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For instance, much to our surprise the 26LMD70’s entry-level status doesn’t prevent it carrying Panasonic’s new V-Real 2 image processing engine. One element of this is, intriguingly, 1080p support, making the 26LMD70 very unusual in 26in LCD circles for being able to take 1080p signals. Of course, you might very well argue that having 1080p support on a 26in TV is a moot point given the unlikelihood of your being able to see the 1080p advantage on such a small screen. Especially when that screen’s native resolution is an HD Ready 1,366 x 768 rather than a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080. But heck; if you’ve got it, flaunt it, we say!
Other elements of V-Real 2 include sophisticated noise reduction routines that attempt to eke out the causes of video noise before any noise can actually appear, rather than simply trying to get rid of noise after it has appeared as is usually the case. Plus there’s a colour management component and, crucially, something Panasonic likes to call an ‘Intelligent Scene Controller’. This is actually a dynamic backlight system where the image’s brightness is reduced during dark scenes to deliver better black level response. What’s more, Panasonic reckons it can reduce the brightness of ‘black’ pixels to only a 7th the brightness of its previous LCD generation – a fact which helps the set claim a contrast ratio of 7000:1, a really remarkably high figure for a 26in TV.
More good news comes with the discovery that the 26LMD70 also employs the same new IPS Alpha LCD panel design as Panasonic’s higher-grade screens, delivering the same benefits in terms of wider viewing angles and superior brightness and colour.
So far it’s still not clear what places the 26LMD70 any lower down the pecking order than, say, the 32LXD70 we looked at a few weeks back. And then it hits us: 100Hz. Unlike Panasonic’s X screens, the 26LMD70 doesn’t have this processing system for making movement look clearer by doubling the normal 50Hz scanning rate.
And boy, do we miss it. As soon as we put an action scene such as the battle for Minas Tirith on the DVD of The Return of the King onto the 26LMD70, it’s noticeable how much less sharp the fighting looks than it does on Panasonic’s 100Hz sets. Moving objects lose enough resolution to make really busy shots actually look quite soft and fuzzy – not the sort of thing we’d associate with Panasonic LCD TVs at all.