FUN-SIZE FOURTEEN INCH TVS
Small-screen TVs are now so cheap you can afford to have one
in every room... Well, not quite, but
as Rick Maybury discovers there are some pretty good deals around
BUSH 1480TS, £169.99
The old adage about spoiling a ship for a haípoth of tar sums
up the Bush ĎSunriseí perfectly. It starts off well. The price is fair, and fresh
from the box the all white cabinet looks quite smart -- provided it stays clean.
The feature list is generally adequate, it has all the usual widgets, including
auto tuning, on-screen displays, sleep and on timers, remote control and
fastext, but there is one serious omission, and thatís any sort of input and
output socketry, not even a headphone jack.
There are spaces for a SCART socket and headphone jack on
the main printed circuit board and we suspect little else, in the way of extra
components, would be needed to make them operational. Itís even more annoying
as the phantom AV connections are detailed in the instructions, their absence
is mentioned just once, on an addendum slip.
Without an AV socket the Sunrise is limited to routine
second TV duties in bedrooms and kitchens, though to be fair thatís a job it
does quite well. Build quality is fine (itís made by Sanyo) and itís reasonably
easy to set up. The tuner sorts out all locally available stations with no
difficulty. Itís simple to use as well, on-screen displays are brief and to the
point, and the factory defaults should suit most conditions. Sensitivity is good and the tuner provides a
clean picture in all but the poorest signal conditions. The picture tube
delivers a crisp, sharp image, with bright colours, a good dynamic range and
very little noise. Mono FM sound is piped through a small speaker set into the
side of the cabinet, volume is sufficient for a small room.
Itís okay, but it could have been so much better. An AV
socket would have made all the difference. As it is, itís worth considering if
all you want to do is watch TV in bed, anything more ambitious and you should
Value for money 85%
Alba-Bush Electronics, telephone 0181-594 5533
HITACHI C1411T-311, £199.99
Thereís a reassuringly solid feel to the C1411T, this chunky
14-incher is housed in a well proportioned dark charcoal grey cabinet. It has
an easy to use menu-controlled on-screen display system, (in four languages)
that covers all operational and set-up functions. Tuning is fully automatic,
the tuner is actually very sensitive. Our sample managed to lock on to 17
stations with just the supplied loop antenna. The majority of them are
unwatchable so the channel selection will probably require some editing in most
Convenience features include sleep, on and off timers, a fastext
decoder and three picture presets, covering brightness, contrast, colour and
sharpness. The first can be user set, the other two are programmed to suit
different viewing conditions. The teletext decoder has a four-page number
memory and also provides station idents during channel change. AV connections
are confined to a single SCART socket on the back panel, this is also configured
for RGB signals, so the TV can be used as a high quality monitor for some video
games consoles and suitably equipped personal computers. The keys on the remote
control handset are well spaced and easy to identify, though some of them have
additional functions (woofer, pseudo and mode), which are obviously meant for other
models in the range.
The picture is generally sharp with plenty of detail, though
the contrast range is fairly limited and it can look a little washed-out in
really strong ambient light. In normal conditions colours are crisp and thereís
very little noise in the picture. The speaker is mounted on the side of the
cabinet. The sound output is unexceptional, background hiss levels are low, with
the volume turned up full it will just about fill a small room, but thereís
little or nothing left in reserve. Middle of the road performance, few frills
but a reasonable price.
Value for money 85%
Hitachi Home Electronics, telephone 0181-849 2000
MITSUBISHI CT14MS1TX, £229.99
This set comes with a computer style tilt/swivel base, which
helps enormously with positioning, if itís going to be placed on a low table,
or shelf. The black cabinet bears a striking resemblance to the Hitachi C1411T,
though otherwise they have little in common. Itís a little old-fashioned in
some respects too, the tuner has to be programmed manually, which can take
several minutes, and the user also has to change the on-screen station idents,
or add their own if the station order differs from the factory default.
In most other ways itís bang up to date. The on-screen
display system uses simple colour-change
graphics for mode selection, it has two user-set AV memories for colour,
brightness, contrast and sharpness adjustments. The fastext decoder will store
up to four page numbers per channel, and it has AV sockets on the back (SCART)
and front (phono); the rear AV socket can be configured for an RGB input.
Although this is a mono set it has a stereo sound system, which comes in handy
if itís connected to a NICAM VCR or video games console with stereo sound
output. The remote handset can also control the main functions on a Mitsubishi
VCR. Unfortunately the buttons are rather small, closely packed and the
labelling could be clearer, so it can be quite tricky to use in subdued light.
No problems with picture quality, with a good signal noise
levels are very low, colours are well-defined and linearity is spot on. Sound
from the two side-mounted speakers is adequate, thereís hardly any distortion,
even at maximum volume; itís not going to annoy the neighbours but thereís sufficient
to fill a typical living room. A most agreeable little TV; useful extras, like
the stand and stereo sound system, help set it apart from the crowd.
Value for money 87%
PANASONIC TC14S2R, £179.95
The apparently low price of this TV is explained by the lack
of a teletext function (text variants are available), otherwise it stacks up reasonably
well against the other models in this round-up. The only other omission of note
is an automatic tuning system, and it has to be said that manual operation is
quite cumbersome. Itís not helped by the rather unfriendly on-screen display,
that relies heavily on symbols and acronyms -- donít loose the instruction book!
The tuner is reasonably discriminating, it pulls in marginal stations without
any trouble using only the supplied loop aerial.
Styling is a little brutal, the stealth-like tightly tapered
sides makes it look a little top-heavy. The heavily sculptured front panel
recesses are a little extravagant, and you just know theyíre going to attract dust
like a magnet.
Day to day functions are pretty straightforward, though, and
thereís a handy
feature called CATS (contrast auto-tracking system), that
adjusts the picture according to room lighting levels. This has three levels of
sensitivity, to cope with different conditions.
There are two AV input connectors, a standard SCART (wired
for RGB inputs) on the back and a pair of phonos (composite video and mono
audio ) on the front, for camcorder and video game hook-ups. Thereís a
headphone socket too, plus a sleep timer.
Colours are bright, with little noise, though the image does
have a slightly grainy appearance, this can be quite noticeable with shorter
viewing distances. Audio from the front-mounted speaker is a little thin with very
little in the way of bass, treble tails off quite early too, but thereís bags
of volume, though it does start to clip close to the maximum. Fairly basic, but
thatís reflected in the price, otherwise a capable performer.
Value for money 85%
SONY 16WT1U, £399.99
Sony are the first, and so far the only manufacturer to
launch a 16-inch widescreen TV. Widescreen movies and TV programmes loose a lot
of their impact on downsized 16:9 displays, clearly this is not a home cinema
set for people with very small rooms. Itís also worth saying that 4:3 pictures on
this set are smaller than theyíd be on a 12-inch TV, so what is the 16WT1U all
Itís fairly obvious Sony have got their eye on the video
games market, and in particular, owners of Play Station games console. Many
video games look better when presented on a widescreen display, a few are even
designed that way; size isnít an issue as players will normally sit quite close
to the screen. Apart from the tube this
is quite a conventional design. It has auto seek tuning, fastext and a sleep
timer; the mono sound system pumps out 4 watts RMS through a pair of speakers
mounted either side of the screen. Thereís a single SCART AV connector on the
back, and a phono sockets on the front, behind a hinged flap, for composite
video and mono audio input.
There are three display options, in addition to normal 4:3.
Zoom 1 inflates 4:3 images to fill the screen, Zoom 2 is for Cinemascope movies
and Zoom 3 is for 16:9 material. The
shape is rather brutal, though head-on it doesnít look too bad. In moderate to
good signal areas the tuner is sensitive enough to operate with the supplied
telescopic set-top aerials. The Trinitron tube provides a bright contrasty
picture, with plenty of detail. Colours are sharp and natural looking. Mono
sound is fairly ordinary, NICAM would be too much to ask, but a stereo sound
system would benefit video games players who, after all, are being closely targeted
with this set.
Small widescreen displays are hard work for normal viewing
but it works wonders for a lot of video games. Pricey, and the sound system is
a tad weedy, but dedicated games buffs will lap it up.
Value for money 80%
Best picture Sony
Best sound Mitsubishi
Best build quality Hitachi
Best value for money Panasonic
FIVE TOP TIPS FOR BUYING SMALL SCREEN TVs
* AV sockets are essential; small-screen colour TVs have
many other uses, including monitors for video games monitors, camcorders and
computers, and you may also want to use it with a VCR or satellite receiver
* A headphone socket is useful too, especially if itís going
to be used in the bedroom
* Teletext can be quite useful and these days it adds little
to the price
* Small screen TVs are supposed to be portable but not that
many have handles these days, make that a priority if itís likely to be moved
around a lot
* Light coloured cabinets looks smart in the showroom, but they
quickly attract dirt and can look quite grubby after just a couple of months
R. Maybury 1996 2712