacks.
To be fair, the C1973F’s black level response isn’t disastrously bad – I’ve certainly seen worse. But it’s markedly less impressive than that of some other small TVs we’ve seen recently, such as LG’s 22LU5000. Especially when you also take into account the backlight seepage issue noted earlier.
Another area where the C1973F is average is motion clarity. Watch any fast-paced sport on the screen and the athletes noticeably lose resolution as they pass across the screen.
This is, of course, a very common problem with LCD TVs, especially cheap, small ones. But that doesn’t alter the fact that in an ideal world, at least, it would have been nice to find the TV doing a little more to combat the problem. Especially as the blurring can leave even HD sources looking far less sharp and detailed than we’d like.
Actually, even when HD images are fairly static they don’t look significantly sharper, to my eyes, than the pictures from a good quality standard-def DVD. Still, it’s not particularly realistic to expect any 19in TV – never mind a cheap one – to be a showcase for the high definition format, so I don’t think it’s fair to dwell on this point too much.
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