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FUN-SIZE FOURTEEN INCH TVS

 

 

INTRO

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

 

COPY

 

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 look elsewhere.

 

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 areas.

 

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 about?

 

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%

 

CONCLUSION

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

 

---end---

” R. Maybury 1996 2712

 

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