19/06/2012
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Motorhome TV review

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Are you watching?

Don Campbell searches out televisions that are suitable for use in motorhomes and puts them through their paces

A good range of 12V TVs is now available for the leisure market. All seven TVs tested here had Freeview installed and most had an integral DVD/CD player fitted.

The main criteria assessed were:

  • picture quality (viewed straight ahead and at an angle)

  • sound quality

  • ease of use and price

All the units reviewed (except the Visua flip-down unit) can be wall-mounted in a caravan or motorhome. Sizes and weights listed are therefore without the stand.

Viewing angles: Since all LCD and some LED TVs suffer from some loss of clarity when viewed at an angle, if the unit is to be mounted above eye level, the use of a swivel wall mount is recommended to allow the TV to be tilted down and viewed directly.

Sound: As TVs have become thinner the speakers have, of necessity, had to get smaller resulting in several of the units having poor sound quality compared to the average larger home TV. This can be greatly improved by using external speakers from the headphone socket. Apart from the extra cost, there will be an additional power drain of about 3W per speaker. Speakers need not be expensive to do the job, but you do need to consider where to mount them and run the wires.

The Foehn and Hirsch unit (which has been recently replaced with a new model) had flat speakers incorporated into the glass screen and the quality of these and the Avtex and Versat speakers were better than the others. The Avtex also incorporates a FM transmitter which will actively broadcast sound to other speakers in the motorhome or caravan which can greatly improve audio quality and give a 'surround sound' effect.

Off switches: None of the TVs, with the exception of Avtex, had a dedicated OFF switch and therefore remained in standby mode with a drain varying from one to three watts. This may not seem a lot, but it adds up if the TV is left on without any battery charging. Wiring the unit via an ON/OFF switch is therefore recommended, which will involve extra expense for those not confident enough to do this themselves.

Picture quality of all the units was very good and was not particularly influenced by the resolution. At 19” and below a lower resolution than full HD (1920 x 1080) will give a good, sharp picture, but if you want to watch Full HD video recordings or connect a Blu-ray DVD or a full HD game console, the only set that offers full HD at the time the review was conducted is the Foehn and Hirsch. However, Avtex is introducing new full HD models in early 2012 and they will be available by the time this review is published at about the same price as its current models.

Signals: Tests were carried out using a normal antenna, which gave good reception on all channels in an area with an adequate signal, but an antenna booster would probably improve reception away from towns. Only the Versat TV had a built in DVB-S receiver to receive Free to Air satellite programmes in addition to Freeview, but a satellite antenna will be needed.

12V power: Three of the TVs (Inovtech, Avtex and Meos) have a built in 12V regulator circuit. This allows the TV to operate when the battery is below 12V and also provides full protection against voltage spikes, which can occur on 12V circuits. The specific advantage of TVs with an internal voltage regulator is that the cigarette lighter type connector provided can be removed and a connection made to a convenient 12V supply anywhere in the motorhome. Price should not therefore be the sole consideration, as a model with a built-in voltage regulator circuit will typically cost 25 per cent more than one without. Other TVs have an in-line voltage regulator supplied and others incorporate it into the cigar-type connector.

Digital: Of the TVs tested, only the Avtex carries the Digital Tick Logo. The logo means a TV has been tested by the Digital TV Group (DTG) and is certified as fully reliable and compliant with all digital technical standards; it is guaranteed to work through digital switchover and is future-proofed against any changes that may be made in digital broadcasting. It will also have target region tuning which assists with selecting and tabulating the strongest transmitters when there is an overlap of two or more transmitters. This can be an important feature for people who are touring.

However, all the TVs were tested in an area that has already switched to digital, and all received the digital Freeview stations without problem. In areas that have yet to switch over, some of the non-DTG-compliant sets may need re-tuning.

Guides: The EPG (Electronic Programme Guide) varied from those able to be toggled between showing the full programme for a particular station or what can be viewed on every station at the current time, and those that would only show what is on every channel at that particular time. These are annotated as Time and Channel, or Time or Channel only. The ability to choose one function or another we considered to be a bonus, although serious TV watchers would probably buy a weekly programme guide.

There was no attempt to ‘star rate’ the TVs as much will depend on what you want or are prepared to spend. We found no real faults with any of the TVs and, generally, you get pretty much what you pay for.


The televisions

   Visua 10.2in TV/DVD/radio
InovTech 15.6in TV/DVD Cello 19in TV/DVD
Versat 18.5in TV/DVD Avtex 18.5in TV/DVD Meos 19in TV/DVD Foehn & Hirsch 22in TV
  Visua 10.2in motorhome tv Inovtech 15.6in motorhome TV Cello 19in motorhome tv Versat 18.5in motorhome TV Avtex 18.5in motorhome TV Meos 19in motorhome tv Foehn and Hirsch 22in motorhome tv
Supplier In21Now RoadPro TV Village Leisurepower Avtex Wedodigital AC DC TV
Digital Tick approved
Size (mm) without stand W360
H260
folded out
W400
H282
D47
W460
H305
D50
W457
H341
D47
W325
H329
D47
W462
H309
D53
W552
H383
D50
Screen size (Diagonal) 10.2” 15” 19” 18.5” 18.5” 19” 22”
Screen type LCD LCD with LED backlight unit LED LED backlit LED LCD LCD with LED backlight unit
HD ready
Resolution not stated

Resolution
1600 x 900

Resolution
1366 x 788

Resolution
1366 x 768

Resolution
1366 x 768

Resolution
1680 x 1050

Resolution
1920 x 1080 (full HD)
Weight 2.4kg 1.96kg 3.8kg 3.4kg 4.3kg 5kg 4.45kg
Stand Flip-down mounting Swivel only, removable Swivel only, removable Fixed Fixed Swivel & tilt, removable Tilt only, removable
Wall mounting
see above
Freeview built in
Integral DVD
Multi-region

Multi-region

Multi-region
Multi standard TV tuning PAL only PAL and SECAM
(Euro coverage)
PAL and SECAM
(Euro coverage)
PAL and SECAM
(Euro coverage)
PAL and SECAM
(Euro coverage)
PAL, SECAM, NTSC (Worldwide) PAL and SECAM
(Euro coverage)
Quoted power consumption 18W 30W TV
50W DVD
1W standby
26W for TV
30W for DVD
15W TV
24W Satellite
1W standby
30W max DVD
1W standby
30W 22W
2W standby
12-volt regulation built in
External in-line device supplied

External in-line device supplied

External in-line device supplied

External in-line device supplied
On/Off Switch
Remains in standby

Remains in standby

Remains in standby

Remains in standby

Remains in standby

Remains in standby
Record programmes
Via USB

Via USB

Via USB

Via USB

Via USB

Via USB

Via USB
Memory card reader
Auto tune
Digital & analogue

Digital & analogue

Digital & analogue

Digital & analogue

Digital & analogue

Digital & analogue

Digital & analogue
One button tuning
Automatic programme sorting
Sound system 2 x 3W speakers in main unit 2 x 3W speakers Stereo speakers 2 x 3W speakers Stereo speakers Stereo speakers Flat stereo speakers in the LED
TV/DVD sound quality Good Fair Fair Very good Very good Fair Very good
CD Sound quality Good Poor Poor Good Good Poor N/A
DVD picture quality Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good N/A
DVD problems None None None None None None None
Electronic Programme Guide Time only Time and channel selectable Time and channel selectable Time and channel selectable Time and channel selectable Time and channel selectable Channel only
Teletext
Picture quality - head on Small screen, but very good and sharp Very good, sharp, clear picture Very good, sharp, clear picture Very good, sharp, clear picture Very good, sharp, clear picture Very good, sharp, clear picture Very good, sharp, clear picture
Viewed at 10° angle Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good Very good
Viewed at 20° angle Good Good Good Very good Very good Good Very good
Viewed at 30° angle Good Slightly darker Slightly darker Good Good Slightly darker Good
Viewed at 45° angle Good - slight loss of clarity Darker but picture still visible Darker but picture still visible Good - slight loss of clarity Good - slight loss of clarity Darker but picture still visible Good - slight loss of clarity
Handbook
Instructions on DVD
Warranty 1 year 1 year 1 year 2 years 3 years (with 0 pixel failure guarantee) 1 year 3 years
Sleep timer
Additional Inputs HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
AUDIO
2HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
AUDIO
2HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
AUDIO
2HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
2HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
AUDIO
HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
AV
HDMI
VGA
USB
SCART
SPDIF
Common Interface facility
Free to Air Satellite receiver
Requires satellite dish
Headphone connection
External speaker facility
Audio output facility

Via headphone socket

Via headphone socket

Via headphone socket

Audio output & FM transmitter

Via headphone socket

Via headphone socket
FM transmitter
RRP  £239  £249.99 £199.99 £399 £399 £249 £199

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