Kogan is a budget brand from Australia that has made a name for itself in its native land by selling TVs and other electronic kit directly to the public at bargain basement prices. The company has recently started plying its wares in the UK via its online store.
The 55-inch Kogan Full HD Elite is the largest in its current line-up of LED screens, yet priced at £849 (including free shipping), it's much cheaper than similar-sized models from bigger name brands.
User interface and EPG
The menu system may be relatively basic, but Kogan has added large, chunky icons to each of the main settings screens to add a touch of visual interest. However, when you enter the main menu, it's odd that it opens at the channel scan page -- most other TVs open at the picture menu.
Nevertheless, the simple menu structure makes it pretty quick to navigate around and you're given a decent amount of control over the picture. For example, along with the contrast, brightness, colour and sharpness settings, you can also adjust individual red, green and blue levels via the Colour Temperature screen.
The EPG also looks quite inviting, but unfortunately it's not as straightforward to use as it could be. The problem is that it uses a vertical layout rather than a traditional bricks-in-the-wall type design.
In the standard view, it displays only the currently showing programme across nine channels at a time. If you want to see what's coming up later, you have to press the Index button on the sluggish remote control and switch to the channel view. However, even then, this only displays what's coming up on a single channel over an evening, so you can't easily spot programme clashes across the channels.
Design and connections
Kogan hasn't produced any surprises on the design front. The set is neither particularly ugly to look at nor very inspiring either. The chassis is hewn entirely from plastic, so it does creak when you're taking it out of the box and attaching it to its pedestal. Nevertheless, once it's in place, it feels fairly solid.
The bezel around the screen measures around 43mm wide, which is larger than I'm used to seeing on LED screens. It's not particularly slim for an LED model either, as it has a panel depth of 48mm. Nevertheless, the glossy black finish means it will blend in quite nicely in most homes and I do like the transparent effect used on the edges of the stand.
Most of today's 55-inchers come with at least four HDMI ports, but this model makes do with three. Given that it's aimed at budget-conscious buyers, I don't think this will be that much of a problem, especially as it's also got a mini-jack component input, VGA port and full-sized Scart socket. There's a CAM slot on the left-hand edge, as well as both a USB connector and Ethernet socket on the rear.
Unfortunately, the Ethernet port apparently serves no purpose and only seems to be present because it's a minimum requirement for TVs that carry the Freeview HD logo. As a result, this model can't be used to stream digital media across a network, and nor can it be used to access video on-demand services such as Netflix or Lovefilm. However, given its low-ish price, this is not exactly a surprise.
The USB port is put to much better use. Once you attach a memory key or drive to it you can use the TV to playback various media files, including MP3 music tracks, JPEG pictures and Xvid, DivX and MKV video files.
The media player is slightly awkwardly accessed by selecting USB as your input source. Once it loads up, you can choose between movie, music or photo modes via the very basic-looking opening screen. That said, it does include a preview window for files that you select in the file type browser and the fast-forward and rewind controls are quite zippy, which is not always the case on budget TVs.
What's more, you can also record programmes from the set's Freeview HD tuner to disc. This feature is especially well implemented, as the remote has dedicated recording and playback controls. Also, recorded shows are accessed via the Rec List button on the remote. This screen shows you not just the name of the recorded programme and the channel it was recorded from, but also a video preview window of its contents.
Making recordings is very straightforward. You can just press the Record button on the remote while you're watching a show, or alternatively call up the EPG and schedule a recording by highlighting it and hitting the red button on your remote.
Of course, as the set only has a single tuner, you can't watch one programme while recording another, so it's not a replacement for a full personal video recorder. However, it's still a handy feature to have at your disposal if you don't have a Freeview PVR or Sky HD box.