Thought you couldn't get an LCD TV for under £300? Think again. The 14in 14PF6826 can be yours for a wallet-pleasing £299. All the more surprising is that it comes from no less a household name than Philips, not from some unheard-of eastern import brand.
Perhaps inevitably the 14PF6826 isn't very glamorous. The finish is supremely plasticky,with the only 'design flourish' being a little outward curve over the bottom couple of inches.Setting it up proves a fiddly process,thanks to the poorly designed desktop 'prop' you have to fix to the TV's rear yourself,and the fact that the Scart socket and RF jack are far too close together.
Connectivity is just about fair for such an affordable,'second room'TV. It includes the key basics - a Scart jack,S-video input and composite video input - but it's a touch disappointing that it doesn't carry any sort of PC compatibility.
The TV's simple,but very readable,onscreen menus really don't contain any features worth spending time on here.
However,the 14PF6826 makes up for its lack of flexibility with a picture performance considerably in advance of our expectations.
The biggest boon is the impressive absence of that traditional LCD problem,smearing over motion.We have our doubts that the Comet-exclusive 14PF6826 contains the most up-to-date Philips LCD panel,yet its response time is clearly a step or two above that currently found on quite a few more glamorous LCD offerings.Even a notoriously tricky test like a tennis game from the Australian Open looks generally crisp and clear.
Also superior is the 14PF6826's contrast performance. By the standards of the LCD portables we've seen, there's definitely less of the give-away greying over than we might have expected for this money.The picture also seems to contain plenty of fine detail and is for the most part unsullied by grain or dot crawl.
Inevitably, there is some bad news.Firstly,the colour saturations aren't especially vivid compared to some recent larger screens.More irritating,though,is the screen's tendency to over-egg hard edges a touch,so that they glimmer and stand out more than they should.A final,minor niggle concerns the way the colour tone loses a little of its naturalism during darker scenes and,more unusually,with composite signals.Given the price,though, these are minor niggles. The 14PF6826's sonics are also perfectly acceptable for the money.
Inevitably there's no bass,which leads to an unpleasant 'popping' sound in the background from time to time.But there's enough power and mid-range to perform the key task of keeping voices sounding believable and rounded, and trebles aren't allowed to overwhelm things as they often do on LCD portables.
On the whole, then, the Philips 14PF6826 is something of a budget champ. Screens as small as this tend to lag behind bigger screens in quality terms, but this little chap actually has the temerity to teach a few of its current bigger brothers a thing or two.