Hannspree SE40LMNB £340
18th Jan 2012 | 10:56
Edge LED and Full HD team-up to produce solid hi-def TV pictures
This budget-busting effort from Hannspreee does away with 'smart' apps and on-demand IPTV services and instead combines some of the basics on shoppers' lists: LED backlighting, Full HD, pause live TV and basic USB recording.
The brand's first model in its SE TV Series, and available to buy now from Misco, the SE40LMNB includes a two-year collect and return warranty as standard. A 32-inch version, the Hannspree SE32LMNB, will become available this month, too.
Although the SE40LMNB's recording and Time-shift functions are touted, note that the system employed here is much like on any other modern TV.
A lot of the major Japanese, Korean and Chinese brands now build-in a USB port that's capable of making TV recordings to a connected hard disk (not forgetting the all-important pause and rewind live TV feature), and that's the case here.
Tie that to a Full HD resolution and the reasons to buy increase, though that extra detail is rather wasted by the lack of a Freeview HD tuner.
That will annoy some, especially if Freeview HD has just started broadcasting in your area, though the ears of Sky, Virgin and Freeview+HD box owners will be surely be pricked; is this the budget, tuner-less LED TV you've been looking for?
Ins & outs
Despite its budget nature, the SE40LMNB has as many ins and outs as much more advanced TVs.
Across the back you'll find a set of component video inputs alongside dedicated analogue stereo phonos, while nearby is a 15-pin VGA input for a PC alongside a 3.5 mm minijack input for PC audio, an RF aerial port (to fuel the built-in Freeview tuner), and a Scart. The latter uses a special adapter provided in the box, something that's common on super-slim LED TVs, though we're not sure why it's been employed on a TV that measures a whopping 50mm at its thickest point.
Three HDMI inputs – just about enough in our opinion – are supplied on the SE40LMNB's side. It's slightly strange that they're situated here, but we've no complaints; it means easy access for hooking-up a games console, and occasional HD camcorder, or a PC laptop. Alongside are a headphones slot, a single USB port (two would be nice), and an optical digital audio output. The latter's inclusion on the TV is laudable, but why at the top of this section?
At least that USB port powers a Media Player, so a USB stick containing the likes of JPEG, MP3 and DivX files can be played back, but we're now not sure whether to attach a thumb drive full of files, or a HDD for powering the SE40LMNB's USB recording and Timeshift functions.
The SE40LMNB can also claim a couple of characteristics that most of its more expensive competitors increasingly ignore; a set of manual controls on the side of the TV (in case you lose the remote), and a well written, comprehensive user manual (this is invariably supplied by competitors as a digital PDF file written in pidgin English).
Elsewhere, the specifications demonstrate a reasonably advanced TV. The Edge LED-backlit LCD panel has a 1920x1080 pixel resolution for Full HD images, while the bottom mounted stereo speakers are rated at (just) 8W each. The panel claims a so-so brightness of 350 cd/m² while contrast is rated at 4,000:1, increasing to – wait for it – 8,000,000:1 in X-Contrast dynamic mode.
We wouldn't go as far as to say the SE40LMNB has a suite of picture processing circuitry – it certainly has not – but it can claim a 3D Comb Filter, 3D De-lnterlacer, a general noise reduction mode, 3:2/2:2 Pull Down and a 24P True Cinema mode, though these are all standard on all TVs. Straddled with a 50Hz panel, we would expect to see a touch of blur during fast moving footage, with the panel's response time rated by Hannspree at around 5ms.
Among a plethora of picture modes is the relatively rare PAP – picture and picture – which can be activated from the main menu setup time. Two sources can be shown at once, though one has to be the live digital TV picture.
Ease of use
Let's start with the physical setup of the SE40LMNB; attaching the desktop stand is easy since the column itself is already attached the TV (though it can be got rid of for wall mounting).
It's simply a case of screwing the stand and column together, though try as we might, we couldn't get the TV to stay completely level – it was slightly lopsided at all times despite several attempts. Possibly a lack of elbow grease?
From the 'guide' button on the remote we're given a fairly loosely designed electronic program guide. As well as a thumbnail of the live TV channel playing in the bottom left-hand corner – something that's all too rare on some brands of HDTV – a short synopsis of the programme's contents and timings are included on the right.
The top half of the screen is completely occupied by the schedules themselves, which entail program details over two hours for just six channels at once, which is at least two too few in our opinion.
The fonts used are small, but the design in general is very impressive, and hi-res; as well as nuanced graphics that lend a slight 3-D look, the simple black-and-white and green colour scheme is subtly designed to gel with Hannspree's branding, though it's never overt.
Other gems buried in an otherwise rather basic user interface include the ability to individually name each input. For instance, HDMI 1 can be renamed Blu-ray, VCR, PC, Digital STB, Camera or Recorder, on the input settings menu. It's something we've seen before on TVs from Panasonic, so it's good to see here on this otherwise budget effort.
It's also possible to put a small delay on the optical audio output, avoiding lip sync issues, while parental lock can be put on various options.
Timeshift & PVR functions
The Timeshift and personal video recorder functions are easy enough to setup. It's based around an MPEG recorder, which records in identical quality to the original broadcast, though the capacity depends on what size HDD you decide to use (we used a 2GB USB stick for testing purposes).
The feature is accessed via the Quick Access onscreen menu of shortcuts, which is confusingly associated with the Option button on the remote control. It contains links to Picture Presets, Sound Presets, Timeshift, PVR, a Recording Schedule, and USB (though it's an either/or situation for the latter; with only one USB slot, it's not possible to both Timeshift and watch DivX files from a thumb drive).
Timeshift on the SE40LMNB is unnecessarily long-winded. The whole point of such a feature is to quickly record something if the phone rings or the doorbell sounds, but here it's necessary to first press the option button, then select Timeshift, and then hit the red Fast-text key to pause live TV. That's at least two buttons too many.
Live TV can be rewound, and any recorded footage fast-forwarded using the same Fast-text keys, this time green and yellow. However, Timeshifting isn't just long-winded; it also lacks basic functionality.
Our chief criticism is that programmes can't be recorded straight from the EPG, as you would do from a dedicated PVR set-top box. We're left with the impression that this feature just isn't going to be used much, at least not on any regular basis.
The remote control supplied with the SE40LMNB is rather basic and a touch too lightweight, but we like its fluorescent lime green standby button in the top right hand corner – it makes a nice change from red.
Elsewhere the buttons are of relatively high quality, at least in terms of responsiveness and touch, though the remote is badly in need of some dedicated pause/FF/RW keys that would bring to life the Timeshifting features. Seriously, who wants a TV with a built-in PVR brains if you have to do dive into internal menus continuously?
USB Media Player
Shoving a USB stick, and the SE40LMNB immediately launches its Media Player software. Split into the usual photo, music and video sections, the system proved able to play just JPEG photos and MP3 music in our test, while video file compatibility is limited to AVI, MPEG and MP4 files created using the MPEG 1–2, 4 and H.264 Containers.
From our motley collection of files it managed to play just DivX, MP4 QuickTime, and MPEG files. That's not too bad a result, though it's sad to see no MKV support.
Switch on the TV and you immediately notice the blue-ish tinge to a panel that's best described as imbued with blotchy brightness, though we've seen no worse a situation on Edge LED-lit screens of thrice the price.
There's nothing particularly special about the picture options available on this TV. There are various picture preset options including Movie, Eco, Vivid and Studio, while it's only possible to change basic parameters such as brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, and colour temperature. The dynamic backlight can be changed to various low intensities in Eco mode, with an auto using a built-in ambient light sensor to measure surrounding light, and then adjusting accordingly for maximum efficiency.
Tellingly, the advanced video menu includes just a basic (and ineffective) noise reduction setting alongside a toggle for that ambient light sensor, and X-Contrast, though in our experiments toggling this setting on and off made little difference to the finished picture.
Armed with a Blu-ray of 2012, the SE40LMNB initially leaves us thinking that it's something of a bargain. The muted colours of the movie are brought out nicely with the SE40LMNB in Movie mode, and the action is presented in a detailed manner that's on the right side of harsh.
We did notice a modicum of blur and the occasional judder from cameras pans, but with plenty of hi-def sharpness to display, some relatively profound black in a CGI shot of Earth from outer space, and some notable shadow detailing in black jackets, the SE40LMNB is halfway to impressing us.
It's doesn't get much further. With standard definition sources – Freeview and DVD – the SE40LMNB really trips-up. A broadcast of Liverpool Vs Manchester City in the Carling Cup on BBC1 reveals a softness that's in stark contrast to its Blu-ray performance. Not only is there a lot of picture noise that just doesn't go away, but there's also a rather garish approach to green that leaves the pitch over-saturated.
We had trouble tempering it without making the players look genuinely ill and over exposed, though the intense colour saturations aren't the only problem. The players have dotty noise around them as they move across the screen, with fast-moving objects causing a streak. Its watchable, yes, but the SE40LMNB isn't advanced enough to show standard definition – if anything, it would help if the screen was smaller or lower resolution, thereby better hiding its shortcomings. It simply didn't compare at all to the clean, accurately coloured and fluid images from the same game on an ageing HD-ready plasma we had nearby.
What the SE40LMNB lacks is any detail-boosting tech, though we can't stress enough how much Freeview HD is missed. We do realise that to hit this kind of price Hannspree has had to let a few things go, but why produce a highly capable hi-def TV only to then make it rely on a standard definition source it really struggles with?
A dose of detail-boosting picture processing circuitry would help, as would some effective noise suppression tech, but the provision of some hi-def TV channels would lessen the problem immediately.
Sound and value
There's really nothing to get excited about on this count; thin and weedy, treble detailing is soft and can sound harsh from its down-firing stereo speakers, while bass is both muffled and inconsistent.
It's not a major criticism – we've heard £2,000+ tellies with rubbish sound quality – but you will need something extra (perhaps a soundbar) to make-up for this particular shortcoming.
The use of a Full HD resolution Edge LED panel is laudable on such an affordable TV, but this 40-incher's over ambition proves its undoing; with no Freeview HD tuner its soft and noisy standard definition is left to mare an otherwise sterling hi-def performance with Blu-ray.
It's a shame since the use of a HD-ready panel – almost unheard of these daysm particularly in LCD TVs – would have offered the best of both worlds in playing down the SE40LMNB's innate problems (a lack of upscaling circuitry) and giving HD the chance to shine.
We still feel a HD-ready plasma is the ideal solution at this size and price, but there's no doubting the SE40LMNB's all-round good value reputation.
Can an app-less telly eschewing any semblance of home networking and smart TV cut it? Selling for less
than £350, the SE40LMNB's is a barebones experience indeed, though for owners of Sky, Virgin or Freeview HD set-top boxes and PVRs, it could be the stripped-down HDTV bargain you've been looking for.
The user interface in general is attractive and well designed, and there's no doubting that the SE40LMNB is easy to use. We particularly liked the speed of setup, the nicely designed EPG's thumbnail of the live TV channel, and the ability to customise the names of each input.
Pictures lack sparkle, for sure, but contrast is decent and Blu-ray in particular is excellent. Besides, this is a 40-inch TV for less than £350.
For all its trumping of PVR functions, this USB-powered function is so basic as to be virtually useless. The Timeshift functions are similarly long-winded and unlikely to be relied upon regularly, though it's nice to see both features here nonetheless.
There's noticeable light leakage from the LED backlit panel, and while still pictures retain a lot of full HD detail, there is noticeable blur and a slight overcooking of colour tones.
This is a basic TV that will suit many living rooms, but not home cinemas. The conclusion is underlined by the very average quality of the onboard speakers.
Without a Freeview HD tuner the SE40LMNB really struggles to make standard definition watchable, but those with a HD set-top box will find this 40-inch Edge LED TV a good value performer, which excels with Blu-ray.
Owners of HD PVRs can also skip over its long-winded USB PVR functions, though all will need a separate sound system.
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