Given the frenzied nature of the price cutting currently taking place in the large-screen flat TV world as we hurtle towards Christmas, the price erosion at the smaller 32-inch size seems relatively small beer -- presumably because manufacturers are fast running out of margin for manoeuvre.
So Sanyo's CE32LD81-B, with its ridiculously cheap £450 price tag, has frankly caught us by surprise. It's just a pity it doesn't turn out to be the bargain it might first appear.
Yes, you guessed it: the single biggest attraction of the CE32LD81-B is its price. At £450 it even treads on the toes of die-hard budget brands like Goodmans and Bush. Pretty decent, too, is its connectivity, as Sanyo manages to provide a solid two HDMIs and D-Sub PC support alongside the more basic TV connection fodder.
On the specification side, a native pixel count of 1,366x768 pixels ensures the TV meets its HD Ready obligations and a native contrast ratio of 1,200:1 is fair enough -- though this also figures in the 'Weaknesses' section.
The best thing about the CE32LD81-B's pictures is their brightness, as they really burst off the screen in a way seldom seen in the budget marketplace.
Also likeable are the TV's standard definition pictures -- at least in so far as they're less beset by dot crawl, smearing and processing noise than we commonly see with LCD technology.
Objects move across the screen with less resolution loss than we would have expected for £450 too and finally, the onboard speakers produce a pretty decent soundstage.
The CE32LD81-B's most galling shortcoming is its black level response, with the washed out look to dark scenes proving really hard to take. For instance, during the scenes where the bride is buried alive in Kill Bill Vol. 2, even squinting through the misty murk harder than Clint Eastwood in a three-way Mexican stand-off won't help you make out what's going on.
Unlike most LCD TVs these days, while the CE32LD81-B has a fair-looking 'native' contrast ratio of 1,200:1, it doesn't use a dynamic contrast system whereby the backlight can be dimmed during dark scenes to boost black level response. And the lack of this feature really hurts it.
Iffy black levels usually cause colour problems, and so it proves with this Sanyo, as dark scenes produce a few reds and greens and numerous skin tones that look really quite peculiar.
It's also apparent that the CE32LD81-B is certainly not HD's best friend. HD scenes that we know to be packed with lovely fine detail, like the shots of the jungles of Skull Island on the King Kong HD DVD, look slightly soft and fuzzy on this Sanyo, lacking the 'snap' that usually makes HD so adorable.
Our last niggle is that bizarrely, the HDMIs just aren't happy switching between standard and high definition sources, as they need to in order to cope with, say, a Sky HD receiver set to 'auto' output. Switching from standard to high definition causes a delay of nearly a minute before any sound joins the HD pictures, while switching from HD to standard definition frequently causes the TV to crash completely. Ouch.
We had reasonably high hopes of Sanyo's cut-price CE32LD81-B, thinking it might offer a markedly better performance than that usually found from more dedicated budget brands. But in fact its pictures are as average as they come and with the HDMI nightmares added to the bargain, it's really best avoided, despite its £450 price tag.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire