Tesco is so dominant in the UK that one in every eight pounds spent on the British high street is spent in the company's stores. Of course, one of the reasons it has been so successful is its aggressive price cutting. With its in-house Technika brand, Tesco has brought that same 'no holds barred' approach to its TV range. The 22-inch Technika 22-228 set is a good example. It includes both a DVD player and USB digital-media playback, yet is priced at a very reasonable £170. You can buy it either in store, via the catalogue or from the Tesco Direct website.
Plastic looks fantastic
The bods at Technika obviously had Samsung's current range of tellies in mind when they were designing this model. It looks very similar, thanks to the sweeping curve at the bottom and the way the glossy black fascia blends into a transparent lip on the outer edge. On the whole, it's a good-looking design, but the build quality does feel a little plasticky, especially at the base of the stand. Nevertheless, the set's slim remote control has a good layout and the buttons are pleasingly responsive.
A 22-inch TV such as this is more likely to be used as a second set in a kitchen or bedroom, so it doesn't need the extensive line-up of sockets you'd find on 32-inch and larger sets. While it's a little disappointing to find this model only has a single HDMI port, the other range of connections are reasonably decent -- it has a Scart socket, VGA port, component connectors and a composite socket on the left-hand side. There's also a coaxial digital-audio output so you can run the sound from the Freeview tuner or DVD player to an external amp.
The electronic programme guides (EPGs) on cheaper TVs tend to be quite sluggish to use, but thankfully that's not the case here. The EPG has a vertical layout with channels listed on the left and a full day's programming shown on the right. This is similar to some of Toshiba's budget models, but it works much better here. You can view the programming data for different channels without the set continually switching between channels as you move around the EPG. As a result, it's much faster to use.
USB key to digital-media playback
The rest of the menu system looks a little boring, as it's mainly presented as text. But the menu is sensibly laid out, so it's easy to get at most of the functions that need tweaking. The TV's USB port lets you hook up external hard drives or memory keys to play digital media. The TV supports MP3 music files, JPEG pictures, and movies in DivX and Xvid format. Although the media browser used to select files looks very basic, the playback quality is good and it's definitely a handy feature to have on a set like this.
Of course, the TV also has a built-in DVD player. This can be used to play both DVD movies as well as videos in DivX and Xvid format that have been burned to CD or DVD. Playback quality is similar to what you get from a budget DVD deck and the slot-loading mechanism is quite quiet even when spinning a disc, which is important if you're going to use the set in a bedroom.
Budget by brand, budget by nature
When it comes to budget brands, smaller TVs generally perform better in terms of picture quality than larger models, simply because you don't need as much picture-processing to make images on a smaller screen look acceptable. That's certainly the case here. Watched from a normal viewing distance, Freeview channels look fairly sharp. The set is quite bright, too, and colours, although not as natural as perhaps we would have hoped, do look strong and punchy.Like many budget sets, however, the 22-228's contrast performance is rather lacklustre, and the set doesn't really manage deep blacks. Using the picture controls, you can either increase the depth of the black levels, which tends to make the picture look muddy, or increase the amount of shadow detail by pushing up the brightness and contrast controls, but this washes the black levels out. Unfortunately, as with many of these budget sets, you can never quite achieve a happy medium.
There's also visible light bleed at the edges of the pictures -- when it's showing darker images, the extreme edge of the display looks a tad bluish. Overall, though, the picture quality is acceptable for a budget screen, but certainly not as natural or as rich-looking as you'll get on more expensive 22-inch models from the likes of Panasonic and Samsung.
While its picture quality may lack the finesse of similarly sized sets from big-name brands, we still think the Technika 22-228 offers good value for money with impressive digital-media playback features, an on-board DVD player and neat design.
Edited by Emma Bayly