Sagem HD-L32T £1200

1st Jan 2006 | 00:00

Is French company Sagem getting too big for its boots?

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Impressive images at a good price, but sound and usability are below par

We like Sagem. The brand's first ever flat TV (released last spring) took the form of a glossy, black and curvy 27in LCD sporting an HD-ready badge - when such a thing was still a rare sight on the high street - and it was priced at a mere grand. At the time it was a pivotal price, which, combined with a very respectable performance and some nifty extra features, meant that the HD-L27 was one of 2005's more memorable flat TVs.

That screen is now discontinued, however, replaced by this 32in model, the HD-L32T. Although this set looks to have a lot in common with its little sister, it arrives in a crowded market, at a price point that doesn't look quite as impressive - so what can it do to prove its worth?

Inching ahead

First off is the fact that the HD-L32T manages to offer five inches more screen space than its predecessor for just an extra £200. But while it also boasts the same glossy black coating, thin it ain't. This rather chubby set seems destined to be used as a straight replacement for a tabletop-sitting CRT TV, rather than as a luxury wall-mounted screen. That said, however, it would certainly still cut a dash in any living room.

Connections cover all the right bases. Digital HDMI and component video inputs are the highlights, as they confirm the HD-L32T as fully ready for Sky's upcoming high-definition broadcasts (along with a high-resolution LCD panel of 1,366 x 768 pixels). Then there are a couple of Scarts (both RGB-capable), a PC input, an aerial input for the set's built-in digital Freeview TV tuner and a novel (and very useful) six-in-one multimedia card slot, which can read JPEG files, among other things.

That's your slot

That card reader is about where the HD-L32T's handy features come to an end, however. First, there's no CAM slot, meaning the subscription-only Freeview add-on, Top Up TV, is off the menu - a real shame if these types of services expand in the UK. Second, the Sagem's operating system, although well laid out, lacks some functionality with regard to the seven-day electronic programme guide (EPG) that accompanies its digital tuner. The set is simple enough to use in other areas, but things get tricky if you want to record from the EPG, because there aren't any one-touch recording options. Instead, it's a laborious manual task.

We were happy to discover that the Sagem's pictures are much more worthy of discussion, however. Giving the set a run-through with our test disc, the existential allegory The United States of Leland, we found that an abundance of sharpness helped to give impressive depth to scenes such as those when Kevin Spacey's father figure fends off Pearl's attempts to exploit his son in a string of bars.

Colours, too, were vibrant from all sources during our tests, and black levels were reasonably good: there was no grey washing-over during our test movie's night footage, for example.

What's more, while the Donnie Darkoesque Leland may be a schizophrenic freak-boy, the twin LCD evils of fizzing noise and smearing over fast movement are conspicuous by their absence.

The Sagem showed the same skills when we took a look at some of our sample high-definition footage. It confirmed the set as ripe for HDTV, because the depth and clarity on show was a sight to behold.

In fact, aside from a certain amount of picture noise here and there, there's really nothing bad to report about the HD-L32T's picture performance. We wouldn't say that and more... its pictures are actually benchmark, but they are in all cases very, very good.

Sounding off

Sadly, the same can't be said of the Sagem's audio performance. Things sounded thin and flat, and even basic dialogue can get lost. You can forget about wowing friends with a blockbuster movie soundtrack on this TV.

If paired with a decent surround sound setup, the HD-L32T seems perfect for Sky HD, and any other HDTV services that spring up this year.

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