Magnavox 32MD301B LCD TV Review
An old-school TV that manages to impress with solid picture quality.
Let's take a trip back in time to the good ol' days of the late-90s. Many of us fondly remember TV shows like TRL and musicians like Sisqo. Chances are, if you watched TRL, you probably watched Sisqo music videos. And if you watched Sisqo music videos, it's possible that you viewed them on a Philips-Magnavox television.
Magna-who? The once-great American television company is known for two notable firsts: the first company to manufacture plasma panels and the first company to make a home video game console (the Odyssey). Sometime in the mid-70s, Philips swallowed up Magnavox, but continued to sell products with the Magnavox name. During that carefree time in the late-90s, Philips decided to brand some televisions as "Philips-Magnavox"—twice the brands means twice the TV, right?
These days, both Philips and Magnavox-branded TVs are manufactured by Funai. We were able to find a 32-inch Magnavox television—the 32MD301B—that has the added benefit (or hindrance) of a built-in DVD player. Twice the nostalgia means twice the TV, right? Well... aside from a downright scandalous form factor, this 720p LCD is actually a great bargain for its low asking price of $300.
What is this, a Mini Cooper? Get that red stripe off my TV!
If this were still the late-90s, the 32MD301B would exemplify a revolutionary design and form factor. Unfortunately, this Magnavox is bland and thick, although it does manage to stand out from the crowd due to a built-in DVD player on the side and a hideous red stripe on the front. Maybe the stripe is supposed to make the TV look thinner, although horizontal stripes on clothing generally make people look wider. Fashion 101, Magnavox!
Below the Magnavox logo, there are labels for manual controls: Volume, Channel, Menu, and Power are listed, plus Eject, Stop, and Play for DVD-related controls. The way the names are printed on a glossy surface made us think they were touch-sensitive—they are not, and we felt foolish for pressing the names in vain. The actual controls are physical buttons located underneath the labels, which aren't the most intuitive things to find. Still, we can't harp on this TV's manual controls too much since they work as intended.
There are a bunch of basic connections on the 32MD301B: two HDMI inputs, a component and a composite input, two analog audio outputs, and a digital audio output are all accounted for. This is one of the few TVs that doesn't include a USB port, which is fine by us: No one wants to see pictures of my cats on my phone, let alone on a TV.
Since we're kicking it old school, we have to point out Magnavox's inclusion of an S-Video port. Yes, this is 2013 and you can still find a TV that is compatible with your dad's Laserdisc player.
It's similar to other budget menus, but gets the job done.
Most budget TVs have very similar interfaces and this Magnavox 32MD301B is no different. The menu is divided into six sub-menus: Picture, Sound, Channel, Features, Language, and DVD. Options are rather limited, although we were surprised to find an equalizer in the Sound sub-menu—if you must know, it didn't actually help with the rather poor sound on this Magnavox, but if you feel like more of an audiophile by having an EQ on your TV, this TV has you covered.
Surprise: A $300 TV can produce a good picture!
If you haven't noticed yet, the 32MD301B is a throwback television. Short of loading up "If You Had My Love" when powered on, the best way to create a nostalgic TV is by using technology called CCFL. What in the name of Jennifer Lopez is CCFL? It's an acronym that means "cold cathode florescent lamp," and it was the backlight technology used by LCD TVs before LEDs came and stole the show. Does this mean the Magnavox will display an overly bright picture? That all depends on the implementation of this technology, and in the case of the 32MD301B, Magnavox (or Funai) did it quite well.
The 32MD301B surprised us by how dark it gets—its blackest levels are plasma-like, but unfortunately, so are its brightest levels, which is a nice way of saying that this Magnavox doesn't have a very bright picture. As long as you aren't watching content in a room that gets lots of sunlight, you won't notice the lack of luminance.
As far as real-world picture quality is concerned, the Magnavox 32MD301B looks surprisingly good; Target sells this model for about $300, so forgive us if our expectations weren't very high. Colors are accurate and motion performance is passable, although we noticed some blurriness during action scenes in The Karate Kid, Part II. Since this is a budget 720p television, there are absolutely no motion processing options. For $300, though, this shouldn't be an issue.
For $300, this Magnavox will have you digging out dad's old Laserdisc player.
Sadly, Magnavox products (like Sisqo) are a rarity these days. That's unfortunate, because the 32MD301B is a really good TV. Actually, for $300, this is a great TV. Our tests don't lie: the colors are accurate, the TV is able to produce a deep black level, and it even has a decent viewing angle. True, this Magnavox is on the ugly side, but if you haven't made the switch to Blu-ray yet, at least you get a convenient DVD player built into this display.
If a 32-inch TV is in your future, definitely check out the 32MD301B. It's a throwback display, styled like the televisions of 10 years ago. But like a throwback Allen Iverson jersey, this Magnavox is still quality.
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