Even at a time when the falling prices of LCD TVs are competing with imminently redundant CRTs, paying less than a grand for a 32-inch model represents great value for money.
LG's 32LX2R can claim such affordability -- you can find online for as little as £850 -- but if you want to cut costs you can expect a few compromises. So, while the screen affords a stylish design, the build quality is questionable. And although the specification is high-definition compatible, there's no integrated digital TV tuner and it has fewer connection options than pricier models.
However, the 32LX2R is extremely easy to use and includes several extra-curricular features and picture-processing technologies that enhance overall performance. The standard of analogue TV images is excellent and HDMI-induced video images are more than competent, if not quite as able as Samsung's similarly priced.
If you're a budget buyer then LG's 32LX2R should be a certainty for your short list.
In a line up of the latest high-definition LCDs you wouldn't immediately identify LG's 32LX2R as a budget model. The sleek, heavily glossed black frame, which extends to a pair of integrated speakers at each side, isn't aesthetically embarrassed by more expensive screens. But closer inspection reveals a lightweight, plastic build quality that isn't altogether surprising considering the cost.
What is unexpected is a generous accessory pack, which includes a collection of PC-orientated cables and extras that most manufacturers don't offer for free. There's also a set of wall-mounting supports to substitute the accompanying swivel stand -- small extras, but nonetheless appreciated.
After some searching you'll find an arrangement of primary controls across the underside of the screen, although they're poorly labelled. A stylish neon blue light underscores the logo when you turn the TV on, which never fails to elicit "oohs" from bystanders.
All types of AV connections are accounted for but without the same multiple options that some screens can offer. For instance, there are no additional easy-access inputs for a games console or camcorder -- meaning you have to probe behind the screen to make often-temporary composite or S-Video connections.
Strangely, component inputs are separate, to the side of the rear panel arrangement, while the rest of the connections are located beneath a removable hood. The collection includes standard AV inputs, two Scart terminals (only one is RGB-enabled) and an HDMI digital input for receiving high-definition signals. There's also a DVI-I input for PC or DTV applications with an accompanying audio input. It's less than extensive, but nonetheless accommodating enough to cater for most components.
Unfortunately, the remote doesn't share the same appeal as the screen. The hefty design offers an insight to the multitude of features available but it looks overcrowded and cumbersome.
The screen's native WXGA (1,366x768-pixel) resolution is compatible with high-definition signals up to 720p and 1080i formats -- so you can watch Sky's upcoming HDTV services and high-definition quality video from a compatible DVD player using the HDMI digital input.
However, the 32LX2R falls short of a fully future-proof specification as an integrated digital TV tuner has surprisingly been omitted. The analogue TV tuner is better than the ones we've seen in most LCDs -- but if you want to watch Freeview channels and prepare for the eventual digital switchover you'll have to buy a separate set-top box.
Elsewhere, the picture is supported by LG's proprietary XD Engine technology. The XD Engine incorporates a variety of picture-processing technologies to enhance individual elements such as colour, contrast, brightness and gradation to improve performance. There's a split-screen demo mode that allows you to see the difference it makes.
The XD feature is accompanied by an impressive array of advanced picture and sound settings. The menu system is graphically presented and user-friendly -- disappearing from the screen when making adjustments so you can determine the changes.
With the picture you can choose between several preset modes including an Artificial Eye option that uses a sensor to automatically adjust levels according to your room's ambience. Alternatively, you can manually customise picture adjustments with standard settings and more advanced controls for individual colour temperature and even fleshtones. Sound-wise, there's also a choice of presets as well an SRS WOW mode, which attempts to recreate surround effects from the stereo speakers. The Auto Volume Level will appeal to anyone who doesn't like being startled by extra-loud advert breaks.
There's also various Picture-in-Picture options that allow you to view images from two different inputs simultaneously -- either as a small inset or a double-window split screen. This means you can watch a film while keeping an eye on the football scores, for instance.
For a low-cost screen the feature count is impressive without being exceptional. And the simplicity of the menu system, with useful shortcut keys on the remote, makes it extremely easy to use.
Despite only being equipped with an analogue tuner, TV programmes look surprisingly good. Of course, you don't get the same choice of Freeview channels, interactive services or an electronic programme guide as you would with a digital tuner. But compared to the analogue performance in LCDs with dual tuners, the picture is significantly sharper and more stable. Backgrounds still fizz a little, but there's less overall noise. Colours are well balanced, with impressive detail.
With video sources, there's an obvious improvement in quality between the softly defined, speckled images from analogue inputs and the superior pictures that come courtesy of using the digital connection. HDMI-induced images, especially using 720p resolution, are noticeably cleaner with dense definition, revealing detail and rich, evenly gradated colours. Black levels could be deeper, though, to match the sort of three-dimensional contrast that separates class-leading screens. Movement, which occasionally stutters across the screen, could also be more cohesive when faced with action or sport.
There are several sound options to play with, but none really improve the audio quality above ordinary. At low levels it's fine, but raise the volume and the sound suffers from distortion and grating sibilance from the relatively lightweight 10W speakers.
The 32LX2R isn't the best performing screen available at this affordable price -- but it certainly isn't the worst either.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Nick Hide