The 68 cm (27 inches) of screen space offered up by the 27XR1 makes it an ideal panel for a bedroom or smaller lounge setup. Those with large lounge rooms may be underwhelmed, however, as the user has to sit fairly close to the screen in order to gain maximum immersion.
It weighs a light 19kg and offers dimensions of 860x230x505 mm, so it's not averse to wall or ceiling mounting. There's also a swivel table stand, which we found to be quite useful, particularly if you find yourself watching TV from varying angles within a room.
In keeping with the streamlined design that's become ubiquitous with big screen TVs as of late, the front panel of the 27XR1 is bare. This gives it a cleaner look overall, with the navigation buttons - power, source, menu, volume and channel selection - being relocated to the top of the chassis. The piano black and brushed silver colour scheme adopted by Sanyo is attractive, which follows through to the remote as well.
An intuitive remote control
Speaking of the remote, its layout is for the most part logical, with users navigating the menu screens via a handy joystick. That said, we would've preferred for the channel and volume navigation buttons to be placed a little higher on the remote, as they're currently at the very bottom. The menu system is intuitive and decked out with most of our desired customisation options, but we're disappointed at the inability to adjust individual red, green and blue colour levels. Granted, an overall colour temperature adjustment control is present.
An issue we've had with plasma and LCD displays in the past is that the ideal port placement depends largely on how you plan to mount the panel. For example, if you're wall mounting it's difficult to access ports that are placed on the rear of the unit, while sets that have cables connecting vertically from underneath are often tedious to access if the panel is mounted on a stand. The LCD-27XR1 doesn't adopt either of these methods. Its ports are located on the rear of the unit, but they're placed perpendicularly so that cables are plugged in horizontally from the sides. As a result, both wall and tabletop mounting is painless, and we encountered none of the issues mentioned above.
Cables plug in horizontally - a nice touch
The panel boasts an impressive widescreen resolution of 1280x720, and it's also HD-ready, meaning that it supports signal resolutions of up to 1080i. That said, you'll need to purchase a HDTV set-top box to get images that are anywhere near this resolution, as despite being marketed as a fully integrated unit, the bundled TV tuner is analog.
A HDMI input is included, which is highly desirable these days since set-top boxes, PVRs and audio systems are increasingly adopting HDMI connectors. They're certainly not wrong in doing so, as the interface offers far superior quality due to its ability to carry uncompressed high-definition video and 8-channel audio content over a single cable. Other connectivity options include: component, composite, S-Video, D-Sub and two SCART inputs. There's no DVI port for digital connection to a PC, but HDMI-to-DVI converters are widely available from most stores that stock home theatre gear.
For our performance tests we employed a mix of synthetic and real-world benchmarks. Our synthetic testing included various reference patterns from Digital Video Essentials, which is an extremely useful tool for those looking to properly calibrate their display. We also tested the panel's TV playback capabilities through its integrated tuner and a HD set-top box, and rounded out our evaluation by running through a viewing of Constantine on DVD.
Immediately noticeable were the high default brightness and contrast levels, which we naturally toned down. Many manufacturers like to turn these settings up as much as possible so that their panels stand out in the showroom, but this has negative effects on colour fidelity, with images appearing washed out. We also found that images had a slight red tint, while yellows were somewhat brownish by default. Thankfully, both of these issues were for the most part fixed with a little tweaking of the colour temperature setting.
Once we made our adjustments, images were generally of a high standard, particularly those transmitted from our DVD player and HDTV set-top box. Analog TV signals coming from the built-in TV tuner on the other hand were unsurprisingly low in quality, made worse by the fact that the low-resolution image must be up-converted to fit the high native resolution of the panel.
Fast-paced action scenes in movies displayed without any noticeable motion blur, despite the relatively slow 16ms pixel response time. That said, fans of frenetic action games should probably look for a speedier LCD or a plasma.
One issue that remained after our adjustments was the panel's inability to display blacks that are darker than 4 percent above video black. What this means is that deep blacks in some films aren't visible, and in some darker scenes detail is reduced. For example, a scene in Constantine shows a close-up of Keanu Reeves' character's black clothing. It's difficult to discern the creases and finite detail in his coat since they're a darker level of black than the panel is capable of displaying. It's not a deal breaker, but something to make note of nonetheless.
For a bedroom setup, the integrated stereo speakers are extremely competent, offering adequate volume levels and impressive audio positioning. However, those who plan to install the set in a larger room would do well to couple it with a dedicated sound system as the quality degrades as you move further away from the screen.
Provided you take the time to optimally tweak its internal settings, the Sanyo LCD-27XR1 offers great value for money and combines all of the features you'll need into an attractive package.