Another month, another Panasonic telly. Much like Philips, this big-name brand seems to be releasing TVs at a rate of knots - but as its recent offerings have been among the best flatscreens we've ever seen, we're certainly not complaining. This month it's a 26in LCD, the TX-26LXD50, that's out to impress us.
First impressions are unreservedly good, with a sturdy black screen frame and silver 'furniture' section offering all the aesthetic expertise that we've come to expect from Panasonic's Viera range.
Connections, however, reveal a potentially fatal error: there's no digital video input, and therefore this set is denied the industry's 'HD-ready' badge. Still, at 26in it only just scrapes the minimum size required for displaying high-def - and personally, we think you need a bigger screen to fully appreciate it.
What's more, analogue HD sources can be handled via a component video input, and the native resolution is an HD-friendly 1,366 x 768. Other connections of note are three Scarts and a CAM slot for adding to the services provided by the Panny's handy built-in digital tuner - but the lack of a PC input is a bit of a shame.
A spin of our test disc, quirky comedy The Life Aquatic, soon made us forget any reservations we had about the TX-26LXD50's connections. First up, we were transfixed by the colour presentation. This film boasts a gloriously bright and varied palette, and on the Panny everything - from the bright blues and reds of the 'Team Zissou' uniforms to the subtle colour gradations of the ever-changing sea - was both vibrant and natural.
It's certainly not just this great colour delivery that makes Steve Zissou's bizarre world seem more 'real' than ever - the TX-26LXD50 also portrayed all the minutiae of textures from our test disc, like the gently undulating waves that lap at the boat, and the wisps of Cate Blanchett's hair caught by the wind. What's more, this great fine detail delivery is combined with an excellent black level response, meaning that images were amazingly three dimensional and solid, even during The Life Aquatic's rare dark scenes.
In many LCD reviews, this is the point where the common LCD problem of smearing over fast motion would rear its ugly head. Not here, however - on the TX-26LXD50, even our test disc's comical fight scene on an isolated island played out without a trace of detail-reducing image lag or smear.
In fact, the only picture criticism we have is that an HD source fed through component video looks slightly less impressive than on some LCDs. But as we've already said, a set of this size isn't ideal for high-def anyway.
The Panny's sound doesn't let the side down. While not quite as assured as its images, it manages to create an immersive soundstage, while bass was potent enough to round out The Life Aquatic's varied score.
The only reservation we have about the TX-26LXD50 is that it's perhaps a little over-priced - and some cheaper rivals at this size also offer HD connectivity. But for us, this set beats such rivals hands down with the sheer quality of its pictures.