It's a testament to how fast the flat TV revolution has changed the shape of the UK's viewing habits that the TV size that was once considered absolutely as big as most UK households would ever be willing to go is now one of the smallest sizes anyone still contemplates. We're talking, of course, about 32in; a size which once looked enormous when it was accompanied by huge CRT rear-ends jutting out the back, but which now looks positively puny once it's pushed right back against the wall, flat TV style.
In fact, so far have our habits changed that 32in TVs are rapidly becoming the 'new 26in' TVs, in that as their prices continue to plummet they're starting to be bought by more and more people not as their main TV but as second TVs for a study, kitchen or bedroom.
Whether you're interested in one for main or second room use, though, you naturally want to know which ones are the best out there. So we've collected together no less than eight current models for a right royal 32in showdown…
Price comparison:JVC LT-32DA8BJMore info: JVC Size (on stand): 800(w) x 545(h) x 99(d)mm Weight (inc stand): 13.5kg Native aspect ratio: 16:9 Claimed max contrast ratio: 1200:1 Claimed max brightness: 500cd/m2 Connections: Two HDMI inputs, component video input, two Scarts (both RGB), composite video input, stereo audio inputs, tuner input, CAM slot, Optical digital audio output, Stereo audio output, headphone jack
Historically JVC has struggled to be truly competitive on price with many of its LCD TVs. But the 32DA8BJ's £700 price tag puts that right in no uncertain terms. The question is, has JVC had to compromise too much quality to get there?
It does look a touch cheap, to be honest; the finish is slightly plasticky in places and the design is over-busy. But it's decently connected, with twin HDMIs and a component video input among the highlights. Please note, though, that the lack of a D-Sub PC port means you can only connect a computer via the HDMIs - and only then if it's set to the screen's 1366x768 resolution.
Aside from its digital tuner, the 32DA8BJ's main feature is its DynaPix HD image processing. This proprietary JVC system claims to deliver such tricks as extra fine detail (especially with standard definition sources), less video noise, enhanced contrast, and richer, more natural colours.
In many ways DynaPix seems to know its onions. High definition pictures look strikingly sharp and full of fine detail - but so, tellingly, do standard definition ones, revealing the benefit of DynaPix's detail enhancements in no uncertain terms.
One big problem upsets the 32DA8BJ apple cart, though: its black level response. Dark parts of a picture can look rather greyed over and flat, reducing the sense of depth in the image and occasionally making some skin tones look rather sickly.
Decent price, really sharp pictures, rich colours Minus points
No D-Sub PC port, black level problems
Price comparison:LG 32LB1DB More info: LG Electronics Size: 811(w) x 630(h) x 235(d)mm Weight (inc stand): 27.1kg Native aspect ratio: 16:9 Claimed max contrast ratio: 1600:1 Claimed max brightness: 500cd/m2 Connections: Two HDMI inputs, Three Scarts (1 RGB), component video input, composite video input, S-Video input, D-Sub PC input, Stereo audio output, stereo audio inputs, CAM slot, RF input, optical digital audio output; RS-232C jack; remote control in/out
The first thing to say about the LG 32LB1DB is that visually, it's a stunner, thanks to a sumptuous combination of a deeply glossy black finish, an unusual 'block' style connection to its rotating desktop foot, and a really tasteful blue LED display showing what AV input you're watching. Hubba.
It's pretty well connected too. Two HDMIs lead the charge, with full support from a D-Sub PC port, component video jacks, three Scarts and an optical digital audio output.
In terms of features, LG has its own answer to JVC's DIST system in the shape of the 'XD Engine'. This, too, is targeted at improving fine detail levels, colour response, black levels, noise reduction and motion. And it includes user tweaks for such niceties as green, blue and flesh tones, plus MPEG noise reduction for reducing the blockiness of low-quality digital tuner broadcasts.
If you can feed it a predominantly high definition diet, the 32LB1DB's picture quality is very good indeed. There's oodles of fine detail on show, all reproduced with impressive clarity, and driven off the screen by a strikingly bright, colourful general tone. The 32LB1DB's black levels aren't bad either for such an affordable 32in LCD TV, and as a final HD plus, the 32LB1DB handles motion reasonably crisply.
Unfortunately the set falls down badly with standard definition sources, as its aggressive presentation tends to exaggerate any video noise. It also seems that the LG's motion handling is less impressive during standard def viewing.
If the 32LB1DB was rather bigger and so more likely to be bought for use with more high definition sources, it would be a winner. But unfortunately its average performance with the standard definition pictures it's most likely to get fed make it something that we can only whole-heartedly recommend to our most image-conscious readers.
Lovely design, good price, impressive HD pictures Minus points
Noisy and slightly smeary standard definition playback