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8/10

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Panasonic Viera TX-L26X10 26in LCD TV - Panasonic Viera TX-L26X10

The TX-L26X10's pictures are for the most part very likeable - especially when considered in the rather impoverished context of the rest of the 26in LCD TV world.

Colours, for instance, are strikingly well defined and vibrant, looking solid and rich with 'artificial' stuff like video graphics, but also managing to be natural and expressive with subtler fare like skin tones or naturally lit interiors.

This latter talent, as well as being rare in the small LCD world, points towards another of the TX-26X10's strengths: surprisingly deep and believable black levels. Why am I surprised by this? Partly because iffy black levels are the single most common failing of small LCD TVs, but also partly because if there's one weakness Panasonic LCD TVs traditionally struggle with more than others, its black level response. Indeed, this was our only serious problem with the Panasonic TX-L32X10 when we looked at it a week or so ago.
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Don't get carried away here; I'm certainly not saying that the TX-L26X10's black levels are brilliant. There's definitely some of the tell-tale greyness hanging over the darkest picture areas. But there's also no doubt that the TX-L26X10's black levels are markedly better than those of the vast majority of its same-sized rivals.

Another area of picture performance where the Panasonic TX-L26X10 comfortably outperforms the vast majority of other small LCDs is sharpness. For instance, it delivers the extra crispness and detail of HD sources with real aplomb for a 720p screen - and without making them look gritty or forced, either. Also - and this is particularly impressive - it suffers remarkably little with LCD's motion blur problem, despite not having any 100Hz engine onboard. Even the Toshiba 26AV505DB we've lauded in the past fell prey to this common LCD issue. But with the TX-L26X10 there were probably only one or two brief moments during the entire review process where I really felt distracted by motion blur at all - an exceptional result for such a small screen.

A final 'sharpness' strength of the TX-L26X10 becomes apparent when watching standard definition sources from the set's Freeview tuner. For even the grubbiest of these digital broadcasts are upscaled to the screen's HD resolution remarkably astutely, adding detail where it helps and removing video noise where it's not wanted.

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