Finlux 42F7020-D review

Pros

  • Low price
  • USB recording
  • Decent 3D and 2D pictures

Cons

  • Plasticky build and backlight issues
  • Poor USB format support
  • No Freeview HD tuner

Finlux is building a solid reputation as a purveyor of well-specced TVs with ridiculously low price tags. One of the ways it keeps its prices so wallet-friendly is by selling its sets directly to consumers through its website.

The Finlux 42F7020-D is particularly remarkable as it's a 42in passive 3D set with direct LED backlighting that sells for just £350 at the time of writing. There are even eight pairs of glasses in the box, which is incredible value in anyone's book, provided its pictures are up to scratch...

Obviously, these budgetary constraints mean you'll miss out on the cutting-edge picture tech and smart features of big-name rivals, but for anyone on a tight budget this set will seem like manna from heaven.

Design and features

Having been treated to chic sets from Samsung, LG and Sony recently, Finlux's frumpy design is quite a comedown. It's remarkably chunky for a direct LED set, with a thick bezel and 99mm depth making it look more like a traditional CCFL LCD TV.

Its build quality is generally sound but the bodywork is plasticky and it shudders when you rap it on the back panel. The stand is a single piece of plastic that doesn't allow the screen to swivel.

But that's all par for the course – the set's design and construction are as good as you could hope for at this price. And it's not completely devoid of style either, boasting a tasteful gloss-black finish and some touch-sensitive buttons on the left hand side.

On the back is a healthy array of sockets. Most eye-catching are the four HDMI inputs, which comes as a nice surprise given that some sets costing a lot more only offer three. Three of these are outward-facing, with a fourth on the side. You'll also find two SCART inputs, component, PC VGA and analogue stereo inputs, subwoofer and coaxial digital audio outputs and an aerial input.

Joining the HDMI socket on the side are composite and analogue stereo inputs, a headphone jack, a Common Interface slot and two USB ports which allow you to play media files from flash drives and to hook up an external HDD for PVR recording functionality.

The 42F7020-D's basic spec is solid, but anyone looking for extra treats like network streaming, Internet content and Wi-Fi really need to look further up Finlux's range (the 40in 40S8070-T, for example, offers smart TV, DLNA and a Wi-Fi dongle for £50 more).

It does, however, offer 3D compatibility (albeit of the passive variety) and direct LED backlighting, which at this price are not to be sniffed at. As mentioned, Finlux throws eight pairs of passive 3D glasses in the box, which means you're not forking out a small fortune on glasses for all the family. Passive 3D is no match for the active system in terms of picture quality, but for a comfortable and cost-effective way of watching 3D movies and Sky 3D, it really can't be beaten. There's no 2D-to-3D conversion, however.

The inclusion of USB ports looks like a real fillip on paper, but the set's video format support renders the feature almost useless. It didn't list the MKV and DivX files on my USB stick, and refused to play AVI, WMV, XviD and AVCHD (mt2s). In fact, the only file type it would play on my drive was MPEG-1. On the music side, it'll only play MP3 files, but thankfully JPEG files pose no problems.

It's also disappointing to discover that the on-board tuner is regular Freeview only, which means no hi-def channels – although at this price you might have enough money left to pick up a cheap Freeview HD receiver. Again, Finlux's pricier S80 sets are equipped with hi-def tuners.

There is a decent range of picture adjustments though, including the regular stuff like contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour, noise reduction and backlight modes (Minimum, Medium, Maximum or Auto) as well as an Advanced Settings menu. This throws in colour temperature, picture zoom, HDMI True Black, Film Mode and Colour Shift, which lets you adjust the balance between red and green.

Operation

When you first fire it up, a First Time Installation procedure sets the onscreen language and tunes in the TV channels, which it carries out quickly.

The onscreen menu system has a PC monitor feel, but makes up for its lack of sophistication with its logical structure and crisp appearance.

The main menu is a banner that runs across the middle of the screen, housing six simple icons in bold colours. It's split into Picture, Sound, Settings, Install and Retune, Channel List and Media Browser – all self-explanatory stuff.

Picture and Sound are where you make all your AV tweaks, while Settings houses stuff like recording configuration, timers and conditional access options. The menus are basic lists, but text is legible and the cursor moves quickly.

The Media Browser breaks content down into Video, Photos, Music and Recordings, again using a row of purple and white icons against a black background.

Select video, for example, and the files are listed on the left, with a preview screen and details about the file on the right. It's more functional than fancy but gets the job done.

Elsewhere, the EPG is a dour-looking affair with its black, white and grey colour scheme and lack of live TV, but it does its job well enough. The programme grid shows 11 channels at a time and the cursor skips between programmes quickly. There's also a long list of options at the bottom, each corresponding to a specific button on the remote, which lets you skip days, filter the grid, zoom in, search and record – all of which gives you plenty of flexibility.

The recording library looks similarly dull but the list is straightforward and it provides plenty of detail about each recording, as well as telling you how much space is left on the HDD. When watching TV you can press Info and bring up the onscreen banner, which shows now and next details for every channel.

The remote is possibly one of the longest I've ever encountered, which is occasionally problematic when it comes to reaching up to the playback keys at the very top. It also has a slightly cheap, plasticky feel, with flat clicky buttons.

But those things aside it's easy to use – the menu controls are placed on a bump in the middle to make them easy to find in the dark and all of the buttons have clear labels below them. There are dedicated buttons for activating 3D and accessing the Media Browser.

Performance

At this price it probably won't surprise you to learn that the Finlux 42F7020-D isn't a world beater in terms of picture quality, but it's much better than the rock-bottom price suggests.

With Blu-ray discs, the 42F7020-D makes a good first impression with its surprisingly bright and punchy pictures. It takes some careful tweaking in the setup menu, particularly contrast and brightness as it's quite easy to lose punchiness if reduced too much, but with the backlight setting on medium and brightness around midway I found a satisfactory balance.

And though it sounds odd, the set makes hi-def really look like hi-def – some budget sets degrade the picture and lose resolution to the point where you might as well be watching a DVD. That's not the case here.

We tried out the 2D copy of Thor and its rich comic book colours radiate from the screen, looking warm and convincing. There's a slightly waxy look to skin tones, where the set's processing can't quite tease out the subtle shading of the human face, but it's not something that'll keep you awake at night.

I fired up Batman Begins next and the Finlux lends a cinematic look to this moody movie. When hordes of bats start flying around Bruce Wayne in the cave, the detail on the rock walls is perfectly visible and you can pick out individual bats among the flock, all thanks to the decent contrast level.

Black response is fairly good for the money, but nothing spectacular. Sure Batman's suit looks convincingly dark, with all the ridges and bumps visible, but it doesn't plumb the same depths as the TV big guns, despite the presence of direct LED backlighting. Look at the black bars on 2.35:1 Blu-ray movies and you can see pools of light along the bottom, plus Gotham's night sky has a slight glow. But once again let's make it clear that for a £350 TV it's actually a very good effort.

Elsewhere, there's some judder and motion blur on movement, but with no high-powered image engine pulling the strings that was always likely to be the case. Thankfully it's not too distracting.

Switching to passive 3D, the image quality is perfectly enjoyable. You don't get the crisp full HD of the active system, but what you do get is a nicely layered, immersive image that's comfortable to watch for long periods.

Thor's coronation scene has a lovely sense of depth and distance, while objects and scenery stay focused as the camera edges forward, there's not much crosstalk to worry about and the glasses hardly dim the image at all. The visible line structure, particularly on diagonal edges, is par for the course with passive 3D pictures and isn't something that ruins your enjoyment.

Freeview pictures are bold and watchable, but their slightly fuzzy look is a stark reminder of the missing HD tuner.

Audio

For day to day TV viewing, the Finlux 42F7020-D's speakers deliver decent sound quality. Speech comes through loud and clear and the slow-burn events of shows like Homeland are handled with pleasing clarity. But inevitably there's a lack of bass in the sound, which leaves it sounding thin when watching more demanding movie material.

Verdict

Even taking its obvious shortcomings into account, the Finlux 42F7020-D still feels like terrific value for money. Getting a 42in direct LED set with passive 3D and USB recording for just £350 is a boon in itself, but the fact that its pictures are actually quite impressive comes as a nice surprise. Sure, the lack of Freeview HD, limited format support and plasticky build quality are compromises, but if you want LED and 3D on a tight budget then the 42F7020-D is worth a punt.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Finlux 42F7020

Screen size (inches)

42

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Backlight technology

Direct LED

Picture engine

N/A

Digital tuner

Freeview

3D ready

Yes

3D technology

Passive

3D glasses supplied

Yes (8 pairs)

2D-to-3D conversion

No

Wi-Fi

No

Online content

No

DLNA streaming

No

Smartphone control

No

Contrast ratio

1,400:1

Brightness

300cd/m2

Refresh rate

50Hz

Speaker power

Not given

Energy efficiency class

B

Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)

1,015 x 680 x 244mm

Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)

1,015 x 641 x 99mm

HDMI

4

Component

1

Composite

1

SCART

2

Digital audio output

1 (coaxial)

PC input

1

USB

2

SD card slot

No

Ethernet

No

CI slot

Yes