The ever-falling price of LCD TVs is the big story in electronics this year, with a number of Far Eastern companies vying to give CRTs the boot. Taiwanese giant Relisys has enjoyed a great deal of success in the PC market with cheap but good quality LCD monitors, and this television continues the trend. The company's origins are made clear by the housing of the TV tuner in a very obvious attachment at the rear.
With such a small screen at a low price, initial signs point to a potentially disappointing experience. It's a 4:3 panel and the low 800x600-pixel resolution is very poor for PC use. Even worse, it has next to no features, and the menu interface is shockingly ugly. However, if your needs don't stretch beyond a simple TV to hang on the wall of a bedroom, the RLT2000 has a gorgeously glossy screen that produces an admirable picture. The low price makes it an attractive proposition.
Many budget displays make their cost more than obvious with poor build quality and an ugly exterior. Not so the RLT2000: its physical attributes remind us of the futuristic displays you see in sci-fi series, with smooth lines and sleek silver styling. The main body also includes a curved handle that makes the television easy to carry. The handle runs down to a tilting stand, which can be removed if you want to mount the screen on your wall. It's all standard stuff, but pulled off with enough panache to make it look like a premium TV.
The remote control shatters this classy facade. It's just not up to the demands of television viewing -- the numerical buttons are small and down towards the bottom of the unit, rather than in a more prominent position towards the top. However, Relisys has managed to accommodate some more modern ideas, including assigning individual buttons for each AV input. Tellingly, it doesn't even have a Relisys logo, meaning it was probably bought from a third-party manufacturer for about 50p.
Round the back, the connections are organised into PC and AV, with a flap that covers the AV set and keeps the cables tidy. For such a small screen (in TV terms, at least), the connections are adequate. The single RGB Scart is miserly, but to be expected, and the provision of progressive-scan component inputs more than makes up for it. Feed a DVD player into these inputs to be treated to a fuzz-free and smooth picture.
The screen itself boasts a strange but not unpleasant glossy finish. It's very similar to the latest batch of laptops we've had in from Alienware and Toshiba, being highly reflective. This makes it very easy to see in most home conditions, but if you have it facing a window, the mirror effect is so strong that you can use it to do your make-up.
The features list on the Relisys RLT2000 is very short, so don't buy it expecting a horde of picture-processing modes, an integrated digital tuner or the ability to brew a nice cup of tea. The basic picture setup properties are all present and correct, allowing you to tinker with the brightness, contrast, colour, tint and sharpness parameters. Beyond that, there's only the ability to reduce picture noise, which won't worry the likes of Philips and Toshiba. At least the television has independent picture memories, meaning that you can change the brightness and contrast settings on one source without affecting the others.
On the audio front, there are options to change bass, treble and balance and switch BBE Audio on or off. The last setting gives the speakers a little more presence. The remote lets you set up cross-source Picture in Picture, but that's about it -- you can't freeze or zoom into the picture, for example. You can also output directly to a subwoofer via a connection on the side of the TV, which is a strange addition given the size of the screen. We'd have much preferred another Scart input.
Not only is the list of options amazingly short, but also it's presented in a way that makes Teletext look flashy. Why can't televisions have more stylish menu systems? Anyway, the remote has some other, more simple options, such as FastText buttons, a sleep timer and information about the source you're currently viewing, including whether it's in stereo or mono.
There's also on-board 3:2 pull down, which smoothes out PAL video (UK television broadcasts and Region 2 DVDs). The 16ms response time is average, though. If you're watching something in progressive scan, the image is excellent, but there can be some annoying smearing on standard television and videogames.
The picture performance on the RLT2000 is really rather good. We've been impressed with Relisys monitors in the past, and its expertise has really paid off. The glare of the screen can be annoying if it's set up near a window, but there's a real brightness to the image that goes way beyond other TVs at this price. The glossy screen also seems to offer some depth to the picture as well, and once we got over the tiny letterbox that most movies sit in, there was depth and accurate colour to be seen on movies as tricky as Master & Commander.
There's a noticeable lack of detail, which stems from the panel's low resolution, and this is most prevalent when using it as a PC display. We'd forgotten what an 800x600 desktop looks like, and anyone buying this with the idea of using it as a split TV/desktop monitor would be much better off buying a decent monitor and a Freeview card for their PC. However, the low resolution does the TV a favour when viewing analogue broadcasts -- it's actually pretty passable.
The audio is also quite good, for its size. The 2x5W speakers won't trick you into thinking you're in a cinema, but they're acceptable for the price.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide