Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Mission M3

Mission M3

Danny Phillips loves the design of this sub/sat system – but will he also love its performance?

You might find this hard to believe, but the life of a home cinema reviewer isn’t all parties and press lunches. Hauling huge floorstanders and whopping subwoofers around the test room is a big part of the job, an activity that’ll give you a bad back quicker than you can say sciatica.

So when a system like Mission’s M3 (or M-Cubed) comes along, it's easy to breathe a sigh of relief. The five adorably compact satellites, each measuring just 90mm high, can be manoeuvred into position without the aid of a girdle, and when in situ they don’t take up vast swathes of living room space. Even the 274mm-wide subwoofer will slip next to your telly virtually unnoticed.

Cambridge Audio TV5

Cambridge Audio TV5

Mark Craven finds this Cambridge Audio soundbase speaker plotting a clever path between bass heft and detailed highs

Soundbase speakers are such an obvious idea it's remarkable they haven't been around for longer. Take the TV audio-boosting notion of a soundbar, throw in some sizable bass drivers, build it all into a rugged but discreet enclosure, and park a flatscreen on top of it. I wish I'd thought of it myself.

Cambridge Audio's TV5 is the company's biggest and best model. Measuring 72.5cm wide and 34cm deep, its top plate is roomy enough to support the stands of all but the most largescale flatscreens, but doesn't look like overkill supporting a 32in set either. The composite wood cabinet seems sturdy, and overall build is fine.

Sharp LC-60UD20E

Sharp LC-60UD20E

Sharp by name and sharp by nature, thanks to a native 4K/UHD resolution. But is that enough for this 60in flatscreen to impress John Archer?

To say Sharp’s TV division has been having a torrid time would be an understatement. In fact, having recently licensed its brand to Polish company UMC, the LC-60UD20E under scrutiny here may well be the last 'full' Sharp TV – as in, a TV designed and developed from the ground up by Sharp, and delivered predominantly from Sharp’s own production facilities – we get to review.

It gets off to a strong start, thanks to a striking and original design featuring an on-trend skinny black bezel that rests fetchingly on a pair of curved metallic feet at either end of the bottom edge. Seldom has a 60in TV looked so attractive while simultaneously taking up so little room.

Return to slender

Philips HTL5140

Adrian Justins auditions a smart-looking soundbar/subwoofer duo from Philips that offers HDMI switching, Bluetooth streaming and plenty of DSP options

Maybe Philips believes that the best things in life come in threes as its HTL5140 soundbar is supplied in a trio of sections that snap together like an over-sized Airfix kit. More likely, it’s simply found a clever way of reducing the volume of packaging required to accommodate a long, thin soundbar and a chunky subwoofer. Either way, the ingenious design works well and the main unit is a doddle to construct, plus it feels perfectly sturdy once assembled.

Faster YouView makes time travel fun

Humax DTR-T2000

Under-the-hood tweaks make the DTR-T2000 Humax's nimblest YouView PVR – Martin Pipe enjoys the slick experience offered by the hybrid TV platform

Back in the last century, an electronics magazine I used to work for ran a fantasy inventions competition. One of the winners was a gizmo that would allow a VCR to retrospectively record programmes you didn't know were on, and had therefore missed at the time. This was in the pre-internet days, when digital TV broadcasting was in early development, and it seemed a pretty improbable idea. Now, though, you can get hardware that does a similar thing for less than £200, courtesy of YouView.

Launched in 2012, YouView is a combined digital terrestrial PVR and internet on-demand platform, jointly owned by BT, TalkTalk, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Arqiva. Channel availability is broadly similar to that of the Freeview platform, as are the catchup apps. Current hardware is available from Humax, Huwaei, BT and TalkTalk. Sony's 2015 TV range will be adding the service.