It's not perfect, but the 32-inch Finlux 32F6030-T offers lots of features and its pictures are better than I would have expected for £250.
Finlux has already impressed with a budget 32-inch set, the 32F703, thanks to good picture performance and pleasing 3D images. But one drawback was a chunky chassis due to its use of older CCFL backlighting technology.
The 32F6030-T that I'm reviewing here is built with LED backlighting instead, which makes it a much slimmer proposition. It lacks 3D support, but priced at just £250, it's £70 cheaper than the 32F703. Is it as much of a bargain as it seems?
This model's user interface is quite basic, but Finlux has done a good job with its design. The main menu presents you with a row of gold icons running across the centre of the screen. As you scroll over and back through the menu, an outline box highlights the option you've selected. Enter the menus and you'll find that although they're pretty flat, the gold text does stand out.
You're given plenty of control of the picture too. Naturally, you can play with stuff like the colour, contrast and brightness settings. There's also an advanced menu that lets you tweak the gain values of the red, green and blue colours, as well as adjust the skin tone.
The electronic programme guide (EPG), is pretty much identical to that used on other Finlux models, which isn't necessarily a good thing. The main problem is that pressing the EPG button on the remote only shows you 'now and next' information, not the whole line-up of programmes for an evening. If you want to see the full listings, you have to press the yellow button on the remote from within the EPG, which is long winded.
Also, If you call up the smaller 'now and next' banner using the Info button on the remote, it only shows you the programme names. There's no way to see a description of the current show -- something you can view by pressing the Info button twice on most other TVs. Worse, the EPG doesn't maintain pictures or sound of the show you're watching when you call it up, which is annoying.
Despite the presence of an Ethernet port on the rear and an Internet button on the remote, this model doesn't actually have any smart TV features. The Ethernet port only seems to be present because it's a mandatory part of the Freeview HD specification, so any TV sold with the Freeview HD branding has to have one. Given the extremely low price, it's not surprising that it lacks smart features.
The TV does have two USB ports, which it makes good use of. If you call up the media player, either via the dedicated button on the remote or by selecting it form the main menu, you can use it to playback a pretty broad range of files. Most of the media players on cheap TVs only support DivX and Xvid files. The one here goes further as it also supports HD MKV files and can even downmix AC3 files to stereo. The media player does have the odd bug here and there and it crashed on a couple of occasions playing MKV files.
The media player interface is basic. Once you actually enter the playback screens, you'll find it's little more than a file browser. But it's fairly easy to use and is a very handy addition, especially on a budget set such as this. You can also use it to play JPEG pictures as well as MP3 music tracks.
The set also has personal video recorder (PVR) features. If you attach a drive or memory key to one of its USB ports, you can record shows or movies from its Freeview HD tuner directly to disc. Recordings can either be scheduled by simply selecting a show in the EPG or by hitting the record button while you're watching a channel. You can also pause live TV.
Unlike the other two Finlux models I've tested, this one doesn't support chase play, so you can't begin watching the start of a programme while the end is still recording. Also, as the set only has a single tuner, you can't watch one channel while recording another.
The two other Finlux models that I've seen, the 32F703 and 47S7010, weren't much to write home about looks wise. Each had a plastic chassis that was covered in oodles of black gloss. They didn't really look any different to the budget models you see stacked on the shelves of your local supermarket.
It's clear to see that Finlux has made more of an effort on the design of this model. The chassis is still hewn from plastic, but the finish looks a lot better. The TV's bezel and pedestal stand have a black brushed metal effect that looks fairly good as long as you're not inspecting it close up. Both are framed by a perspex edge, so the overall design is a little similar to the styling that Samsung and LG were using on last year's models.
The silver Finlux logo on the front has been kept to a modest size. Beneath this is a row of touch buttons that can be used to control the volume level or to change channels if the dog has made off with the remote control.
This set has one of the best line-ups of connections that we've seen on a 32-inch budget model. It has a very generous helping of four HDMI ports, with three of these mounted on the rear and one positioned on the left edge for easy access. The rear is also home to two full-sized Scart sockets, a set of component inputs, a VGA port and a digital audio output. Unusually, there's a subwoofer output should you want to connect up an external speaker to boost its low frequently response.
The rear is where you'll find the redundant Ethernet port, which as I've already mentioned is defunct since the set doesn't have any smart features. On the side panel are two USB ports for the PVR and digital media playback features, as well as a CAM slot for use with pay TV services such as Top Up TV. This model also has a Freeview HD tuner, which is useful if you don't subscribe to Sky or Virgin Media's pay TV services. There's a similar model -- the 32F6030 -- that only has a standard-definition tuner, so the 32F6030-T is definitely the model to buy for free-to-air HD content.
This model's slender frame means there isn't a huge amount of space for speakers. That said, audio quality isn't too bad. It's good enough for TV shows, thanks to strong mid-range presence, and it makes a decent fist of movie soundtracks. Just don't expect the bass output to rattle your floorboards as it's not particularly strong with low frequency effects. That's a failing that affects a huge number of LED sets on the market at the moment though.
Given the rock-bottom price, you can't expect this set to deliver really top drawer pictures. It's no surprise to find that it does suffer from a few weaknesses with image quality. That said, there are a number of strong points too.
For starters, when working with HD feeds such as BBC One HD or movies on Freeview, pictures tend to look crisp and detailed. The detail levels do break down slightly when it's taxed with a lot of movement in the frame, but not to an alarming degree. Black levels are also relatively good, especially if you keep the backlight on the middle setting rather than cranking it up full. And it delivers decent contrast for such a low-priced model.
On the negative side, the set suffers from misting due to backlight inconsistencies. On the review model, this was most noticeable as haloing visible during darker scenes in the bottom right-hand corner of the display. Another issue is its colour performance with standard-definition channels and DVDs.
While colours tend to remain pretty consistent when you're viewing HD content, on standard-definition material the colours -- and skin tones in particular -- tend to be less stable. They often take on a yellowish tinge. You can tweak some of this out of the set by carefully using the picture controls, but I could never completely get rid of it without spoiling the overall colour balance.
The 32F6030-T is certainly not without its flaws. I had some issues with its colour performance on standard-definition channels and the unevenness of its backlighting. These have to be weighed up against the rock-bottom price and an otherwise impressive range of features. Taking all of that into account, you're getting a lot for your money with this set.