21-INCH NICAM TVs
Hitachi C2146TN £380
Whilst most TV manufacturers seem to want to hide the stereo
speakers on their smaller NICAM sets Hitachi are not afraid to make a feature
of them on the C2146TV. They stick out boldly from the sides of the screen,
where they add to the overall width of the set. It makes the TV appear a little
larger than it actually is, though itís none the worse for that, and it definitely
looks the part.
Apart from stereo sound and fastext the specification is
quite basic, in fact the only features that could possibly be deemed a luxury are
the programmable on/off timer and semi-automatic tuner programming, which takes
just a couple of minutes to store all the locally available stations. The rest
of the feature list contains more or less standard items, like twin SCART
sockets, a front AV terminal (with S-Video input) and a menu-driven on-screen
display. The remote handset supplied with this set will also control the main
functions on Hitachi VCRs.
The OSD is slightly unusual in that it uses the coloured
fastext buttons to select menu items. Generally speaking itís very easy to use
though, and well-behaved, though the channel change is a bit sluggish, and it
takes a moment or two for the picture to settle down when channel hopping.
The picture is reasonably sharp, with a good contrast range,
even in bright ambient light. The factory default on our sample had the
saturation set a little too high for our taste but colours were accurate and
clearly defined. Sound performance is fair to middling. The wide set speakers
produce a shallow but quite well defined stereo soundstage, not much in the way
of bass response but it sounds very clean. Itís not what youíd call an exciting
TV but picture and sound are pretty good, it looks okay and the price is fair.
HE Rating 80%
HITACHI SALES (UK) LTD. Telephone 0181-849 2000
Panasonic TX-21MD1 £430
From the front and sides youíd be forgiven for thinking the
TX-21MD1 is another monitor-style mono TV, only the two small speaker grilles
below the bottom right and left hand corners of the screen give the game away.
The styling is quite restrained, and the low-slung speakers give it a little extra
height, making it look even less like a stereo set. Nevertheless it is an
advanced design, with a good selection of features. The first time itís
switched on it goes into the auto set-up mode, which programs the tuner and
assigns channel names using teletext data. Channels are stored sequentially, so
it may be necessary to sort them into a more logical order.
The classy-looking on-screen display covers a lot of ground,
from the initial set-up, through to the AV adjustments and host of special
features, such as picture noise reduction, sound mode (music or speech), spatial
sound, sleep timer, picture sharpness, variable aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9
widescreen), and AI (artificial intelligence) picture control. This latter
facility automatically adjusts picture contrast and colour saturation according
to its content.
There are twin SCART AV sockets and stereo line outputs on
the back panel, plus headphone and AV sockets on the front (composite video input
only), behind a hinged panel. One of the SCART sockets is configured for
S-Video input though, and the TV can also display NTSC formatted signals, via
the SCART inputs.
The extra noise reduction and extensive digital processing result
in a crisp-looking picture. The AI facility is a mixed blessing, most of the
time it works fine but every so often thereís an unexpected changes in
brightness. With the speakers so close together itís not surprising the stereo
image is rather confined, leaving the ambience facility on helps but the sound
still lacks drama. A pleasant enough set, well specified too, but speaker
placement has compromised stereo performance.
HE Rating 75%
PANASONIC UK LTD. Telephone (01344) 862444
Philips 21PT532B, £380
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 unusually 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 channels 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, NTSC compatibility on AV inputs, 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 channel separation.
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 £500
The moment the KV-X2182 is switched on itís obvious that the
picture on this TV 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 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
The set has automatic and manual set-up routines. In the
auto mode one button-press triggers the sweep tuner which seeks out the
strongest 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-lingual 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. It will display NTSC-formatted
video signals, via the AV inputs.
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)
Toshiba 2145DB, £450
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. An extra pair of forward-firing
speakers are 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.
Itís quite a lumpy-looking set, the Quadryl speaker ports
peer 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 food, 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 distinct sensation 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 Sony KV-X2182U
Sound quality Toshiba 2145DB
Cuteness factor Hitachi C2146TN
Best features Philips
Build quality Sony
Overall value for money Philips
R. Maybury 1995 1209