The founder of Kogan is an interesting man for a few reasons. Firstly, Ruslan Kogan has built a multi-million-dollar business in Australia that makes TV and sells them over the Internet. Secondly, his business model is to cut out the middle men between the manufacturer and customer, in order to keep prices down. Thirdly, and perhaps most interestingly, once he had become an Internet millionaire, he applied for a job at McDonald's but was turned down.
Kogan televisions are aimed squarely at the middle of the market. They're aimed at people who want good features but don't have endless supplies of money. Thus, the 32-inch Kogan Elite LED-BD32 is a 1080p LED TV that includes a Blu-ray player and personal video recorder for £500.
Kogan trades on the low cost of its TVs. But we noticed that it's possible to buy a Sony TV with an integrated Blu-ray player for £500 on Amazon. That leaves potential customers with a dilemma. They can either buy a TV from an online-only company or get a telly from one of the biggest names in consumer electronics. You can probably guess which way most people will go.
The LED-BD32 is described on Kogan's website as having a 'state-of-the-art design'. While the TV's glossy black plastic looks reasonably attractive, we wouldn't really describe it as state of the art. The remote control is comprehensive, if on the ugly side. The controls are well labelled, although their layout isn't particularly logical.
The TV doesn't have a massive number of video inputs. There are only two HDMI sockets, which isn't really enough for a modern TV. The built-in Blu-ray player removes the need to connect an external player, but we'd still rather see more digital inputs. There's a pair of USB sockets, though, and you also get an aerial input and a VGA port for connecting a PC.
The LED-BD32 has an integrated standard-definition Freeview tuner -- it's not a Freeview HD model. Does this matter? Probably not. A Freeview HD tuner isn't as essential in a 32-inch telly as it is in a 50-inch TV. Then again, including a Freeview HD tuner wouldn't have cost Kogan much.
At any rate, standard-definition Freeview images look fine on this TV. Colour levels are decent and we could see at least some fine detail. We aren't talking about world-class image quality, but we saw nothing that really alarmed us either. We did, however, notice that faces occasionally looked slightly plasticky and too smooth, which can be a sign of weak processing, a common problem on cheaper TVs.
The LED-BD32 can produce decent high-definition images from its built-in Blu-ray player. Again, videophiles won't be satisfied, but movies still look quite detailed and fairly impressive.
The Blu-ray player is also pretty responsive. There are no lengthy waiting times while discs load, besides the usual few seconds that elapse while the AACS encryption does its thing, and the Blu-ray Disc Java menus load. The player reacts swiftly to remote-control commands too. We never noticed any significant lag. That's something we can't say about some premium Blu-ray players.
A built-in Blu-ray player is certainly convenient and means this TV is likely to appeal to students and those seeking a second television for the bedroom or what have you. That's especially true since it's not hugely expensive.
We also fed the TV with a Freeview HD image from a separate source. The resulting image showed a marked improvement over the standard-definition Freeview picture, making us wish Kogan had included an HD tuner with this TV.
This TV's PVR functionality relies on you supplying a USB storage device. You take a USB memory stick, pop it into the TV's USB socket, and follow some prompts in the menu systems. You're then able to pause and rewind live TV.
It took us quite a while to figure out how to get this PVR functionality working. You'll need a fast USB stick too, with plenty of storage space -- many either aren't sufficiently capacious or simply can't write data quickly enough. Overall, we can't see many people bothering with this functionality.
The LED-BD32 is easy to get up and running. Plug it in and you can tune it to either analogue, digital, or both analogue and digital. We'd suggest only people who live in digital-deprived areas bother with the analogue tuning. Although Freeview has its fair share of flaws, it still looks better than fuzzy old analogue these days.
The menu system impressed us. The menus aren't on a par with those offered by Samsung, Sony or LG sets, but they're easy enough to navigate, and pleasant to look at. We could certainly find what we were looking for without too much hunting around.
It's worth pointing out that the Blu-ray player has a separate menu system that can only be accessed when the TV is in Blu-ray playback mode. It's fairly straightforward, and there isn't all that much to configure anyway.
The LED-BD32's speakers and overall sound quality are an absolute dog's dinner.
We're never impressed by the sound produced by small televisions, but many manage to produce much more convincing audio than that of the LED-BD32. Speech sounds thin and wispy, with a distinct lack of clarity. You'll really notice it when you first use the TV, but you'll eventually start to get used to it -- not that you should have to.
With all that moaning out of the way, there's one important thing to point out. We could hear and understand what people were saying even during raucous action movies. Make no mistake -- the other effects are almost totally drowned out. But we have to at least give the TV some credit for working around its own limitations and producing clear dialogue.
The TV has a coaxial audio output, so you can pass sound to an AV receiver. This is good news if you care about sound quality. A 2.1-channel sound system would be a worthwhile investment, and plenty are available that take up little space and sound amazing.
The Kogan Elite LED-BD32 offers pretty good value for money, and packs in some useful features. Its picture quality isn't perfect, there's no Freeview HD tuner and its audio is a disaster, but it's still a viable option for people who want an easy way to watch TV shows and Blu-rays. The problem is that it's not cheaper than a 32-inch Sony TV with a built-in Blu-ray player. That kind of invalidates the whole point of this telly.
Edited by Charles Kloet