As 26-inch TVs are usually destined for second rooms, quality generally isn't considered as important as price. But can Panasonic persuade us to spend in the region of £500 on its HD Ready Viera TX-L26X10 LCD TV?
As you'd hope for the price, the TX-L26X10 is decently specified. Key elements include an HD Ready resolution, and the inclusion among its connections of three HDMI jacks, a PC port and an SD card slot for playing back JPEG stills.
It's also good to find a dynamic contrast system, which can automatically reduce the backlight brightness during dark scenes to produce more credible black levels. While common on large-screen TVs, this sort of system is commonly missing at the smaller end of the market.
The TX-L26X10 has green credentials too, with an eco mode that adjusts the picture's brightness -- and thus energy consumption -- in relation to the amount of light present.
The lack of other really notable features unsurprisingly makes the TX-L26X10 very easy to use, especially with the added help from an excellent remote control and some clean, fuss-free on-screen menus.
Where the TX-L26X10 really sets about justifying its cost, though, is with its performance. It's simply miles better than most of its 26-inch competitors.
It's particularly striking how sharp the set's pictures look. There's impressively little trouble from the LCD motion-blurring problem that's common at this screen size, for instance. And the screen's HD Ready resolution reproduces well the detail and clarity of HD sources, providing ample proof to naysayers that you really can appreciate HD content on a screen this small.
Standard-definition pictures look sharp and clean on the TX-L26X10 too. That's a particularly important but often-neglected consideration as regards second-room TVs.
The TX-L26X10's colours are reasonably natural in tone and its black levels are deeper than those of the budget models that make up the majority of the 26-inch market. Finally, and most surprisingly, the TX-L26X10's sound is much more potent and well-rounded than that delivered by most 26-inch TV speaker systems.
The TX-L26X10 really doesn't score well in terms of basic shelf appeal. For starters, there's the TV's design, which is notable only for its total drabness.
Then there's the price. We've seen 42-inch Panasonic plasmas going for only £100 more than the TX-L26X10. With the price in mind, we would like to have seen more picture-adjustment options on the TX-L26X10, not to mention 100Hz processing. But, then again, motion looks pretty decent even without 100Hz processing.
While the set's black levels are actually decent by 26-inch standards, there's nonetheless more greyness and hollowness evident during dark scenes than you'd expect to see with a good larger LCD model. Also, when the TX-L26X10 is viewed from the side, you'll notice a more significant reduction in black response than you would with most bigger Panasonic LCD TVs.
Finally, the TX-L26X10's pictures generally lack the verve and vibrancy of larger Panasonic TVs. But this is a pretty common shortcoming of small TVs, and will probably only become a serious issue if you want to use the TV in a conservatory or sun room.
While we don't think many people will really be willing to stump up £500 or so for a 26-inch LCD TV, the Panasonic Viera TX-L26X10 does at least provide a much-needed small-screen option for people who actually care about AV standards.
Edited by Charles Kloet