Thomson 37PB220S4 £1500

31st May 2005 | 23:00

Finally, a screen that won't dominate your living room

TechRadar rating:

3 stars

Looks like an HD-ready bargain - until you check out high-def footage

The 37in screen size is really growing on us. It strikes just the right balance between film-enhancing size and not overwhelming your living-room.Take Thomson's new 37PB220S4. It looks ample for giving your viewing an extra dimension, but the bodywork's simple, unfussy lines and subtle colour scheme mean it won't draw your eye unnecessarily when it's turned off.

Connectivity is very pleasing too. It includes component video inputs for analogue HD and progressive sources, and an HDCP-enabled DVI jack for digital HD sources.

Add to this a native widescreen aspect ratio of 1,024 x 1,024 and compatibility with all the necessary formats, and you've got one of the few screens currently around that can truly claim to be 'HD Ready'.

The quoted 1,024 x 1,024 resolution shows that the 37PB220S4 uses Alternate Lighting of Surfaces (AliS) technology and that therefore its core panel is probably sourced from Fujitsu/Hitachi.

Also included is Thomson's Hi-Pix HDTV processing, which adds twice as many lines of detail and richer colours to pictures. It's backed up on the features front by a contrast booster, noise reduction, flesh tone enhancement and some handy picture-in-picture facilities.

Accessing all the set's features is pretty straightforward, thanks to some supremely attractive onscreen menus and a remote control that's well laid out and spacious.

Appealing colours

The 37PB220S4's picture gets off to a good start with a combination of eye-catching brightness and appealingly vibrant colours - colours which stay, for the most part, very natural in tone,too.

The screen also achieves levels of black beyond the ken of many a budget rival. What's more, there's enough grey-scale talent on hand to ensure that dark areas don't look hollow or forced, while bags of fine detail ensure that pictures look deep and textured.

Unfortunately, however, the 37PB220S4 has a serious, multifaceted Achilles' heel: picture noise. Unusually, this problem is at its worst with high-definition and progressive-scan sources, which suffer so much with dot-crawl and plasma's common green dot noise that they look like they're being attacked by a swarm of tiny flies. Deep green or grey parts of the picture also seem plagued by a low-level blocking interference.

The 37PB220S4 is much better with ordinary TV footage, which looks considerably less noise-ridden and a whole lot more natural as a result. But even here there's still evidence of the green dot crawl, as well as traces of fizzing over moving objects, and haloing around harsh edges.

Sonically, the 37PB220S4 is decent enough - provided you run it loud. Keep things quiet and the screen's speakers seem oddly flat; ramp things up and the soundstage opens up a treat, with plenty of bass, a healthily unrestrained mid-range and adequate treble detail.

We really wanted to like the 37PB220S4. Its size and price both tailor it for success. Yet ultimately, while it passes muster with basic TV fodder, it falls well short of many rivals when fed anything more high-spec.

ThomsonTVHDTV
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