- Review Price: £899.00
If you’ve ever spent weeks arguing with other halves about owning AV gear because of all the ‘clutter’ it makes, then the Humax LP32-TDR1 could just be the answer to your prayers – not to mention the saviour of your relationship.
How come? Because it’s two, arguably even three home cinema gadgets all wrapped up in a single, rather fetching little body. The sort of thing, in other words, that not even the most Chintz-loving technophobe could reasonably complain about.
The first thing the LP32 is, of course, is a TV – and an HD Ready TV at that, thanks to its 32in, 16:9 aspect ratio screen playing host to a pixel count of 1,366 x 768. Other specs of interest for the TV part of the LP32 include the use of Faroudja’s renowned DCDi image processing/deinterlacing system, picture in picture functionality, and the provision among its connections of HDMI, component, PC, Scart, S-Video and composite video, as well as a digital audio output for shipping 5.1-channel audio from digital broadcasts and HDMI inputs to a surround sound receiver if you have one.
It’s a shame that there’s only one HDMI, but considering how much else the LP32 is giving you for £900, we guess it’s just about acceptable. The HDMI is only a 1.2-spec effort, by the way, not one of the new feature and performance-boosting 1.3 types just starting to appear on one or two high-end TVs.
The second key function that LP32 has is a digital video recording. For remarkably it sports a built-in hard disk drive (HDD) recording system with a seriously healthy 160GB of storage space. That’s enough for up to 100 hours of recordings, with the exact amount depending on which of the three provided recording quality options you plump for.
Inevitably there are limitations to what this HDD system can do; you can’t, say, record HD material from external AV sources like a Sky HD receiver or Blu-ray player. But it will record absolutely anything you like from the built-in Freeview tuner.
This Freeview tuner is actually the third of the home cinema gadgets we said the LP32 had rolled into one. Yes, yes, we know that a digital tuner is hardly unique; most LCD TVs these days have them built in rather than forcing you to use an external Freeview receiver. But frankly if we can think of any argument, however lame, that can boost our case for the clutter-busting potential of the LP32, we’re going to use it. So there!
Naturally the Freeview tuner is backed up by full 8-day EPG support, and there’s the facility to set up to 12 timer recording events simply by selecting desired programmes from the listings. In addition to this, the HDD can ‘cache’ the content of the channel it’s set to, so you can rewind a programme that’s on if you, say, walk in just after it’s started. The HDD system also supports live TV pausing.
Another key element in the LP32’s make up is the fact that it actually carries two digital tuners. This is obviously crucial on a TV with a built-in PVR, since it allows you to record one Freeview channel while watching another. Other smaller but still noteworthy features of the LP32 include SRS TruSurround XT audio processing for a wider soundstage, noise reduction options, and various settings for adjusting the appearance of skin tones.
With so much clear and winning potential in its cut-price armoury, it’s a pity that a somewhat uninspiring performance level takes the gloss off the LP32’s considerable surface appeal.
Pictures initially make a fairly winning impression, mind. A combination of some surprisingly deep black levels for this price point and bright, richly saturated colours ensure that images make an instant, aggressive impact – especially with the dynamic colour schemes of animated movies or Xbox 360 HD games.
Colours actually bear up quite well with subtler fare too, though, as the low-lit skin tones and subdued backdrops of the Mines of Moria sequence in The Fellowship of The Ring all appear with a pleasing degree of naturalism.
Another string to the LP32’s visual bow is its sharpness. HD fodder from a Sky HD receiver, Xbox 360 and HD DVD player all looks likeably detailed and clear, with less detail being lost to smearing and blur during horizontal motion than we might have expected of such a cut-price LCD unit. There are certainly LCD TVs out there that can look sharper still, but you’ll usually have to pay much more to get them.
Turning now to recordings made from the digital tuner to the LP32’s HDD, the quality is very good in the highest quality mode. There’s a touch more noise, especially in dark areas, than you’d get with a Sky+ recording, perhaps, but it’s a very solid effort for the money. What’s more, even the two lower quality recording settings are perfectly watchable if you have to use them to save HDD space.
With the set’s pictures also coping rather better with standard definition than we might have anticipated, you’re probably starting to wonder why we described the LP32’s performance as ‘somewhat uninspiring’ earlier. There are actually two key reasons.
First, although the screen’s black levels are good in terms of the depths of blackness they can attain, dark picture areas also look distinctly hollow thanks to a rather severe shortage of the sort of shadow detailing and greyscale subtlety that we rely on to make dark scenes convincing and three-dimensional. This flaw can also make dark parts of a picture seem rather over-dominant at times.
Our second issue with the LP32 concerns its audio, which betrays quite a bit of harshness when pushed with, say, an action scene. This is caused by a lack of any real extension into either the treble or bass departments, leaving too much audio info crammed into too narrow a sonic space.
Although the AV purist in us at TrustedReviews can’t quite see past the LP32’s performance failings, it’s certainly not so bad that it doesn’t at least deserve to be considered by anyone seeking to significantly up their home cinema ante while keeping the peace with their other half.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 6