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Having pretty near wet myself over Panasonic's sublime and huge 65in TH-65VX100E plasma screen in my previous review, I thought it might be kind of fun to turn to what's almost the polar opposite end of Panasonic's TV range, as represented by the 26in TX-26LXD80. Can this relatively low-rent diddyman - which inevitably uses LCD rather than plasma technology - show that Panasonic's TV accomplishments are truly blind to size and cost?
If there's been one thing about Panasonic's latest TV range that I've consistently been underwhelmed by, it's their aesthetics. And sadly the 26LXD80 continues that theme, looking really quite drab in its bland black frame. A little arc of silver along the bottom edge helps alleviate the boredom a little, but it's not enough.
Still, you don't have to be cute to be good at what you do (um, unless you're a model, I guess), so let's swiftly move on to something more practical: the 26LXD80's connections. And here things look up nicely, as I spot among them a healthy three HDMI jacks, a component video port, a D-Sub PC jack and even an SD card slot for the direct viewing of JPEG photos recorded to SD cards.
Starting next to explore the 26LXD80's features quickly reveals another bit of good news: the set's operating system is every bit as easy to handle as those of practically every other Panasonic TV we've seen in recent years. The onscreen menus are neat and logically organised, and the remote control has an uncanny knack of ensuring that all the most important buttons fall easily and quickly to hand.
Don't assume from this that the 26LXD80 isn't respectably well-featured for its money and size, though. For among its highlight features is a 3D colour management system for manually adjusting the tones of the picture's key colour elements; a couple of different noise reduction systems; and a handy, thoughtfully configured set of image presets that include a Cinema mode I'd personally recommend you use no matter what sort of image you're watching.
Despite these handy bits and bobs, though, I can't ignore the fact that the 26LXD80 doesn't provide any version of Panasonic's acclaimed V-Real image processing, presumably because Panasonic decided that the need to cut costs is more important at the 26in level than the need to add high-level picture processing.
Trying to be logical, I guess it's hard to disagree with this argument - but that doesn't stop me fearing that I'll miss the V-Real system badly when I eventually sit down to see what the 26LXD80 can do.
While I'm on the subject of picture features the 26LXD80 does not have, there's no 100Hz engine either. But this is only to be expected on an affordable 26in TV, so I won't hold it against the 26LXD80 - unless its motion handling turns out to be a smeary mess, of course!