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As well as making the screen fail to deliver a believable black tone, this problem also denies dark scenes any real sense of depth, as background details disappear beneath the fog. Plus it has you squinting to make out what’s going on – something that’s hardly conducive to an enjoyable experience when you’re talking about a film as long and unremittingly dark as Superman Returns.
It’s a simple fact of video reproduction that where you have black levels shortcomings you’ll also have colour tone problems. And so it proves with the 26DA8BJ, as some of the skin tones during our Superman session take on a distinctly unhealthy pallor that looks more like something out of Day of the Dead.
The TV also suffers the occasional motion handling glitch. For once we’re not talking here about the smearing issue that perpetually troubles LCD technology; in fact, the 26DA8BJ suffers less overtly with this than many rivals. Here the problem lies in a slight judder that occasionally afflicts moving objects. We couldn’t detect a particularly discernible pattern to when this happens, and so can’t offer a precise explanation for it. But we suspect it has something to do with sporadic glitches in the set’s progressive scan processing.
The 26DA8BJ does offer a couple of big picture strengths to provide at least some counterpoint to its failings, however. First, the set’s fine detailing talents are simply superb, reproducing every last pixel of HD sources with confidence, accuracy and an almost complete absence of such accompanying noise as dot crawl or grain.
Second, during bright, colourful scenes where the set doesn’t have to struggle through its black level problems, it’s noticeable how spectacularly vibrant and well saturated its colours can be.
Another point worth mentioning given that we’re still far from living in a fully HD age is the 26DA8BJ’s impressive handling of standard definition. The DynaPix system works wonders at adding extra resolution to PAL sources, not (of course) raising them fully to HD levels of clarity and sharpness, but certainly making them a heck of a lot easier on the eye.
The 26DA8BJ’s audio capabilities are more solid than its pictures. The mid-range is open and clean, and while the extremes of bass and trebles portrayed don’t get close to those heard on some of JVC’s higher-end LCD TVs, they’re sufficient to allow you to enjoy a decent movie soundtrack without it feeling flat or unclear.
You’ve got to applaud JVC for making both its LCD technology and its DynaPix processing system as affordable as it has in the 26DA8BJ. That means the brand has at least tackled the old ‘poor value’ chestnut that’s plagued much of its recent output. But sadly JVC’s other most common shortcoming, black level response, has not only not been conquered on the 26DA8BJ, but it’s actually got rather worse.