After the stunning high quality black and silver finishes of recent JVC LCD TVs,it's obvious right from the off that this is an entry level set. The finish is plasticky,the sculpting plain,and the all-silver colour scheme more subtle than chic.Still,who cares about a bit of glamour when you've got a 26in LCD TV for just £800?

Especially when that TV's connectivity is much better than expected for the price.The most key discoveries are a DVI socket and a set of component video inputs, suggesting that this TV might be HD Ready.What's more,the DVI jack can take PC feeds (analogue or digital) as well as digital ones.The only minor fly in the ointment is that while there are also two Scarts and a composite jack, there's no four-pin S-video option.

A search for features confirms that this TV really is HD Ready,with a native resolution of 1366 x 768,and compatibility with all the key HD formats.Beyond this,though,the only things worth mentioning are backlight brightness adjustment,a '3D'sound option,and video noise reduction.

This short features list isn't especially worrisome on such an affordable LCD TV - although it's worth pointing out that Samsung's LE- 26R41 adds a digital tuner for around the same money.

Happily,pictures show little if any sign of their budget nature.Particularly impressive at this price is the black level response.Even without any black stretch enhancements to help out,dark picture areas suffer much less with the tell-tale grey mist than similarly priced rivals.This results in pictures that are more involving and easy to watch,and which contain an impressive sense of depth and scale.

What's more,these excellent black levels haven't been achieved at the expense of brightness,as the picture has enough richness,colour saturation and peak-white feistiness to look vivid,vibrant and impactful.

We mentioned a moment ago that colours are well saturated and vibrant,but we should also add that they're natural in tone by LCD standards,too.

These talents are particularly to the fore during HD viewing,when the TV does such a great job that it's hard to accept that you're watching an £800 TV.But the 26A61SJ's quality doesn't drop off with lesser sources as much as we might have expected, always looking bright,well contrasted and engaging.

Pictures aren't absolutely perfect, however.Standard definition images look slightly soft and untextured,and can suffer a little with motion blurring during sports footage.But neither problem ever becomes serious enough to make the pictures less than pleasurable to watch.

The 26A61SJ's sonics surpass budget expectations,too.There's a surprisingly open feeling to the soundstage,keeping action scenes convincing and clear,without suffering from any signs of harshness or mid-range overload.Even bass levels are pretty profound.

In the end,the 26A61SJ does pretty much everything you could reasonably expect it to - and,in doing so,proves a worthy adversary to recent 26in heroes from the likes of Panasonic and Samsung.