Sagem Axium HD-L32T £1200

1st Jan 2006 | 00:00

Has Sagem broken the rules again?

TechRadar rating:

5 stars

A stylish and immensely capable LCD at a very reasonable price

Like:

<p>Picture</p><p>looks</p><p>price</p>

Dislike:

<p>Slightly weedy audio</p><p>sparse features list</p>

These days anything with 'Sagem' written on it seems to cause a stir. This is just the second LCD we've seen from the French maverick, but if we've learned anything over the last year it's that the company is capable of breaking any mould it likes, usually for considerably less money than the vast majority of the competition.

The looks get it off to a great start: the unfussy lines and piano-black, gloss finish, combined with a sturdy profile and drop-dead glass foot, make it look like the sort of thing Batman might kick back in front of.

The remote is similarly chic, with a black top,a couple of metallic buttons and a silver base combining to pleasing effect.It's also particularly well laid out,although to begin with a few of the buttons seem to be obscurely labelled.

The connections are impressively comprehensive, with HDMI supplying the digital HD credentials,a set of component jacks to back it up and a pair of Scarts,both of which are able to carry RGB.The other notable input is a card reader,which is able to handle no fewer than seven different removable media formats,including Memory Stick,SD and Compact Flash to name but three.

The feature count is a little disappointing considering that this is such a well turned-out set,although there are a couple of sound-field programmes,including Sagem's own Spatial system,to muck about with.

The French company hardly has a wealth of experience in commercial LCD TV,and to produce just a competent set would be a fair achievement.The HD-L32T clearly has no respect for form,however, and storms in with one of the best performances from a set of this size and price we've seen for quite some time.

Standard definition stuff looks about as good as it can,with that pixel-filled panel rendering colours extremely faithfully and extracting every last drop of available detail without coming a cropper over scaling.Edges are crisp,the apparent depth of images is convincing,and the whole lot is cobbled together with an admirable lack of noise.

The usual liquid crystal stumbling blocks of motion smearing and black levels are reasonably successfully negotiated,particularly the former, with the latter remaining a weakness without becoming a fatal flaw.

There is, however, a sense of unfulfilled promise with 'normal' material: feed the set HD,particularly 1080i,if you want to see it really rip.

The picture is astonishingly realistic,with prodigious detail,a wonderfully subtle palette and a complete lack of over-processed digital artifice,producing a watch that is so lifelike that it is almost uncanny. It is so accurate and nuanced,in fact, that it takes eyes accustomed to the comparatively crude and garish efforts of DVD more than a little while to get used to it.

The only real grumble is a slight lack of wallop from the speakers, but they are just about adequate for most needs and,anyway,just look at that picture...

Overall,the HD-L32T is a revelation and still manages to come in a couple of hundred quid cheaper than its main rivals.Need any more reasons to want one?

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