As the nation's disposable income disappears with alarming rapidity down the economic toilet, manufacturers suddenly appear much keener to push the smaller things in AV life. For suddenly, after a seemingly endless deluge of 40in+ TVs, I find myself in the company of the second 26in TV in consecutive TV reviews: JVC's LT-26DE9BJ.
What's more, the 26DE9BJ reinforces just how seriously manufacturers are suddenly taking this smaller screen size by being considerably more than just a 26in LCD TV. For tucked inside its little body is the small matter of a 160GB hard disk drive onto which you can record Freeview broadcasts without the need for the usual external set-top box.
What's more, the recording capabilities we're talking about here are no ordinary HD recording capabilities. Rather they're implemented to the standard demanded by Freeview if a recorder is to earn itself ‘Freeview+' accreditation.
For those of you not familiar with the Freeview+ standard, it has seven main tenets, which stack up rather like this:
1. At least an 8-day Electronic Programme Guide.
2. Series Link support allowing one timer to record an entire series.
3. The facility to record split programmes such as movies interrupted by a news broadcast as if they were one programme.
4. The ability to offer to record related programmes.
5. The ability to spot and record an alternative showing of a broadcast if there is a time conflict.
6. The ability to update schedule changes even while a TV is in standby.
7. Accurate recording', whereby programmes are recorded based on data from a broadcaster rather than simple time settings.
All this clutter-busting, built-in recorder talk sounds like a very good idea on a 26in TV. After all, these days a 26in LCD TV is likely to find itself tucked away in a bedroom or second sitting room, where space is more limited and additional kit less bearable than in a typical living room.
Yet more good news finds the 26DE9BJ's recordings being taken by simply storing away the relevant part of the broadcast digital bitstream containing your desired programme, which experience suggests should lead to no loss in quality at all between the original broadcast and the recording.
And still we're not done with the 26DE9BJ's recording talents, for it also transpires that you can record two Freeview channels at once, while on LG's Freeview+ models you're limited to just one.
Please note, however, that you can't record anything else but Freeview on the 26DE9BJ; the analogue tuner and AV inputs are all off-limits.
At this point it's probably worth saying that you don't get all the 26DE9BJ's innovative recording talents for free; at around £465 it's nearly £180 dearer than the extraordinarily cheap Toshiba 26AV505 we looked at over the weekend. This sort of price difference could be a concern given that you can get external Freeview recorders for as little as £120 if you know where to look, leaving you to ask yourself if the reduced clutter of the built-in recorder route is really worth £60 to you.
Plus, of course, you've also got to find out if the 26DE9BJ is actually a better performer and more heavily loaded with features - aside from the Freeview+ recording - than the bargain-bucket Toshiba.