- Review Price: £520.00
Before today, we thought we’d done a pretty fair job so far of covering HD Ready TVs across the pricing spectrum. Turns out we were wrong. How do we know this? Because we’ve been getting busy with a 27in HD Ready LCD set from Mirai that costs just – drum roll please – £520. Repeat: £520. That’s a cool £400 cheaper than the nearest rival product (Sagem’s 26in LCD HD-L26TP2) we’ve covered to date in our pre-World Cup TV frenzy.
As ever, though, where there’s a price as extravagantly cheap as this, the question that has to be asked is this: does the Mirai T27004 make its rivals look like overpriced chumps, or does it just prove once more the old adage that you only get what you pay for?
Aesthetically the T27004 fits the ‘only get what you pay for’ scenario all too well. The ‘design’, if you can call it that, is an exercise in dullness thanks to its uninspiring rectangular lines, drab grey colour scheme and depressingly plasticky build quality. Shudder.
Our mood starts to improve fast, though, as a search for connections uncovers that delectable HD Ready duo of a DVI input and a set of component video jacks. These two connections alone are impressive finds on a £520 27in LCD TV, but they’re also backed up by a pair of SCARTs, a PC port so that the TV can double up as a computer monitor (further increasing its value appeal), and even a subwoofer output so you can add your own external bass speaker. This latter jack is unusual but, as we’ll discover, also quite necessary…
The Mirai completes its HD Ready specifications with an HD-friendly native resolution of 1,366 x 768, and compatibility with the required 720p and 1080i HD picture formats. What’s more, while we’re on the subject of specifications it also boasts both a contrast ratio (900:1) and a brightness output (550cd/m2) that on paper shame many a more expensive rival. Let’s just hope these figures turn out to be reasonably reliable reflections of the Mirai’s performance rather than just the pie-in-the-sky numerical conjuring tricks they sometimes appear to be on other LCD screens.
Delving into the T27004 for more features, the first significant thing to report is actually something we couldn’t find: a digital tuner. The T27004 is analogue only. Hardly surprising given the ridiculously low price tag, but we have to mention it nonetheless.
Elsewhere, though, there are actually rather more features to play with than you might expect. For instance, a ‘film’ mode designed to adjust the set’s progressive scanning when watching films as opposed to TV demonstrates a much more serious attention to picture detail than we’d have expected for £520. And an option for improving skin tones also reveals an admirable willingness to try to tackle at least one of LCD technology’s most common video-displaying problems.
Plus you get a system for souping up colour vibrancy, three separate backlight settings for adjusting the screen’s brightness/contrast balance, and even a suite of handy picture in picture tools. Believe us, we’ve seen plenty more expensive sets offer nothing like such a thoughtful selection of AV tools.
Even more surprisingly, the T27004’s specifications and features really do translate into pretty respectable pictures. Kicking off the unexpected quantities of good stuff are some winningly deep black levels that portray dark scenes with relatively little of the greying over problems usually associated with the budget end of the LCD market.
The T27004 also shames a far more expensive model or two with its handling of motion, as moving objects and camera pans throw up impressively little of the smearing problems associated with poor response times on cheap LCDs.
HD footage, meanwhile, shows that the T27004’s HD Ready status isn’t just for show, as the picture looks sharp, and packed with the sort of fine details that are HD’s trademark.
While these strengths are good enough in themselves to make us at least respect the Mirai’s pictures, though, there are – perhaps inevitably given the set’s price – a few downers to report. Kicking off with some fairly severe colour tone issues during dark scenes. These see reds looking over-dominant and unnatural, and skin tones making people during dark footage look perpetually like they’re about to throw up.
Next, while we’re impressed with the Mirai’s black level depth, it has to be said that dark parts of the picture are lacking in subtle details, making them look like black holes rather than integral parts of the picture.
Another common LCD complaint that afflicts the T27004 is the way the picture quality degrades markedly – as in, more than we’d normally anticipate – when switching from high definition to standard definition sources. Colours get worse, detail levels deteriorate, and the level of motion smearing balloons.
Finally the T27004 clearly doesn’t have such sophisticated noise reduction processing as some of its costlier rivals, betraying general signs of pixel fizzing and sometimes highlighting MPEG blocking noise in digital sources like a standard definition Sky feed.
Despite its problems, though, the good still outweighs the bad in the T27004’s pictures. Which is more than can be said of its audio…
We’re used to relatively small LCD TVs lacking power and dynamic range in their audio performances, but the T27004’s shortage of these two audio essentials is particularly heinous. Explosions in films like Saving Private Ryan, for instance, thus sound more like someone popping a crisp packet, while treble sounds can become so harsh and thin they threaten to make your ears bleed.
You can at least improve the bass problem by making use of the provided subwoofer output – but to be honest, upping the bass in this way merely exaggerates the audio weaknesses elsewhere.
Mirai’s T27004 is the proverbial game of two halves. Its pictures, while certainly not perfect, are better than we would have expected from such an exceptionally cheap TV. Its sound, however, is wholly inadequate for anything beyond the gentle demands of daytime TV chat show fodder.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 4
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