Sagem HD-L26TP2, 26in LCD TV Review
- Review Price: £950.00
Digital TV receivers, games consoles, PCs, VCRs, DVD players, amplifiers, speakers… the amount of clutter your average home cinema fans have to pile under their TV these days really is quite frightening. The sheer volume of space it all eats up and the mess it can cause – especially with coils of cable spaghetti all over the place – just isn’t conducive to the clean, open, family-friendly space most people want their living rooms to be these days.
So when a product comes along that combines three separate AV devices in one tidy box, it’s fair to say that we sit up and take notice. Cue Sagem’s HD-L26TP2: a 26in LCD TV complete with a built-in digital tuner and – extremely unusually – a built-in hard disk video recording system. Could this be the answer to our clutter-busting prayers?
It’s certainly a hell of a lot nicer to look at than a separate TV, Freeview receiver and hard disk recorder would be, at any rate. The high-gloss black finish is sumptuous, and the design boldly minimalistic. On the downside, the TV’s speaker-bearing ‘wings’ stick out an unusually long way to either side of the screen, making it take up rather more space than your average 26in TV. Also, the stretched design has the effect of making the screen part actually look slightly smaller than it really is.
Considering how many features it’s got built in, we would have forgiven the L26TP2 if it hadn’t bothered providing as many connections as its rivals. But in fact it’s unusually well connected, with highlights including two HDMIs, component video inputs, a PC connection, two SCARTs, and a USB jack for taking in digital photos from a USB key or memory card reader. There’s even a digital audio output to support Dolby Digital 5.1 audio signals should the digital terrestrial ‘Freeview’ service ever start broadcasting them. The only disappointment connections-wise is the lack of a conditional access card slot for adding subscription services to the basic Freeview channel roster.
Looking more closely at the Sagem’s outstanding features, we find the Freeview tuner fully backed up by support for the broadcasters’ 7-day electronic programme guide. What’s more, rather excellently you can use this programme guide to set timer events for the hard disk recorder simply by selecting a desired programme from the listings.
The hard disk recorder has 80GB of storage capacity – a seriously impressive amount that should enable you to store up to 40 hours of telly at a time. Enough, in other words, to cover a couple of weeks on holiday for even the most serious telly addict.
The recordings themselves, meanwhile, are made using MPEG 2 compression at an impressively high bitrate of 15Mbit/sec. This should be enough in principle to deliver recordings that look indistinguishable from the original broadcasts. Please note, though, that the TV will only record from its two digital tuners, not from the analogue tuner or any external AV inputs.
The L26TP2 has one or two other tricks up its overloaded sleeves. For starters there’s ‘DCDi’ processing from Faroudja, a widely acclaimed processing tool that generally does a great job of removing the jaggedness that can blight contoured edges on LCD and plasma technology. Then there’s the facility to adjust the TV’s backlight, and Sagem’s own Crystal Motion processing aimed at boosting a variety of separate picture elements.
We can also confirm that this TV is fully HD Ready, adding a suitably high native resolution of 1,366 x 768 and compatibility with the necessary 720p and 1080i HD image formats to its HD connectivity.
In action the L26TP2 proves a likeable rather than inspired picture performer. Starting off with the good stuff, its colours are superbly intense, really radiating off the screen and riveting your attention on what you’re watching.
Crucially, though, this cracking vibrancy is not spoiled by much in the way of unnatural toning, as for the most part hues across the colour spectrum look entirely believable.
This seems down in part to a well-judged white balance that sees peak white sections of a picture looking crisp and pure, rather than murky and subdued as they can on lesser LCD TVs.
Colours as rich as this are usually accompanied by solid renditions of deep blacks, and so it proves here. The L26TP2 mostly (though not completely) avoids the greying over of dark picture parts that characterises many LCD TVs, especially those smaller than 32in.
Next we come to the L26TP2’s sharpness, which impresses through a combination of good fine detail resolution and pleasingly little sign of LCD’s common motion smearing
Finally in the plus column we really must praise the quality of the recordings the set makes. So far as we can tell they look practically identical to the original digital broadcasts – and you can’t really ask for more than that.
Now for the negatives. Let’s start with the fact that although dark parts of the picture benefit from impressively deep black levels, they also look rather hollow, like black holes ripped from the picture rather than integral parts of it.
Next, while viewing an HDMI output we noticed quite a lot of greenish blocky noise over some parts of the picture – and no amount of fiddling with the brightness and contrast settings managed to completely eradicate this without ruining other aspects of the image. Finally, while watching the TV during daylight hours we couldn’t help but notice that its screen is extremely reflective of any bright objects in your room.
The L26TP2 is a respectable audio performer by 26in TV standards. In fact, it’s quite unusual in that it actually likes to be pushed hard. At low volumes it seems a bit flat and disinterested, but the more volume and audio dramatics you ask it to deliver, the more it springs into life.
With all the evidence in, the L26TP2 is a merely solid performer that’s elevated into something much more appealing by its handy, well thought through features and tantalising price.
How we test televisions
We test every TV we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
Score in detail
Image Quality 7
Sound Quality 8