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21-INCH NICAM TVs

 

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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 Sony VCRs.

 

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) 816000

 

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 21PT532B

Build quality                           Sony KV-X2182U

Overall value for money            Philips 21PT532B

 

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” R. Maybury 1995 1209

 

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