There's usually a huge difference between a high end LCD television and a lesser-known brand, so when we got the MediaStar MD32AS into the test centre, we prepared for the worst. Imagine our elation when we fired up the panel to discover a high quality display with excellent colour reproduction and a contrast ratio that, from a visual standpoint, stood toe to toe with units over $500 more in price.
The MediaStar is a rather exceptional television set made from extremely high quality components. The design of the set is rather utilitarian with a robust aluminium metal frame, bezel and a sturdy stand. The speakers are set into the left and right sides of the panels contained within the stand elements and are connected to the unit via speaker wire which is rather haphazardly protruding from the rear. Thankfully, when viewing content on the MD32AS, the speaker wire is not visible, but it is small things like that that detract from the overall quality of the product.
When it comes to flat panel televisions, one of the worst mistakes that can be made in the design process is making the panel too thick. Unfortunately, the MediaStar falls victim to this design flaw and it is a little bulky and too deep. While we don't tend to detract from a product score for subjective assessments, we felt that the unit looked less than impressive when compared with similar products on the market. However, in the end this is merely a matter of personal taste.
We were quite happy with the range of connectors available on the rear of the MD32AS. The unit sports two SCART connectors, a component, composite, and S-Video input as well as both DVI and D-Sub PC connections. We would have liked to see two or more component inputs, especially considering the current move toward high definition but with at this price point these options are more than adequate.
The speakers on the unit are fairly good with audio cohesion at high volume levels, but the sound lacks depth - to the point where some sound effects are lost when watching movies. On a more positive note, they audio can be tweaked with various presets and the ability to control the bass, treble and the like, but even after a little calibration we still felt the speakers could have been better.
We jumped right into the testing of this TV, eager to give it a work out and were pleased to find very few problems. When playing the lobby scene from "The Matrix" we noticed that the panel tended to over emphasise the colour green just a little. That scene is already saturated in green as it is, but some areas of the image tended to be a little more excessive than the original source. When we performed greyscale tests we also noticed a slight green tint to the mid level greys which explains why the MediaStar had this issue with "The Matrix".
We were quite impressed with the contrast ratio when viewing the T-Rex attack from "Jurassic Park". This scene is notorious for displaying serious colour stepping on skin tones, since it is a night scene and requires an excellent contrast ratio in order to render properly. However, the MD32AS performed beautifully and where we had commonly seen errors in other televisions, the MediaStar handled it perfectly. We did notice a little loss of definition some of the smaller details in the image but this is most like a product of the up scaling from 480i to 720p so it was to be expected.
In our formal "Digital Video Essentials" tests the panel passed with flying colours. We did notice some noise in the motion gradient tests but this happened only in mid to dark blue and wasn't prevalent in our PC block colour tests via D-Sub connection. In our SMPTE colour bars tests we noticed that the final row of pixels along the edge of each colour block wasn't quite as well defined as they should have been but since this doesn't seem to have any real-world impact on the overall image quality, it is more a point to mention than a serious issue.
Our PC connection tests involved running "DisplayMate Video Edition" and checking the panel for a wide range of visual aberrations. The desktop looked quite stunning with clear text and excellent brightness and colour definition. Almost every one of our formal tests came back positive for the MediaStar. When it comes to performance, we cannot fault it. As we mentioned earlier, there was a slight green tint to the grey scale which can affect the shades of colours as they are rendered but it is fairly minor and won't detract from the viewing experience.
The biggest detractors for this unit are the on screen display and the tuner. The tuner is only analogue and as such looks absolutely terrible on a screen of this quality. Thankfully, when MediaStar sell these televisions, they usually bundle them with a digital terrestrial receiver thereby eliminating the analogue tuner altogether. The on screen display, while functional, is extremely unattractive and looks cheap. There are a wide range of tweaks available to the user but the eyesore that need to be endured to access them is a little too much to handle.
We were fascinated by the quality of this television set. It reminded us of the Sharp Aquos 32AX3X and upon speaking to the MediaStar representative, we were enlightened as to why this was. The MediaStar MD32AS uses sixth generation Sharp Glass in the making of their panels. This is one of the best quality glass manufacturers in the world and as such any television with this panel is going to look sublime. Not everything is in the glass though, as without adequate image processors and such the image still won't look good. Whatever MediaStar have done, they have done it right and we not only look forward to seeing what they come up with in the future but we gladly recommend this TV for people on a budget, who want the best bang for their buck.