Not everyone is excited by the high-definition future of TV (despite the fact that we keep banging on about how great it will be!) - many people may simply be after a solid all-round flatscreen at a good price. And while JVC's LT-26D50BJ isn't fully ready for high-definition TV, it may actually be able to take some HD broadcasts...
Okay, there aren't any digital video inputs (either HDMI or DVI, able to handle copyright-protected HDTV transmissions). However, there's a good chance that some HDTV - such as soaps, news and other daily fodder - will be accessible in the future via the JVC's component inputs. What's more, the screen resolution of 1,366 x 768 will be able to handle those broadcasts, as well as the next-generation HD DVDs and Blu-ray discs coming our way in the near future.
In addition to the component video inputs - which also mean this set can take top-notch progressive scan images from a DVD player - the JVC's rear boasts two RGB-wired Scarts, S-video, composite video and stereo audio in and outputs. There's also a PC port, for those that want the LT-26D50BJ to double up as a luxury monitor for a desktop. Two RF inputs for the set's own Freeview and analogue tuners sit alongside an empty slot that suggests an upgrade to Pay TV (an extension of Freeview) would be possible. All in all it's a good connections haul.
On-screen menus are simple enough to navigate, although the set's main menu system differs from those for operating the Freeview channels, needlessly risking confusing new digital TV converts.
Neither are digital novices likely to be overly impressed with the Freeview pictures. They suffer ghosting and noise, although displaying broadcast images has long been the Achilles' heel of LCD technology, so it's unfair to lay too much at the door of this screen - at least its colours and detail are pleasing.
DVD playback is more pleasing, although by no means perfect. JVC's D.I.S.T (Digital Image Scaling Technology) processing hasn't had the same impact as Philip's Pixel Plus or Sony's Wega picture processing, but this set shows that, while there's still room for improvement, it does have a positive effect on pictures. Our Milwaukee, Minnesota test disc boasted colours that were vivid but realistic, and there was a lot of detail apparent in close-ups and foreground shots.
Coping with movement is not the JVC's high point, however - something which was apparent during slow pans, which looked blurred to a mildly distracting extent. Flicker and judder are something to look out for when choosing between LCD screens, because some manufacturers are starting to overcome it - from the previews we've already seen, JVC's next generation of LCDs could be worth checking out. On this set, they are a small problem.
While blacks are not represented with enough depth even in a blackout, whites are strong enough to make the overall appearance of DVDs impressive.
There is also clearly a problem with the aspect ratios of this screen, because footage is stretched. Unlike the audio, which doesn't stretch far enough! While suitable for TV, it doesn't have the depth for most DVD soundtracks, and sounds chaotic at high volumes.
The LT-26D50BJ is a good general-use LCD screen and lively enough for TV, DVDs and games, but there are similar sized - and even larger - models around that include a digital input for a similar price.