Only recently we looked at and were reasonably impressed by Sagem's new HDL26T/ 2 26in digital LCD TV. And now that set is back on our test benches with one very important addition - a built-in hard disk drive.
Distinguished on the outside from its no-PVR sibling only by an extra P in its name and an extra £ 100 on its price tag, the HD-L26TP2 is a bit of a looker.
We're always suckers for a bit of gloss black, especially when it's as slickly delivered as it is by this Sagem. For better or worse you get plenty of it too, as the TV's speakerbearing extremities extend much further than is common for a 26in TV.
The L26TP2 is superbly generous with its connections. Stars of the show are two HDMI inputs, but these receive ample backing from two Scarts, component video inputs, a PC jack, a USB jack for viewing digital photos from a USB key or photocard viewer, and even a digital audio output lest the Freeview digital terrestrial service ever starts broadcasting Dolby Digital 5.1.
Given this bit of helpful forward thinking for the digital tuner, it's surprising that the set doesn't also carry a CAM slot for adding subscription services to the main Freeview package. You can't have everything, we guess.
Going deeper into the L26TP2's features, we inevitably start with the built-in hard disk recording system. You get a very healthy 80GB of memory - enough to hold around 40 hours of programmes - with recordings done in MPEG2 at 15Mbps. You can, however, only record programmes from the set's digital tuners (you've got two), not the analogue one or any of the AV inputs. Recording events can be set simply by selecting programmes from the Freeview 7-day electronic programme guide.
The set is HD Ready, with a 1366 x 7 68 native pixel count and full 720p/1080i compatibility. Plus it has Faroudja processing to remove jagged contouring, and multiple backlight settings. All accessed, sadly, via an irksome remote control...
We needn't spend much time on the L 26TP2's core picture quality, since it's the same as the L26T/2's. But briefly, in case you missed that review, pictures are generally good. On the plus side you've got deep black levels, impressive brightness, clean motion handling, good fine detailing and sharpness, plus vivid, mostly natural-looking colours. On the downside, although they're deep, black levels look a bit hollow; video noise levels are pretty high during HDMI viewing; and the screen is extremely reflective of ambient light.
Of more interest to us here is the quality of the built-in PVR's recordings. We're pleased to say they're uniformly excellent, tending to look pretty much identical to the original broadcasts, with practically no digital artefacting or other noise seemingly added by recording.
The L26TP2 follows its PVR-less sibling's lead in having impressive audio for a 26in LCD, too, delivering a good combination of raw power, dynamic range and treble finesse. It needs to be pushed quite loud before it really engages you, but that's its only serious limitation.
If you're in the market for a PVR/ L CD TV combi, your choices right now are seriously limited.
It's good to know there's one out t here in the shape of this Sagem that's both affordable (even though it's £100 more than its predecessor) and a more than capable performer. Extra P or no extra P, the HD-L26TP2 is good stuff. John Archer