While it lacks the brand presence of Sony, Samsung and LG, local Aussie brand Kogan has been working under the same basic modus operandi for the past couple of years; importing Chinese-produced AV equipment, rebadging it with the Kogan name, and selling it directly to consumers at a lower price than many of the overhead-bearing brand names can manage. TVs have been a particular speciality of the company, and so it's not surprising to note that the first thing that leaps out at you about the Kogan 42-inch 1080p LCD TV is the price.
Why are we talking about the price in the space where we should be mentioning the design? Well, largely because the design is the area where, fairly predictably, you won't be seeing too much innovation, simply because that kind of stuff costs extra. The 42-inch TV isn't as stunning as, say the crystal design of Samsung's latest LCD TVs or the straight up elegance of many Sony Bravia models. Equally, it's not actively unpleasant. Sometimes a TV just needs to look like a TV, and thankfully that's exactly what the Kogan does look like. It would make a very poor toaster, after all.
One design decision that does make the Kogan a little tougher to like than a number of other comparable 42-inch units is the location of the AV ports. They're all at the rear, they all point upwards, and they're all slightly recessed behind the back panel, which makes them a right pain in the posterior when you're trying to plug in new components. Some people will set up only one or two boxes to the Kogan and never notice some of this stuff, and it's a problem that's hardly unique to Kogan.
The 42-inch Kogan LCD is 1080p compliant, which means, not that shockingly, that it has a top resolution of 1,920x1,080 pixels. The details on Kogan's website suggests that it's an LG panel at heart, although as the company does sell direct and changes its offerings from time to time — depending largely on what it can source from its Chinese factory partners — that might not be true by the time you read this review. The TV supports a 100Hz refresh rate, in step with most modern HD panels, as well as Kogan's take on signal processing, which it refers to as Kogan MotionMax.
All so far, so good — but where's the catch that keeps the price low? Well, at least partially, it's in the ports, or relative paucity thereof in the HDMI space; two HDMI, two component and a single D-Sub, composite and S-Video is your lot. We're getting very used to seeing TVs with three or more HDMI ports, which is very handy for the family with a Blu-ray player, games console and, say HD PVR such as a TiVo. Only having two HDMI ports means that quality compromises may have to be made. Again, tastes and needs vary.
The Kogan 42-inch 1080p panel's performance was, to put it politely, mixed. Direct HD free-to-air was acceptable but not spectacular — the unit does come with an in-built HD tuner — but once we started throwing true 1080p HD content at it, we did see some problems emerge.