Can a telly that lacks Freeview HD, 3D and any semblance of a 'smart' platform really be considered suitable for modern living? That depends on what you're after, but we're sure Hannspree's latest bargain basement edge LED-backlit LCD TV has enough to suit a lot of living rooms.
If you want the best online IPTV services around and an app-strewn user interface, it's worth paying top dollar for sets from Sony or Samsung. The rest make a slight hash of it all in any case, so Hannspree - primarily known to us as the maker of budget-busting gadgets - is rather astute to completely swerve the whole ‘smart’ idea.
If a few quid has been knocked from the price already, another couple of tenners are saved through the lack of 3D compatibility, though plenty of homes are being perfectly well entertained without gimmicky children's movies to get distracted by, so we'll forgive that one, too.
Even the lack of a Freeview HD tuner makes sense at this price. We could go on forever about how we expect all new TVs to have a DVB-T2 tuner, but despite it being such a hit in 2010 that it's now become a social faux pas to leave it out, the fact remains that homes with a Sky or Virgin Media set-top box - that's about 15 million of us - just don't need it. So why pay for it? Cable and satellite subscribers are often on the hunt for a back-to-basics telly capable of displaying hi-def signals with skill. Hanspree’s SE40LMNB could be that screen.
USB and digital file support
Despite coming armed with Edge LED backlighting, a panel depth of a mere 50mm and a Full HD resolution, the SE40LMNB does lack a lot of features considered normal on modern TVs. But, in an effort to distract us are some USB-fuelled features, which include digital file playback, pause and rewind live TV features (timeshifiting), and even TV recording.
In practical use all of these features are thoroughly disappointing. For starters, that USB slot is disarmed by some sloppy software that deals with the likes of JPG, MP3 and AVI (DivX) files, but fails with MKV - a very common video format.
ItsTimeshift features, too, are lacklustre - and even nudges being unusable. Although it can be used with a (minimum) 2GB USB thumbdrive, it's too complicated. Pausing live TV takes three button presses and the navigation of two different menus. As if we're going to do that when the guy with the lukewarm pizza turns up. Timeshift is supposed to be about convenience, but here Hannspree made us work far too hard to get some relatively simple tasks accomplished. It's not even possible to set recordings from the EPG.
Was timeshifting added as an afterthought? Possibly – the remote control certainly isn’t equipped to handle such 'advanced' functionality.
A healthy dose of inputs and outputs give this budget TV a more mature look; three HDMIs meet component video, a PC and an RGB Scart (using an adaptor), while audio enters via phonos or a minijack, and exits through digital optical audio or a headphone socket.
Oddly, that optical slot is towards the top of a side-panel, which at a stroke makes it less enticing for owners of separate AV amplifiers and home cinema systems, though those with set-top boxes won't need to use it.
Graphical user interface
A nicely designed GUI is unexpected and welcome. A subtle design that builds-in a functional Freeview guide complete with thumbnail of the live channel (with audio), and programme information is given for just six channels over two hours, though it's quick to operate using the so-so remote control.
Picture & sound quality
Without much to shout about so far, we're left virtually speechless when Blu-ray graces the SE40LMNB's LCD panel. Detailed, with nicely cinematic colours and a decent stab at producing jet black, consider this a perfectly good set for partnering with a Blu-ray player.
That, however, is where the good stuff comes to a halt; standard Freeview pictures – and there are no other, remember, are covered in picture noise, while motion blur suddenly seems to smear moving objects around the panel. Colours collapse amid a realisation that, yes, expensive TVs with pricey picture processing are indeed much more versatile.
Sound from its twin 8W speakers is nothing to shout about, either, though what flat TV can claim otherwise?
At under £350 the Hannspree's sterling performance with Blu-rays will make the 40-inch edge LED-backlit LCD TV an attractive proposition for some.
If the lack of Freeview HD, 3D and smart TV apps don't put you off, Hannspree's combination of a good user interface and decent hi-def pictures is initially pleasing, though the shine is taken off by some messy, USB-driven timeshift features and a poor treatment of standard definition TV; in many ways its Full HD resolution works against it in terms of all-round versatility.