Alba (AELKDVD2288R) LED LCD DVD Combi TV Review
AVForums checks out Alba's 22 inch TV/DVD Combi
IntroductionWe recently reviewed a 22" TV/DVD combi from Linsar and we found a competent performer that tried to fill the ground between the ultra cheap TVs and the more expensive models from the major manufacturers. One of the issues that we had with Linsar was that its pricing put it into direct competition with the budget models from some of the majors and thus it was hard to recommend it when better performance could be hand for similar money. But what about these true discount brands, how do they compare to Linsar and the majors? Well at £130, the Alba 22" TV/DVD combi certainly falls into the cheap category but does the Argos exclusive deliver value for money? Let's find out...
Design and ConnectionsThe Alba is constructed entirely of glossy plastic and comes in a number of funky colours - red, blue, purple, pink and silver. The construction is reasonable and the panel sits on a rectangular stand that is relatively stable, although it can't be swivelled. The chassis is about 5cm deep to accommodate the DVD player and the bezel measures 2cm at the top and sides and 5cm at the bottom. There is a infra-red receiver at the bottom left but otherwise the entire front of the display is free of any lights or buttons, there isn't even a logo or the name Alba.
Along the top are some basic controls for the TV itself, including power, vol+/-, ch+/-, menu and source. At the top right hand side of the chassis there is a manual release button for the disc tray, which needs to be pulled out in order to attach a disc. Whilst this approach might not sound very elegant, it does at least offer a more tactile and robust approach that might prove popular with younger hands. The rear of the chassis is made of matte black plastic, with ventilation grilles at the top and downward firing speakers at the bottom. There is a hard wired power cable that is 1.3m long.
The remote control is made of plastic and matches the colour scheme of the display. It is very light but reasonably comfortable to hold, with a groove for your index finger which makes one handed operation easier. However the ergonomic design is very poor and whilst all the necessary controls are present, locating them can be problematic. The tiny buttons often have dual functions and are laid out in symmetric lines rather than intuitively; as a result even the simplest task can become difficult in a darkened room and controlling the DVD player is a nightmare.
The Alba has a bare bones set of connections, comprising a single HDMI input, a SCART connector, a USB port (which appears to serve no purpose) and a composite video connector with stereo analogue inputs, all facing downwards. At the side, 9cm in from the edge, there is an aerial socket, a headphone socket and a CI (Common Interface) slot.
MenusSetting up the Alba was very easy, as there are minimal features and little to initially connect, other than the aerial. Tuning in the display was quick and simple with an easy to follow setup menu and the resulting Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) was clearly laid out, informative and easy to navigate. The guide itself actually appears in semi-transparent form over the channel you are currently on, which means you still have the picture and audio. The built-in Freeview tuner doesn't have high definition, which is a shame when you consider the Alba has a 1080p panel. The setup menu for the DVD player is possibly the most basic we have ever experienced, with just options for TV Display, OSD Language, Screen Saver and Last Memory. However to be fair, there are other picture controls within the TV's main menu system. There is a source button on the remote, which gives you a choice of DTV, AV, SCART, HDMI and DVD.
The main menu system consists of five pages - Picture, Sound, Tuning, Feature and Setup. In the Picture menu you can choose from a number of Picture Modes (Standard, Vivid, Soft, Optimal and User), although the only mode that allows you to change any of the settings is the User mode. You can also access the Picture Mode directly from the remote control. If you select the User Picture Mode, you can then adjust the Brightness, Contrast, Sharpness, Saturation and Tint controls. There is also a control to select the Colour Temperature and there is a choice of Standard, Cool or Warm. The Sound menu allows you to select the Sound Mode (Standard, Movie, Music, Speech, User), the Bass control, the Treble, the Balance and the Average Volume Level (AVL).
In the Features menu, you can control the Child Lock, the Language, the Clock, the OAD, Auto SCART, CI Info and Auto Standby. Finally in the Setup menu there are controls for OSD Timer, Sleep Timer, Aspect Ratio, HDMI Setup, Blue Screen, Reset to Default and First Time Installation. In the HDMI Setup Menu there is a choice of Overscan and Underscan, you need to select Underscan which is Alba's interesting name for pixel mapping. You also need to ensure that you select an Aspect Ratio of 16:9 but you can access the Aspect Ratio options directly from the remote control.
Test ResultsThe Alba has a number of other Picture Modes including Vivid, Soft and Optimal but regardless of their names they were all as inaccurate as Standard. Regardless of which Picture Mode you selected, if you tried to change any of the available controls like Brightness or Contrast, the picture mode automatically switch to User. So we found that the best out-of-the-box setting was achieved with the User Picture Mode and a Colour Temperature of Warm. We also adjusted the Brightness, Contrast and Sharpness controls, resulting in the measurements shown above.
As you can see the Greyscale is still showing sizeable errors but now it has too much red, giving everything a reddish tinge. However, whilst far from ideal, the overall errors are better than the other two options of Cool and Standard, so it's the best of a bad bunch. The three primary colours are actually tracking in straight lines, so it's a shame there isn't a two point white balance control, as the errors would be easy to fix. The Gamma curve is still set too low and the picture remains somewhat washed out as a result. The Colour Gamut still has some significant errors, especially in red, which considering the greyscale doesn't come as a surprise. However the secondary colours are certainly better but there is still a pull towards yellow in both red and green.
As we mentioned previously the Alba has no calibration controls, not even a two point white balance, which makes further calibration impossible. We tried to improve the colour performance slightly by adjusting the Saturation and Tint controls but were unable to make any real improvements. Therefore the final out-of-the-box measurements shown above represent the final calibrated performance of the Alba. Of course, since this small screen TV/DVD combi aimed at the lower end of the market, it is unlikely that anyone is going to have it calibrated, so the absence of these controls is something of a moot point.
The Alba doesn't have a dedicated Backlight control, so the light output of the panel is adjusted using the Contrast control. There was certainly no lack of brightness and we had to use the Contrast control to bring the light output down to our target of 120 cd/m2. After adjusting the Contrast and Brightness controls correctly, we measured black at 0.15 cd/m2, giving us an on/off contrast ratio of 834:1, which is rather poor for a TV. The good news is that there screen itself was largely free of reflections and the backlight uniformity was very good, with no obvious light pooling or bright corners. The graph above shows the spread of measurements for the ANSI contrast numbers, resulting in a ratio of 823:1, which gives a fair indication of the Alba's real world performance.
The Alba doesn't have a dedicated Game mode but given the general lack of features and image processing, it was able to deliver an input lag of just below 37ms which is actually quite good when compared to many other displays this year. It would certainly make a reasonable screen for gaming, especially for a younger child where some of the display's other limitations won't really matter.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box Standard Mode: 17W
- Calibrated User Mode: 16W
- Using the built-in DVD player: 20W
DVD PerformanceAs a DVD player the Alba performed reasonably well, although the disc mechanism was very loud and the manual loading tray is rather clunky. However once the disc was loaded the player brought up the menu screen very quickly and general navigation was easy and responsive, if again rather basic. The menu system and setup was very straightforward and we were able to watch discs, scan, skip and pause without any problems, although the poorly designed remote control didn't help.
In terms of picture quality the playback of DVDs obviously benefits from the smaller screen size and certainly well encoded discs looked reasonably good. However, the Alba's poor video processing meant that the deinterlacing and scaling of standard definition images to fit the high definition panel resulted in some stair stepping and jaggies. Despite the panel itself being 1080p, given the size, the lack of a Freeview HD tuner and a built-in DVD player, the majority of the content watched on the Alba will undoubtedly be standard definition, so it's disappointing that the video processing isn't better.
Picture QualityDue to its nature, the majority of viewing on the Alba will probably be standard definition, either from the built-in DVD player or from the Freeview tuner. In this respect the Alba was something of a let-down as the poor video processing introduced jaggies and other artefacts when deinterlacing and scaling content to match the high definition panel. There was also a hint of softness, even on a screen this small, but this could be an advantage with many of the more compressed TV channels. However it wasn't all bad and the details in shadows and peak whites were very good and the blacks looked reasonable, thanks in part to the back light appearing quite uniform. The screen didn't suffer from reflections and the off axis performance in the horizontal plane was very good. Whilst the colours could be more accurate, the Alba had brightness to spare and overall it delivered a perfectly watchable image that would be suitable for kitchens, studies or bedrooms.
The Alba uses a full 1080p panel and there is a single HDMI input if you wish to take advantage of this capability. It's unlikely that the majority of people will be hooking up a Blu-ray player to the Alba and it's a shame the Freeview tuner isn't HD, although it's debatable how much advantage there would be on a 22 inch screen. However, to our surprise the Alba actually handled high definition content very well and motion handling and detail were very good, even on a screen this small. In fact the increased resolution was immediately obvious and images were nicely rendered and highly detailed with no dead pixels. Freed from the limitations of the poor video processing, the Alba was able to show what it was capable of and it's a shame that it isn't stronger in those other areas because with high definition content the display actually has potential.
Audio QualityWe're used to poor sound from today's ultra-thin TVs but the deeper chassis of the Alba held out hope of a slightly fuller sound. Sadly this was not the case and the rear positioned, downward firing speakers sounded very poor. The audio had a very tinny quality and sounded as though it was coming out of a box even smaller than the TV itself - a remarkable feat considering this is only a 22" screen. Given that we obviously didn't expect much in the way of stereo separation but the experience was decidedly mono with no sense of space at all. The quality of the speakers and the power of the amplifiers meant that you couldn't - nor would you want to - listen to the Alba at high volumes. There are some different modes in the sound menu but none of these helped with the fundamental problems and mostly just muddled an already poor audio experience. The sound is just passable for basic TV watching and simple gaming but anything more demanding and the sound will become distracting.
- 1080p images looked good
- Decent motion handling
- Good backlight uniformity
- Easy to use menus
- Good input lag
- Very low energy usage
- Poor contrast ratio and dynamic range
- Colour gamut could be more accurate
- Greyscale could be more accurate
- No calibration controls
- Poor deinterlacing and scaling
- Failed 2:2 cadence detection
- Disc operation noisy
- Badly designed remote control
Alba (AELKDVD2288R) LED LCD DVD Combi TV Review
The Alba's all-plastic construction comes in a range of funky colours, which would be appealing to children, and the manual disc tray and tactile buttons might prove more robust in a kid's bedroom. The rear connections are basic but should cover most bases, whilst the setup is easy and the menu system is simple to navigate, which once again might prove popular with the younger members of the household. However, the remote control is poorly designed in terms of ergonomics, with the tiny buttons laid out in symmetric rows, making intuitive use difficult.
The default greyscale and colour performance are wildly inaccurate but sadly the preferred settings are only a slight improvement and the absence of any calibration controls makes further improvements impossible. The video processing is a real disappointment when it comes to standard definition material, which given the built-in DVD player and lack of Freeview HD will be the dominant content. The Alba actually handled high definition content quite well but it seems unlikely that such material will be viewed that often. Aside from the video processing, the built-in DVD player performed quite well, although it is quite noisy in operation.
On the plus side, the screen is reasonably free of reflections and the backlight is pleasantly even, although the black levels and dynamic range are poor. The Alba is also very energy efficient, even when playing a DVD and the input lag is reasonable. However, the Alba has too many limitations for us to recommend it, even at such a low price, and we would suggest those looking for better performance consider one of the more mainstream brands. However with its funky colours, cheap price and easy operation, the Alba might prove popular with those looking for a TV for their kid's bedroom.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £130.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level4
3D Picture Quality4
Ease Of Use6
Value for Money7
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