The gap between 'rich' and 'poor' in the flat panel TV world is still a wide one. Yes, the bigger brands are being forced to lower their prices faster than they might like by the aggressiveness of the budget brands. But that just seems to make the budget brands keep on lowering them.

So how will big-hitters JVC cope? The low price hardly raises lofty expectations about its feature and performance standards. Just as well, then, that it gets off to a good start by looking just peachy - a vision in silver and black, rounded off by a hip blue neon light above the JVC logo.

Connectivity presses all the right buttons too - especially the HDMI input for digital video feeds (likely to become so important in the near AV future) and a set of component video jacks for analogue high-definition and progressive connections.

It might have been nice to have found more than two Scarts - but at least the 26DS6BJ compensates for this somewhat by having a built-in digital tuner, complete with 'Top Up TV' CAM slot.

Aside from the digital tuner, the key feature of the 26DS6BJ is that, thanks to its connectivity and native WXGA resolution, it is fully HD Ready. Other bonuses are support for Freeview's sevenday digital TV electronic programme guide, a solid claimed contrast ratio of 800:1, and the latest version of JVC's 'DynaPix' picture processing.

DynaPix delivers multiple picture benefits, including enhanced fine detail, improved colours, and sophisticated automated control of the image's brightness and contrast.

Excellent picture

The JVC boasts excellent picture quality. Especially eye-catching are its colours. Full saturations radiate from the screen with blistering intensity, but without looking forced or obliterating delicate gradations.

Also hugely impressive is the 26DS6BJ's fine detail. The Digital Image Scaling Technology (DIST) component of DynaPix has always excelled in this department, but here, arguably for the first time, it delivers its detail boost without any serious side effects.

More good news comes from the 26DS6BJ's handling of motion. The smearing problems traditionally associated with LCD technology are thankfully absent. Also excellent is the screen's brightness level - especially as this is achieved while delivering a good black level response.

Admittedly, there's still room for improvement in this latter area, but, even as black levels stand, pictures look three-dimensional and rich.

In fact, my only complaint against the JVC's pictures is that their intensity can emphasise any noise there may be in a source signal - particularly via the HDMI jack. But this is arguably more the fault of the source than JVC's screen.

Considering how tiny they look, the 26DS6BJ's speakers are surprisingly potent. The soundstage opens up aggressively during a good action scene, and vocals sound well-rounded and clear. A shortage of both deep bass and peak trebles can leave the mid-range a bit overcrowded and harsh at times, though.

Overall, JVC's 26DS6BJ sets the bar high in terms of picture quality and features.