Thomson 30LCDB03BK £2300
1st Jan 2005 | 00:00
Time for something a little different...
Although it's far from a familiar screen size, 30in TVs undoubtedly have a part to play in the LCD world. Mainly on the grounds of affordability, 32in LCD TVs tend to cost more - relative to their 30in brethren - than the extra two inches of screen would seem to justify.
Take for instance the 30LCDB03BK. At £2,300 it weighs in at around £700 less than Panasonic's and Philips' latest 32in LCD maestros. Bargain. Provided it's any good of course.
For test purposes in the What Plasma & LCD TV lab we opted for a DVD version of Touching the Void (a recreation of the amazing true story of two climbers' ill-fated attempt to tackle Peru's Siula Grande mountain). With its breathtaking footage of mountains, glaciers and snow galore, it should really test out the white balance and colour range of the 30LCDBO3BK to the fullest.
When considering the overall look of the screen, the 30LCDB03BK's jet-black, aggressively high-tech appearance doesn't seem entirely appropriate. But that's not to suggest that it's a particularly ugly screen.
Far from it, in fact.
The screen is also pretty well connected. A video-friendly DVI jack leads the way, backed up by PC and component video inputs. Curiously, you have to use the PC jack for high definition and progressive scan feeds, rather than the components, but this isn't a major problem. The only real shame is that just one of the two provided Scarts can handle RGB.
When lower prices are on offer, such as is the case with this screen, corners inevitably have to be cut and in the case of the 30LCDB03BK it's the features count is rather stingy to say the least. That said, the fact that the onscreen menus are so absurdly small and the instruction manual so badly written actually means that the lack of features ironically comes as something of a relief.
First impressions of the Thomson in action are thankfully more positive. The stunning blue skies that surround the Siula Grande in Touching the Void, together with the reds and blues of the climbers' kit, reveal bags of vibrancy.
The stunning footage of the Siula Grande's sun-drenched white slopes also reveals a solid white balance, while simultaneously assaulting your retinas with one of the most dazzling brightness levels we've had the pleasure of setting our eyes on for quite some time.
Phenomenally detailed shots - such as the opening flight in toward the majestic mountain slopes - also reveal the Thomson to be more than proficient when it comes to handling fine detail. Naturally this makes it a very credible and worthwhile consideration for those looking to enjoy the charms of high-definition footage.
Yet while Touching the Void's bright daylight scenes seem almost tailor-made to fully display the 30LCDB03BK in its best light, darker night-time footage and more murky studio interview segments highlight a few weaknesses.
The biggest problem is the lack of discernable black level. The night-time sequence toward the film's end proves to be a rather considerable strain on the eyes, and its overall impact is considerably reduced by a lack of depth. Skin-tones become green-tinged during darkly-lit interview scenes too, and the film's harshest edges can look over-stressed.
Sonically things are more consistent. There's a striking amount of power, which helps the speakers rise superbly to the film's occasional audio challenges - like the bass-heavy drum sequence as the climbers embark up the mountain.
Until recently, Thomson's 30LCDB03BK would have rated as one of the very best LCD screens. Now, with some of the other big brands moving the goal-posts, we have to downgrade it from 'great' to 'good'. But that doesn't stop it from being seriously good value.