We were very surprised to find the JVC LT-26DE9BJ for under £500.

This is because it's not just a 26in LCD TV, but one that has Freeview+.

In other words, it's got a digital recording system built-in. Crikey.

Freeview+ features

This recording system, ideal for clutter-critical, second-room environments, comprises a healthy 160GB HDD, able to record dozens of hours of Freeview footage.

What's more, unlike some other PVR TVs, it can record two Freeview channels simultaneously, and records the incoming digital signal, meaning there should be no loss in the recorded picture quality.

The set meets all the official preferred criteria laid down by Freeview+ when it comes to recording features, such as the facility to set Series Links and join broken programmes back together.

Picture processing tools

Connections are disappointing, though: it only has a pair of HDMIs, and is one of two models in our group without a D-Sub PC port, leaving you with very limited HDMI-based PC compatibility.

We'd frankly expected the built-in Freeview recording function to represent the be all and end all of the 26DE9BJ's interesting features. But remarkably the set also carries JVC's DynaPix Plus image processing, plus a healthy array of picture adjustments that include a fleshtone adjustment, multi-level noise reduction processing, and a backlight adjustment.

HD clarity

First off, it's hard to distinguish between the excellent recordings and the original broadcasts.

Also very impressive is how exceptionally sharp HD footage looks. If you didn't think the 'HD difference' could be noticed on a 26in screen, this TV will make you think again.

Actually, the set's DynaPix processing helps standard-definition sources look pleasingly sharp, too, without causing too much secondary processing noise.

Another plus is its colour response, as fearsomely rich saturations combine with exceptional brightness and some of the most natural tones in this group test.

Black level lows

The JVC LT-26DE9BJ does suffer a touch with motion blur, but not to any majorly distracting extent.

Which leaves as its only serious flaw its uninspiring black level response, which can find dark scenes looking slightly flat and black colours looking more blue or grey. Tweaking the backlight and preset options does help, but it never wholly evaporates.

The JVC LT-26DE9BJ manages to combine its mostly good and, at times, spectacular pictures with one of the loudest and clearest audio performances we've heard from a 26-incher. In all, it's a very well thought-out second-room TV.