- Review Price: £379.97
Having recently looked at a 32in Technika TV from Tescos and found it average but not disastrous, I’m genuinely intrigued to now have my hands on another Tesco model with a bigger screen and a name you might actually have heard of: Grundig.
The Grundig GU37BLKSE is, as its name suggests, a 37in model, distinguished in time-honoured supermarket fashion by its price: a seriously low £379.97. And given that once upon a time the Grundig name was frequently associated with some pretty decent Germanic electronic engineering in days gone by, you’ll forgive me if I admit to a feeling of quiet optimism that at last I might have a genuinely great value budget set on my hands.
The face the GU37BLKSE presents to the world tries to look stylish, but ultimately doesn’t quite pull it off. The glossy black bezel is a bit too straightforward, plasticky and prone to showing finger marks, even though an angled-back speaker grille along the bottom gives it a decently neat counterpoint.
The GU37BLKSE’s connectivity is pretty much as I’d expect for such an inexpensive 37in LCD TV. Which means there are two HDMIs when I’d ideally like three, together with a single SCART, a component video input, a D-Sub PC port, and the usual S-Video and composite video fallbacks.
The first thing that kind of backs up my theory/hope that the GU37BLKSE might be a cut above the budget norm is its operating system. For this employs one of the most attractively presented onscreen menu arrangements I’ve seen, based around a rotating circle of icons at the top of the screen and some really clear and mostly well organised sub-menus that drop out of the bottom of whichever icon you’ve got selected. I’d have been impressed to find such a thoughtful system on a really high-end TV, never mind one as cheap as this Grundig.
The pity for the GU37BLKSE is that the extravagant elegance of its menus is not matched in the slightest by its remote control. This is a horribly plasticky effort with some of the most rubbery, nastily squidgy buttons I’ve ever come across. Its layout isn’t the greatest either, with the volume up/down buttons being particularly irritating.
It’s back to the good stuff with the set’s feature count, though. For those nice onscreen menus play host to a surprising number of tweaks, at least when it comes to getting the pictures to suit your taste.
For starters, there are both standard and MPEG noise reduction routines. Plus there’s an unusual Vibrant Colour mode, adjustable to low, medium or high, that quite drastically adjusts the general saturation level of the TV’s colours; a curious-sounding Perfect Clear mode that turns out to be a dynamic black level adjustment that automatically responds to the brightness or otherwise of the image content; a separate Dynamic Brightness setting that automatically tweaks the picture’s brightness according to the video content; and a further Dynamic Backlight element that can automatically adjust the backlight strength according to the TV’s calculation of the brightness of a particular shot or scene.
Add to all this an extremely flexible manual backlight adjustment, and it really is possible to achieve the sort of drastically different pictures that you’d normally obtain from a high-spec premium TV.
But are any of those ‘drastically different pictures’ actually any good? Kind of. Though they’re not as consistent as I’d like them to be.
Kicking off with the good news, the set does a surprisingly good job of upscaling standard definition sources to the screen’s 1,366 x 768 native resolution. The image retains a good degree of sharpness, yet this is achieved without also emphasising any noise that might exist in a DVD or, especially, a Freeview broadcast. Occasionally dark scenes can look a bit ‘alive’, especially if you’ve left the backlight set too high. But for the most part standard def pictures are more easily watchable than those of many much more expensive, Full HD screens we can think of.
The generally likeable sharpness levels extend to the TV’s HD images too, with evidence of HD material, such as visible pores and the definition to show individual strands of hair, easily making their way onto the GU37BLKSE’s screen. It’s nice – and very surprising – to note, too, that this sharpness isn’t affected as badly by LCD’s notorious motion blurring problem as we find with many budget TVs.
Also a cut above the budget norm are the GU37BLKSE’s black levels. With careful tweakage of the various backlight, contrast and brightness options, it’s possible to get dark scenes looking much less blighted by greyness than I’d expected. There’s a price to pay for this in the shape of some lost shadow detailing, which leaves dark corners feeling a little one-dimensional and empty. But this is less depressing than the typically extreme grey misting – something which itself can damage shadow detailing – witnessed on many budget TVs.
I should say, too, that dark scenes look impressively stable, with no really distracting brightness jumping even with all the TV’s contrast and brightness auto adjustment tools called into play.
The GU37BLKSE sadly shatters – or at least slaps about – my dreams of a stunning high value TV, though, with its colours. Basically, even if you use the Vibrant Colour setting on its highest level, pictures look strangely washed out, with tones – especially skin tones – regularly slipping into looking slightly off-key.
Oddly, during some really bright, colourful scenes, the set’s muted approach to colours can actually lead to images looking more ‘real’ than they do on many LCD rivals. But ultimately it’s the inconsistency that most sticks in your brain.
Another less troublesome problem of the GU37BLKSE is that its pictures tend to judder a bit, especially when showing 1080p/24 material. So I’d recommend leaving a Blu-ray player set to output 1080i if you end up owning the TV.
While the GU37BLKSE’s pictures might outperform the TV’s price in many ways, the same cannot be said of its sound. A really puny dynamic range makes the TV sound thin with even undemanding fair, especially as there’s practically no bass at all, and a compressed mid-range is also quickly exposed during anything resembling an action movie scene. Trebles tend to be over-exaggerated too. In other words, the GU37BLKSE is definitely not music to my ears.
Provided you have the means to run the GU37BLKSE alongside some kind of separate audio system, it can produce pictures which, while certainly far from perfect, are actually more watchable than those of many budget TVs. It’s just a pity that its colour problems will probably be a problem too far for anyone discerning enough about AV quality to be reading this website.
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Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 5