The Finlux 32F703 is only available to buy from the Finluxdirect.com website, but to tempt you out of your comfort zone, the Finnish company is dangling a 32-inch screen with video recording features and passive 3D technology -- all for a mere £300.
On paper it looks like a total bargain, but how good does it perform in the flesh?
User interface and EPG
Finlux was once owned by Nokia, but is now part of Vestel, a company that makes many of the own-brand TVs you see down your local supermarket. Typical of a budget model, you can forget about the flash graphics that you now find on mid-range TV interfaces from Samsung or LG.
The menu system is flat and a little dull. Call up the main menu and you're greeted by a banner of icons running across the middle of the screen for stuff like Picture, Sound, Settings, Tuning and the Channel List. At least when you enter the menus, the various options are neatly listed inside a transparent grey box.
The range of picture tweaking functions is simple but quite effective. Along with the usual contrast, brightness, sharpness and colour controls, you can adjust the colour temperature, as well as the balance between Red and Green using the colour-shift slider.
The sound menu provides good levels of control over the set's audio output. There's a 5-band graphic equaliser, so you can fine-tune the low, mid and high frequencies to your own preference. Finlux also provides a Dynamic Bass boost setting but the TV does lack any pseudo-surround sound modes. That's perhaps no bad thing on a budget set, as these modes are often unusably bad on cheap TVs.
If the menu system is a muted success, the electronic programme guide (EPG) is less impressive. When you hit the EPG button on the remote, you're only shown what's currently on and what's up next. It doesn't list all the programmes coming up over an evening. If you want to that, you have to press the yellow button on the remote while you're in the EPG. This then shifts to a standard bricks-in-the-wall style layout with channels listed down the left-hand side of the screen and upcoming programmes shown on a timeline to the right.
Why Finlux couldn't have made this the default mode, I just can't understand. It really is a pain having to go through two button pushes to access it, especially as the EPG button is at the bottom of the remote and the yellow button at the top.
There's also a third EPG mode called List Schedule that shows one channel's worth of data at a time. This tends to only show limited chunks in one go, so you have to continually press the green button on the remote to see the next slice of EPG data.
Also, when you call up the Now and Next banner via the Info button while watching a show, there's no way to view more details about the programmes you're tuned to. On most TVs, hitting the info button a second time displays this information, but that's not supported here.
Digital media and Internet features
Given this TV's low price, I wasn't expecting it to have any smart features -- so it's no surprise that it doesn't. What it does have is a USB port that can be used both for playing back digital media from memory keys and hard drives and for recording shows to disc.
The media player can be accessed from the main menu. Alternatively, you can call it up quickly by pressing the media player button at the bottom of the remote. The interface is rudimentary -- you simply select the type of media you want to play (videos, photos or music), and you're dumped into a file browser.
In the manual for the TV it says the player supports MPEG 1, 2 and Xvid files, but I couldn't get any of my Xvid files to play, so format support seems to be more limited than Finlux makes out. Nevertheless, I had no problems using the set to view JPEG photos or listen to MP3 files.
When you attach a USB drive or key to the TV, you can also start to take advantage of its personal video recorder (PVR) features. Recordings can be scheduled via the EPG. Alternatively, just start recording the channel you're watching by hitting the record button on the remote. The set supports chase play too, so you can watch the start of a program while the end is still recording. There's also a timeshift function that lets you pause live TV, say to answer the phone, and then resume where you left off.
Once your recordings have been made, you can access them by pressing the Display button on the remote. Recordings are tagged with the name of the show, unlike some sets that add obscure file names to recordings. So it's easy to find what you want to play. Overall, the PVR functionality is nicely implemented for such a budget set.