- Review Price: £950.00
While our tastes generally seem to be moving up towards the 32in screen size for our ‘main’ LCD TVs, we’re quite sure there’s still a massive market for 26in sets among more conservative buyers or – more likely for readers of this website – people who want a high quality, watchable-sized second TV for a study or bedroom.
In fact, we reckon the Xbox 360 alone could be responsible for shifting bucket-loads of 26in HD Ready LCD TVs, as they make perfect second-room partners for a 360 if using the console on your main TV isn’t practical or, ahem, allowed…
All of which brings us to the JVC LT-26DX7BJ: an HD Ready 26in LCD boasting reams of features at a very approachable price. Could this be the TV your Xbox 360 has been waiting for?!
The first thing to say about the 26DX7BJ is that it’s a savvy looker. Not gorgeous, just savvy. By which we mean that the colour scheme and overall design are more flash than elegant, especially with the strip of blue neon that blares out from under the screen when the TV’s on.
One of the things that helps the 26DX7BJ look so striking is the fact that it doesn’t appear to have any speakers. But don’t be fooled; in fact there is a set of speakers, cunningly tucked away in a vertical recess between the bottom of the black screen frame and its silvery surround. Let’s just hope this design-led idea hasn’t compromised the audio quality too much.
The 26DX7BJ talks up its ‘high def partner’ credentials with its connections, which rather stonkingly include a pair of HD-friendly HDMI sockets. Also, as with any HD Ready TV, there’s a set of HD capable component video inputs for analogue sources like an Xbox 360. More gaming Nirvana comes in the form of a 15-pin D-Sub port for a PC, while ‘straight’ video duties are taken on by the usual collection of SCART, composite video and S-Video connections.
As well as being HD Ready, the 26DX7BJ scores ‘future-proofing’ points by including a built-in digital tuner, complete with support for the 7-day Freeview electronic programme guide system and a CAM slot so that you can add subscription TV services to your Freeview channel selection.
Most TVs worth their salt these days carry some sort of fancily named picture processing system, and the 26DX7BJ is no different. The fancy name, in this case, is DynaPix, and as usual this is a coverall name for a bunch of different picture-boosting tweaks.
Of these ‘sub-systems’, by far the most significant is JVC’s Digital Image Scaling Technology – or DIST. DIST’s main purpose is two-fold: to better map incoming pictures onto the 26DX7BJ’s native 1,366 x 768 resolution, and to add loads of lovely jubbly extra fine detail into the picture.
It also does some fancy progressive frame rate adjustments to improve motion; applies a veritable feast of noise reduction techniques to clean things up; can automatically optimise contrast levels based on the incoming picture content; and can automatically optimise colours to make them appear both more natural and more vibrant.
There’s actually stacks more we could go through with you, including a neat picture in picture system. But as your brain is probably already fried with what you’ve read so far, let’s just move swiftly on to the fun bit: how the 26DX7BJ performs.
In many of the ways that matter it performs extremely nicely, thank you very much. Particularly striking – to the point of being occasionally awe-inspiring – is the picture’s sharpness. JVC has done quite numerous generations of its DIST processing now, and the lessons learned along the way mean this latest version can throw in exceptional amounts of fine detail information without the nasty side effects (soft edges and dot crawl in particular) that blemished earlier incarnations.
Good quality standard definition pictures can thus, at their best, almost look like high definition in their sharpness. And high-definition pictures can be so textured and detailed they almost look like, well, real life!
Joining the sharpness in giving the pictures an almost visceral instant impact are the 26DX7BJ’s colours. We’re getting used to seeing LCD TVs pump colours out with loads of aggression and brightness, but the intensity and drama of the 26DX7BJ’s colour output makes most rivals look like they’re using economy bulbs.
Couple this extreme vibrancy with dark parts of the image that actually look dark, and you’ve got a picture that grabs and holds your attention in a vice-like grip.
One final strength is the general lack of noise in the 26DX7BJ’s picture. Edges look crisp but free of false contours or jagged curves; the impeccable fine details look clean and stable; digital broadcasts look smooth rather than beset by MPEG decoding ‘blocks’; and HDMI feeds show little if any of the digital noise that can be seen on many aggressively bright LCD sets.
By now you might well be wondering why our final picture mark for this JVC only reads 8. The answer lies in two distinct picture flaws. First, fast horizontal motion on the TV tends to suffer with some quite overt smearing, suggesting either that JVC’s DynaPix system does, after all, still generate some digital noise side effects, or that the screen’s LCD response time isn’t the greatest.
Problem two is that while dark parts of the picture look suitably black on this JVC, they also look rather empty and ‘black hole’-like, lacking the sort of subtle shadow details that would make them feel more like an integral part of the picture.
A far more minor point is that colours can look a touch unnatural with dark, standard definition scenes – but this can be said of practically every other LCD TV too, so we won’t dwell on it. Especially as many LCD rivals actually suffer with it worse.
The 26DX7BJ’s speakers immediately and vehemently lay to rest our earlier doubts about whether their ‘hidden’ nature would compromise their sound. They are, in fact, genuine contenders for the title of ‘best speakers we’ve ever heard on a 26in LCD’, pumping out more sheer volume, soundstage width and dynamic range than many TVs twice the size.
Although it’s not perfect, we’ve got a lot of time for the 26DX7BJ. Even with its couple of flaws it’s still got enough cutting edge strings to its bow to make it a perfectly respectable main TV and a cracking second-room set – especially with an Xbox 360 in tow.
Score in detail
Image Quality 8
Sound Quality 10
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