- Review Price: £549.95
If you ask us, the big TV brands have been missing a trick over the past couple of years. They seem to have got so caught up in making screens bigger and picking sides in the HD DVD/Blu-ray war that they’ve forgotten almost completely about what we believe could still be a very lucrative money spinner: the LCD TV/DVD combi.
A quick poll of a few friends and work colleagues confirms this. When asked if they’d like the second TV in their bedroom, study or kitchen to have a built-in DVD player, the vast majority of them said yes, they would. The only rider was that they didn’t want to have to pay too much extra for the privilege. Typical…
Happily for these and other tightwads, LG finally seems to have spotted this current market ‘hole’, and is out to fill it with the 32LG4000.
This is a 32in LCD TV with a DVD player built into its rear that only costs £550 – a price that wouldn’t look high for any 32in LCD TV, never mind one with built-in DVD playback.
Impressively the 32LG4000’s inclusion of a built-in DVD player hasn’t really compromised its aesthetics at all. In fact, with its gloss black bezel and deep red underside and rear, it’s a bit of a stunner. The DVD slot is completely invisible from the front, only becoming apparent if you stick your head around the TV’s right side – something that’s made easier by the fact that the set can be mounted on a swivelling desktop stand.
As with a growing number of TVs these days, the 32LG4000 isn’t prepared to have its looks compromised by anything so ‘ugly’ as normal speakers. So it uses a combination of ‘exciters’ built into the panel and subwoofers to deliver its sound without the usual speaker grilles.
What’s more, the audio has apparently been tuned by audio guru Mark Levinson, and fires straight out at the viewer rather than slightly down towards the floor as can happen with conventional hidden speaker technology.
Not surprisingly for such an affordable 32in TV with a standard def DVD player built in, the 32LG4000 is not a Full HD set, instead topping out at the 1,366 x 768 HD Ready level. If you find this a touch disappointing, it’s worth saying that it could actually work to the TV’s advantage, as we’ve commonly found that HD Ready TVs do a better job than Full HD TVs when it comes to showing standard definition sources such as DVDs.
And anyway, the TV’s other specifications look pretty tasty, as a solid brightness output of 500cd/m2 joins forces with a really quite spectacular claimed contrast ratio of 50,000:1. Ah, if only manufacturers’ claimed contrast ratios could really be trusted…
The set is also well connected for a TV with a built-in DVD player, including as it does, three HDMIs, all built to the v1.3 standard, a PC input, and a digital audio output. We were initially also chuffed to spot a USB port, but on closer inspection this turns out to be for Service use only, rather than a portal for viewing our digital photos. Darn.
Casting our net for other features uncovers 1080p/24 compatibility and the ability of the DVD player to play DiVX discs. There are also a series of thematic video presets including a dedicated game mode, and a surprising number (given the TV’s price) of really subtle bits and bobs such as contrast and colour boosters, gamma adjustment, and a black level booster. In fact, the TV can even be calibrated by an Imaging Science Foundation engineer to suit your room’s day and night conditions.
The only unexpected absentee from the features list is LG’s XD Engine video processing system – something that we’ve previously come to expect as pretty much a fixture of all LG TVs.
The good news is that we didn’t find ourselves missing the XD Engine as much as we might have expected. In fact, in some ways we arguably found the set’s pictures more natural without it, especially with standard definition sources, as they tend to look slightly less noisy and gritty on the 32LG4000 than they can on some XD Engine models.
More unexpectedly, the 32LG4000 doesn’t seem to blur motion as overtly as we found with LG’s XD Engine-equipped 32LG5000 set not too long ago. The problem is still certainly noticeable, especially with standard definition fare, but it seems generally slightly easier to live with. It’s worth noting, too, that the lack of heavy processing on the TV leaves it free of the edge glitching and shimmering problems that can afflict some more processing-heavy sets during camera pans.
On the downside, pictures aren’t as detailed or crisp as we’ve found with XD Engine sets, especially where standard definition is concerned. But overall there are times, at least, where I actually preferred the 32LG4000’s softer but more natural approach.
The 32LG4000 also scores points for its brightness, and the extreme saturations of its colours. In fact, some bold reds and blues look just about as vibrant as I’ve seen them on any 32in LCD TV, never mind one as cheap as the 32LG4000.
HD images also look likeably crisp even though there’s no XD Engine to help out, and the set is having to downscale the UK’s 1080-line HD sources to its native 1,366 x 768 pixel count. Admittedly, we’ve seen Full HD sets deliver even more HD sharpness – especially those with 100Hz processors – but we’ve also seen full HD sets look softer with HD, too.
One key area where the 32LG4000 does fall rather short of some of its latest rivals, though, is its black response. Parts of the picture that should be black during the night scenes of John Carpenter’s ”Escape From New York on Blu-ray” seem to ‘glow’ a touch, as the set fails to control the backlight output as successfully as we’d like. This can leave dark scenes struggling to show shadow detail and looking a little flat, even after careful tweaking of the various gamma and black level options.
The black level problems do not, at least, affect the set’s colour toning as much as we might have expected, and aren’t severe enough to stop normal bright, general TV fare looking punchy. But the more extreme contrast demands of a typical film can certainly catch it out.
It doesn’t help, either, that the TV has a pretty small viewing angle, which finds black levels dropping off rapidly once you start to move beyond 40 degrees or so off axis.
Turning our attentions to the 32LG4000’s DVD playback, it proves to be a likeable if unremarkable affair, that can display crisp, reasonably clean pictures only very slightly affected by MPEG twitching, stutter or blocking artefacts. In other words, it’s as good as you’ve got any right to expect on a combi product like this, with the picture quality of your DVDs only let down by the picture foibles of the TV’s screen.
Sonically I was slightly underwhelmed by the 32LG4000 thanks to the way the soundstage becomes a bit muddy and even distorts slightly under moments of duress like those found at regular intervals during your average action film. To be fair, though, the audio is reasonably rich and clear during less demanding ‘daytime TV’-style fare.
The 32LG4000’s built-in DVD deck, really pretty design and very aggressive price make it a uniquely attractive second-room LCD TV option. Provided you’re not too upset by its unfortunate though certainly not disastrous black level shortcomings.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 6
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