With so many options and wildly varying prices in the world of plasmas and LCDs, it might sound like a good idea to test-drive the big name manufacturers first to see exactly what you get for your money. The truth is, that doesn't always help, because while JVC's excellent 26in LT-26DSBJ sells for around £2,000, this same-sized set from Hitachi is selling for a third of the price.

It's all a question of versatility. If you want an LCD that can handle all the high-def images from Sky's upcoming HDTV service, turn back to the JVC, because while the 26LD6200 has a digital DVI input, it's not configured for HD. This is a bit of a shame, as the 1,280 x 720 resolution screen has ample pixels to show such footage. The only way to get HD onto this screen is via its PC input.

Mirrored finishes, shiny black surrounds and designer looks don't come cheap either, and while JVC's 26-incher looks the absolute bees knees, Hitachi's effort is drab at best.

The final thing to mark the 26LD6200 out as a budget model is the fact that it lacks the fancy picture processing of Hitachi's high-end TVs. Not that we're complaining, however - the brand has done more than most manufacturers to bring plasma and LCD prices down to affordable levels, and there's still plenty here for an undemanding user to enjoy.

There's that high-resolution screen, for starters, which is joined by a quick 16ms response time and a couple of handy RGB Scarts. For £700 (and less online), this set is bordering on a bargain - if its pictures hold up, that is.

Thankfully, they do. Tuning in without any hassle, TV pictures from the built-in analogue tuner looked reasonable - which is more than can be said of such low-grade pictures when displayed on many LCDs - while those from a Freeview box via RGB Scart were very bright, colourful and pleasingly low on picture noise.

Diesel power

What's more, a run-through of the Director's Cut version of Vin Diesel's magnum opus The Chronicles of Riddick revealed strengths with both detail and sharpness. The movie's early chase sequences did throw up one or two flaws, but before we reveal them we'd ask you to remember that both problems are common to LCD, and at this price we'd be astounded not to find them somewhere.

First up, blacks had a tendency to become a grey mush, and second, fast movement created some blurring and judder as the camera pans across the digitally created landscapes.

For the price, audio doesn't disappoint. While Riddick's battle scenes didn't quite receive the required oomph, there was plenty of clarity for 90 per cent of our test movie and, of course, for regular TV.

We've got no hesitation in declaring the 26LD6200 a thoroughly decent TV, and it's a bargain to boot.