Acer isn't the best-known name in televisions, so its AT4220 might not be the first choice for those looking for a sensibly priced 42-inch television. But with online prices as low as £850, you should certainly consider it.
The AT4220 is a great little performer for its price. High-definition picture quality is excellent, DVDs look reasonable and standard TV is okay, although one big problem is that there's no Freeview receiver, so unless you buy a Freeview box you're stuck with the five analogue stations.
One area that impressed us was how good the image was when we hooked up a PC via the VGA input, making this a solid choice to use with a Windows Media Center PC.
If you're on a tight budget, this gives you a reasonable performance at a low, low price.
Looks-wise, you get what you pay for with the AT4220. It's not the ugliest set we've seen, but it certainly isn't a looker, with the thick bezel making the telly appear particularly cheap. But fortunately, the picture quality makes up for the deficiencies in styling.
The comprehensive set of controls are located on the right-hand side of the set, including buttons for increasing the volume, changing the channel, selecting an input source and entering the menu system. Expect them to come in handy if you lose the remote down the back of the sofa.
The remote control looks basic. It's longer than it strictly needs to be and slightly uncomfortable to hold, but the layout is simple, and the TV responds to button presses quickly.
The television is also wall mountable, although you'll need to pay extra for a wall mount bracket. Acer has thoughtfully positioned the inputs on the rear of the set so that they face downwards to help you out if you end up screwing it to your wall.
The Acer AT4220 is a 720p screen, although it will happily downscale pictures to fit its 1,366x768-pixel panel.
The AT4220 also has a good range of sockets for hooking up your AV gear. Most notably, two HDMI sockets are present, allowing you to have, for instance, both SkyHD and either an HD DVD or Blu-ray player attached with no need to fumble around at the back of the set swapping them about.
There is also component in, which will be handy for gamers with either the Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Xbox 360. Further connectivity is provided in the form of two RGB Scart sockets, composite video in and VGA in for connection to a PC.
The menu system for controlling picture, sound and TV tuning is simple to use. There are some preset options for sound and video control including modes for movies, sport, concerts and games.
One thing it's hard to forgive is the lack of Freeview. It may be a cheap TV, but that's a huge oversight.
One slight disappointment with the AT4220 we reviewed was that there were three dead pixels on the panel. It's hard to judge the TV based on this -- it could simply have been a problem with our review sample. In practice, a dead pixel probably won't annoy you much in normal use, but it's worth noting that most manufacturers won't replace screens unless quite a few pixels are dead.
The picture quality of this television was excellent with high definition. HD DVD looks stunning with plenty of detail -- so much so that on the pop-video-style Bourne Supremacy, the original graininess of the film was visible. We didn't have any major problems with how blacks were reproduced, although we've seen better. Reducing the brightness helped to improve the intensity of blacks slightly.
When we connected a separate Freeview receiver, we saw quite a few problems with the picture. The AT4220 has a sharpness adjustment that can help hide some of the compression problems, but all this really achieves is to blur the image.
Upscaled DVD was far better quality. We popped The Big Lebowski into ourand we were very pleased to see the quality was perfectly reasonable and much better than when watching Freeview.
The sound quality, however, wasn't quite as good as it could have been. We found that the audio lacked bass and that speech was a little unclear. You'd be better off investing in a set of home cinema speakers if you go for this set.
Plugging a computer into the screen gave us a pleasant and unexpected surprise. The output was clear and crisp, far more so than we have seen on televisions costing a great deal more. This is excellent news if you are planning on plugging a PC into you television, either to make use of Windows Media Center or even to play games.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield