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21-INCH NICAM TVs

 

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Hitachi C2146TN £379.99

Whilst most TV manufacturers seem to want to conceal the stereo speakers on their NICAM TVs Hitachi are not afraid to make a feature of them on the C2146TV. Theyíre stuck out on the sides of the screen where they add a to the overall width of the set, making it seem a little larger than it actually is, though itís none the worse for that.

 

Hitachi have played it fairly safe with the features. In addition to NICAM and fastext it has a semi-automatic set-up routine, twin SCART AV inputs on the back, a set of front-mounted AV sockets (including an S-Video connector), on/off timer and a full set of menu-driven on-screen displays. Tuning operations are carried out from the remote control; the sweep tuner gives the user the option to set the order in which stations appear, a teletext channel ident appears at the bottom the screen. Incidentally, the remote handset will also control the main functions on Hitachi VCRs. 

 

Selections from the on-screen menu are made using the fastext colour buttons, which takes a little getting used to but in the end itís just as quick as the more usual number or moving cursor systems used by other manufacturers. In fact the set is very well behaved, though actual channel changing is comparatively slow, and the picture takes a moment or two to settle between stations.

 

The picture is reasonably sharp, with a good contrast range, even in strong ambient light, though colours are a mite restrained, moreover the factory default on our sample had the saturation set a little too high. Sound performance is fair to middling. In spite of the wide-set speakers stereo seperation is not appreciably better than rival models, the stereo-wide option helps expand the soundstage a little but it only really comes alive on heavily engineered soundtracks. Average picture and sound but a very fair price.

 

HE Rating         75%

HITACHI SALES (UK) LTD. Telephone 0181-849 2000

 

Panasonic

 

HE Rating

PANASONIC UK LTD. Telephone (01344) 862444

 

Philips 21PT532B, £379.99

Philips are currently riding high with their top-rated big-screen sets and if the 21PT352 is anything to go by theyíll be enjoying a similar level of success with their latest 21-incher. Theyíve adopted the same styling cues as the larger sets, and the side mounted, forward facing speakers give it an agreeably chunky appearance.

 

Operationally itís good news from the word go, with a very smooth on-screen display, that leaps out of the bottom of the screen and scrolls back down with a colour-coded menu selection. It has both manual and automatic installation; the auto system works well, though the tuner is quite sensitive and will store weaker stations, that have to be weeded out using the channel sort facility, and this can take a while.

 

Itís unusally well featured for the price. Top of the list has to be individual picture and sound settings for each channel. This takes care of the small but annoying differences between broadcast TV and external sources like VCRs, satellite tuners and video disc players. It also has channel naming, programme list, a headphone socket with its own volume control, spatial sound, child lock, sleep-timer, 16:9 display mode for widescreen material, picture tint and sharpness controls. The remote handset is quite unusual too, it has a set of programmable keys that can be assigned to frequently used functions, and it will control Philips VCRs. In addition to twin SCARTs and a front AV terminal thereís a pair of stereo line-audio outputs on the back panel.

 

No complaints about picture quality, itís bright with bags of contrast, colours look clean and lifelike. The speakers are quite directional, they deliver a surprisingly full-bodied sound  with better than average seperation. Definitely one for the short list, a fine performer, lots of useful features, and very reasonably priced.

 

HE Rating 95%

PHILIPS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS. Telephone 0181-689 4444

 

 

Sony KV-X2182U £499.99

The moment the KV-X2182 is switched on itís obvious that the picture is going to be special. Even before it has been tuned in, with a screen full of noise, the Hi Black Triniton tube gives a real sense of depth. It looks good too, compact, uncluttered with smoothly curving lines and discreet side-facing speakers. Sony have kept tried to keep it as simple to use as possible, and thatís reflected in the two-faced remote handset. On one side thereís a set of basic, everyday channel, text and volume controls; turn it round in its sleeve and thereís a full set of function buttons and controls for Sony VCRs.

 

The set has automatic, or manual set-up routines. In the auto mode one button press triggers the sweep tuner which seeks out all locally available stations and assigns them channels numbers, in the usual order. Channel idents of up to five characters can be composed using the manual tuning options. The multi-lungual menu controlled on-screen display uses the fastext colour buttons to access the various options, which covers all picture and sound adjustments, plus special functions like the sleep timer and parental lock. Normal stereo sound is augmented by a spatial effect and loudness presets; additional picture adjustments cover hue and sharpness, and thereís a 16:9 mode, for replaying widescreen-recorded material.

 

On the back panel thereís a pair of SCART sockets; a concealed AV terminal (including an S-Video and headphone socket) is on the front. AV inputs and outputs are configured from the OSD.

 

Picture quality is excellent, vibrant and detailed with pin-sharp registration and vivid colours. Unfortunately this is not quite matched by the sound output, which at best is fairly average. Frequency coverage is good though, and the NICAM sound is very clean, but the side mounted speakers produce a muddy stereo image. A treat for the eyes but the sound is a bit ordinary and the price is on the steep side, even for Sony.

 

HE Rating 80%

SONY UK LTD Telephone (01932) 816000

 

Toshiba 2145DB, £449.99

Toshiba give audio quality a high priority on their top-end TVs, and this has filtered down to their smaller-screen models, including the 2145DB, which has a Quadryl sound system. This utilises a pair of additional forward-firing speakers mounted on the top of the cabinet. Sounds from these speakers reach the listener a fraction of a second after the main speakers, creating a fatter, more dramatic sound.

 

The cosmetics are fairly restrained; the Quadryl speakers peer slightly over the top of the cabinet but theyíre not intrusive and the styling is generally quite pleasing.

Thereís a set of function, channel change and volume up/down buttons, behind a hinged flap on the front panel, along with a AV terminal that include both composite and S-Video inputs. Around the back thereís a pair of SCART sockets and an unusual picture centring control which can be safely ignored as itís factory set.

 

The rest of the feature list is fairly routine. It has a sleep timer and auto-off facility, that switches the TV off in the absence of a signal, handy for those who fall asleep in front of the TV. The initial set-up and AV adjustments are carried out using the on-screen display. Tuning is semi automatic and quite long-winded as it involves a fair amount of button pushing. The on-screen display is used for all AV adjustments, thereís no menu as such, displays appear as and when function buttons are pressed.

 

On-screen performance is qood, the picture is crisp with plenty of detail, colours are bright and natural looking. Quadryl sound is a big improvement over the usual two-speaker stereo on most other 21-inch sets, thereís a quite distinct feeling of depth, though stereo separation is not markedly better than its rivals. A beefy sound and fine picture, well worth considering.

 

HE Rating 85%

TOSHIBA UK LTD. Telephone (01276) 62222

 

 

BOX COPY 1

THE BEST OF THE BUNCH

 

Picture quality              

Sound quality               

Cuteness factor            

Best features                            

Build quality                             

Overall value for money   Philips 21PT532B

 

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R. Maybury 1995 1209

 

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