Finlux 40F8073-T £349.99
11th Feb 2014 | 11:29
Average images, but you won't find a better value bigscreen smart TV
Everyone's after a sub-£350 telly, but surely that means skipping over fancy features like smart TV apps, Freeview HD and 3D, right?
There's no 3D on this 40-inch LED TV from Finlux, but the online-only brand has here produced a perfectly respectable effort that gets online and gives in HD.
You might think you know Finlux. Around since the 1970s, the brand has swapped hands multiple times – it was even owned once by Nokia – and is now owned by Turkish manufacturer Vestel.
It's pretty obvious from the styling and feature set that the 40F8073-T is designed as a Samsung-killer.
The biggest selling brand in TVs, Samsung's offering of LED TVs at dozens of different price points means that the 40F8073-T has to offer something special to compete against its giant rival.
It tries and largely fails to ape Samsung in the style stakes; a spider stand – the signature design flourish on many a budget Samsung TV – is the giveaway that Vestel is indeed trying to slip a low price smart TV under the radar of its South Korean rival.
That spider stand is a matte silver colour, while the TV's bezel – which stretches to 15mm wide on three sides of the screen – is basic gloss black. It's a copy-cat style best described as inoffensive.
The other area where the 40F8073-T tries to pull the rug from under Samsung is with its smart TV interface. It's a basic-looking grid of 16 apps that includes top choices like Netflix, the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, though it also includes links to widgets and social media feeds.
Theres no doubt that smart TV is the highlight, but it's so unexpected at this low price that it's worth pondering the 40F8073-T's core specs.
With a Full HD resolution and a Freeview HD tuner, the 40F8073-T adds a bevy of ins and outs. On one rear-facing panel on the TV's left-hand side are three HDMI inputs, an Ethernet LAN port for wired networking (though a Wi-Fi dongle is included in the box), RF aerial input and a D-sub PC input for attaching a laptop.
On the side are a couple of USB slots as well as a Common Interface slot, a headphone socket and a jack for an adaptor to connect up composite video sources. However, there's no sign of any component video inputs, which means one less hi-def source than we could have had. That takes the gloss from the 40F8073-T's third HDMI slot, though it's still a decent haul.
Those USB slots can be used to dock either a USB flash drive or hard disk to fuel basic recordings and pause live TV, though you will have to keep one back for that Wi-Fi dongle.
The smart TV apps enabled by the dongle or wired LAN comprise Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, Joomeo, World of Red Bull, iConcerts, TuneIn Radio, Foreca, ITN, AccuWeather.com, Flickr, Viewster, CineTrailer, BBC iPlayer, Dailymotion and PlayJam.
Widgets for Skype (with video calls possible if you purchase the Finlux HD Skype camera/microphone for £59.99) and a web browser are also included, while the latest tweets and status updates for one user's Twitter and Facebook accounts are ranged under a live TV screen covering around a sixth of the screen's real estate.
There are also a couple of free apps for iOS and Android devices – SmartRemote and SmartCenter. The former acts as a simple virtual remote while the other acts as a second screen, providing an electronic programme guide (if you're using Freeview HD), access to scheduled recordings, social media and virtual remote functions.
We're been impressed by Finlux TVs in the recent past, and there's plenty to choose from in the brand's new season collection.
So often cheap TVs fall at this early stage of reviews, and though the 40F8073-T doesn't challenge more expensive TVs on pure image quality, it does come through with its reputation just about unscathed.
Don't expect to perform a full custom calibration – this is not a screen fit for a home cinema. However, despite the lack of advanced-level tweaks, the 40F8073-T's native Cinema preset mode is good enough to rely on, successfully hiding the worst aspects of picture noise during standard definition Freeview HD broadcasts. It's also a quick fix to this TV's ultra-bright panel, which does need toning down.
The 40F8073-T isn't an100Hz screen, so I expected some motion blur. That's exactly what happens when watching Freeview HD channels, with camera pans and any kind of motion immediately lessening detail to a big degree. However, a complete lack of judder means that the 40F8073-T's smooth – if detail-poor – images remain easy to watch and never distracting. It's a fixture while watching Blu-ray discs, too, which undoubtedly provide the best-looking images on the 40F8073-T.
Upscaling of standard definition channels and DVDs is limited, with some picture noise visible and mosquito noise regularly surrounding moving objects and people.
Colour and contrast
The 40F8073-T's contrast is good, with deep blacks and bright, clean peak whites helping the 40F8073-T supply some good colour. Skin tones look spot-on and blacks, in particular, are convincing.
However impressive blacks are, during my test disc Hugo on Blu-ray I did notice a lack of shadow detailing. A common trait on budget TVs without much in the way of advanced picture processing, this failure leaves dark areas of the image spilling into each other and subtracting a sense of realism especially in dingy sequences.
Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the 40F8073-T is its complete lack of LED light leakage. So common is a tendency for cheaper TVs to look blotchy in the corners of the screen – something that's especially noticeable in a blackout – that the 40F8073-T's near-uniform panel brightness is something of a shock.
Better still, the viewing angle is thoroughly decent, with contrast and colours holding up pretty well when the 40F8073-T is watched from the wings.
It's the final salvo in a picture performance that, though not perfect by any measure, is good enough for the 40F8073-T to maintain its position as one of the all-round best value TVs for general living room use.
Usability, sound and value
The 40F8073-T is a cinch to use. Probably the most important reason for the its success isn't the bundling of smart TV apps and a Freeview HD tuner, but the fact that they – and every other menu, page and option – work lightning-fast.
The Freeview HD EPG, for example, lists six channels and two hours of schedules, which is enjoyable to navigate. Its yellow, black and grey colour scheme gels with the TV's central user interface, though it's not particularly attractive.
There's clearly enough processing power onboard to compete, though we're not sold on the remote control, a lightweight lump of plastic that just doesn't feel substantial enough in the hand. Its volume and channel rockers aside, the buttons are too small - especially the shortcuts to the 40F8073-T's smart TV user interface, media browser software and inputs roster.
The smart TV interface shows the 40F8073-T at its best. Though it's woken relatively slowly by a tiny button on the remote, the central hub page is then quick to work and fast to refresh. It's dominated by a live TV thumbnail on the left-hand side. Below is a space for live Twitter and Facebook feeds that can be configured to one person's accounts, though we're not sure who this feature is aimed at. I can't imagine any member of any family wanting to log in to a private social media account on a communal TV.
The right-hand side contains a grid of apps that's easy to scroll through, though besides Skype, Netflix, YouTube. Flickr and BBC iPlayer there's little to get excited about. The addition of apps such as Blinkbox, Lovefilm, and the other terrestrial UK broadcasters' on-demand apps would be nice, as would the chance to customise-out apps that won't or don't get used.
The web browser is surprisingly usable, despite relying on a stuttering cursor system controlled via the remote. The ace in the hole is a grid of nine shortcuts on the default home page, which gives almost instant links to Flickr (despite the appearance of a dedicated Flickr app on the smart TV hub page), Wikipedia, IMDb, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon.com (a bit pointless for non-US users), Yahoo! and The Weather Channel.
Spilt into tabs for videos, photos, music, recordings (from Freeview HD) and settings, the Media Browser is unexpectedly slick. Immediately identifying both docked USB devices and networked computers in the vicinity, the 40F8073-T does away with the need to choose sources or file types and lumps all media it can find into one big A-Z list.
Video files like AVI, MKV, AVC HD, MOV, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, WMV HD are all supported, as are MP3, M4A, WAV and WMA music files, and JPEG and PNG photos. Files play quickly and stably – it's a great performance that's arguably much better than many of the bigger, vastly more expensive brands manage.
While the free SmartRemote app from Finlux merely repeats the real remote's functions, SmartCenter is an effort to replicate the efforts of major brands by producing a smartphone controller capable of mastering channels, schedules and other smart TV functions. It's initially very impressive, not only presenting an excellent scrollable EPG for Freeview HD, but also shortcuts to setting and inspecting recordings. There's also a social media page and a YouTube search option.
However, despite using a strong Wi-Fi network, I not only had a lot of 'Connection Problem!' messages, but several freeze-ups that quickly sidelined the SmartCenter app.
Audio is where the 40F8073-T performs strictly to type, offering the limited sound quality that almost all cheap TVs muster. Sharp, tinny and with clipped treble highs, none of the basic Movie, Music and Speech audio presets constitute much improvement.
It's difficult to call the 40F8073-T anything other than unbeatable value if you're after a good value, catch-all TV for a living room. Home cinema owners or those after exacting picture and sound quality won't find much for them, but everyone else should consider the 40F8073-T alongside a bevy of £500 so-called budget TVs from bigger brands – most of which won't include smart TV apps.
The search for a 40-inch LED TV for under £400 that doesn't come from a no-name supermarket brand is over. The Finlux 40F8073-T won't make the end-of-year 'best of 2014' ceremonies judged on image quality, but you won't find a better value smart LED TV.
The low, low price is the star turn on the 40F8073-T, but it makes a bid for glory with a fast-working user interface that's graced a by a thoroughly decent selection of apps. The presence of Freeview HD and Full HD are plusses, as is a surprisingly slick web browser and an excellent, well organised media browser that makes digital file playback a breeze.
Not everything about the 40F8073-T is value-busting plus points. Sound quality is poor, while the remote control supplied in the box is a slight affair indeed. Picture quality is average at best, with noticeable motion blur and a lack of shadow details making this far from the best TV for Blu-ray.
The 40F8073-T is truly excellent value. A decent TV with any kind of apps usually costs around £500, with exceptions to that rule – such as Toshiba's heavily discounted 2013 range – regularly disappointing with a total lack of usability and processing power. The 40F8073-T's success on all counts (though don't expect top picture and sound quality) makes it an excellent value choice for a living room, with thoroughly usable media software and even a web browser contributing to a great value package.
There are very few TVs of this low price that also include smart TV apps, though in terms of value the appearance of apps is almost immaterial; one of the 40F8073-T's closest rivals is Samsung's UE42F5000, which doesn't have any apps. Toshiba's 40L6353 does, but even after five minutes with the 40F8073-T it's clear that even on basic usability it outranks the long, established Toshiba brand.