This omission is a shame, as many of today's small TVs allow you to play back DivX and Xvid video files, along with JPEG picture and MP3 music files, via their USB ports. Some, such as the, also allow you to record live TV to USB hard drives or memory keys. The ST288MAR lacks all of these features, sadly.
Unlike most of today's TVs from bigger-name manufacturers, the ST288MAR doesn't have a Freeview HD tuner onboard. As a result, you're limited to receiving standard-definition TV channels, which is a tad disappointing, especially as the TV has a 1080p panel. Reception is good, though, unlike some other cheap sets we've used. In fact, we didn't experience any break-up at all with this set during our test period.
The first time you clap eyes on the ST288MAR, you'll find there's something distinctly odd about it -- and we're not talking about the glossy red colour scheme. Rather, we're referring to the screen's weird aspect ratio.
Whereas pretty much all of today's sets have a standard 16:9 aspect ratio that matches that used for wide-screen TV broadcasts, as well as movies on DVDs and Blu-rays, this set has a 16:10 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1,920x1,200 pixels, rather than the standard 1,920x1,080 pixels. Consequently, images either have to be stretched to fit, in which case they look rather odd, or you have to put up with black bars running across the top and bottom, which is annoying, especially as the set's poor black levels mean these bars tend to look greyish, rather than black.
Colour reproduction is also quite poor. Skin tones never really look natural. They're either too white, due to the TV burning out lighter areas of the pictures, or they look overly reddish, making news presenters look as if they've got high blood pressure. Even everyday colours lack subtlety, so images tend to have an overly intense, cartoonish look. The ST288MAR's not great at handling shadow detail either, and you'll notice a fair amount of motion blur too, especially during camera pans.
On the plus side, standard-definition channels via the Freeview tuner are upscaled quite well, and pictures tend to be bright, although that brightness is part of the reason why colours don't look as natural as they should. Oddly, the TV is disappointing when it comes to showing HD content. HD pictures just lack the sharpness you'd expect from a 1080p panel, so there isn't as big a jump in perceived quality between standard-definition sources and movies on Blu-ray, for example.
The speakers are mounted on the front of the TV, behind large grilles etched into the bottom of the bezel. Each one is capable of pumping out 10W of audio, which may not sound like much, but the speakers are actually loud enough to fill even larger-sized rooms.
The fact that they're front-mounted helps the speakers to produce crisper dialogue than the down-firing speakers you find on many slim-line TVs. Bass response is also pretty good once you crank up the relevant setting in the simple but effective audio menu. Overall, the ST288MAR is a good performer in the audio department.
The Hannspree Hannsjoy ST288MAR is cheap, surprisingly attractive, and well-equipped in the audio department. But its pictures leave something to be desired and the odd aspect ratio is really annoying.
Edited by Charles Kloet