The neat little Sharp LC26D44EBK is currently the smallest HD Ready Aquos that Sharp UK sells.

Available in shiny grey or glossy black its 26-inch screen size makes it an ideal second TV. Hook it up to a DVD player in your bedroom, perhaps, or plug it into a PlayStation 3.

To keep the price as low as possible, manufacturers tend to cut corners on smaller, lower-end TVs. This Sharp  LC26D44EBK is no exception. For starters, the D44-series models forgo 'full HD' support, so this 26-incher boasts a maximum screen resolution of 1366x768 pixels (720p).

It's hardly a surprising spec for an LCD TV of this compact size. You don't truly get the benefit of 1080p unless you opt for a much bigger set, say 42-inches and up.

Smaller TV, fewer connections

With a depth of 94.1mm, the LC26D44EBK is ideal for wall-mounting. If not, you need to screw the LC26D44EBK onto its accompanying stand, IKEA style. The downside is that the stand has no swivel to it, so you need to turn the whole TV to get at the connections on the back.

And considering the LC26D44EBK's size and price (the MSRP on the Sharp UK website is £499), this Aquos is surprisingly well equipped.

There are only two HDMI ports (v1.3 Deep Colour) and 2 RGB Scarts here, easily enough for that DVD player and PlayStation 3. Old-fangled composite and S-Video connections are supplemented by a component interface and a 15-pin D-Sub port (aka VGA).  

Switch on the LC26D44EBK and the first thing that strikes you is the brightness of the screen. Sharp quotes a 1500:1 contrast ratio and a 450cd/m2 brightness rating, while the Advanced Super view LCD panel retains most of its vivid colour through a viewing angle of 170 degrees.

No 100Hz processing

Newer, bigger TVs tend to favour 100Hz processing to address any motion blurring that tends to occur when viewing fast moving objects and sweeping camera pans. But you wouldn't expect this new technology on entry-level LCD TVs and so the LC26D44EBK is stuck with the standard 50Hz refresh rate.

Nevertheless, it's a good little performer. Tested out with the opening sequence of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (the vast space battle over Coruscant), the black levels are satisfyingly inky, the colours vibrant. But this is also a chaotic, busy scene and there's often some blurring as small starships zip and flit across the screen.

The LC26D44EBK copes admirably with HD sources too. The Bourne Supremacy on HD DVD (yes, I've still got one...) is spectacular, although its washed-out colour palette isn't the best demonstration. Batman Begins is a better test, the murky midnight scenes contrasting with those shot in the bright glare of Gotham daylight.

In terms of audio, the LC26D44EBK has two integrated 10W speakers, standard issue for a set this size. They've not got the raw grunt of Sharp's bigger TVs, but the audio is never muffled. Considering this LCD TV will be used in smaller rooms, at shorter view distances, the quality is perfectly adequate. It's not a home cinema display.

Ideal for TV or GTA IV

The Sharp LC26D44EBK is at its best when it's being used for watching TV and playing videogames. An integrated DVB-T tuner gives you easy access to Freeview channels and Sharp has also included a CI Slot for pay TV services like Setanta. Picture quality is generally solid and crisp, with very little noise. You might notice the odd judder on the Sky News or BBC News tickers, however.

This mini-Aquos also makes a good sidekick for an HD games console. The HDMI, component and VGA ports give you a number of options for plugging in a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. The LC26D44EBK is arguably the perfect size for bedroom videogame-playing. GTA IV, Halo 3 and Burnout Paradise look stunning on it.

Sharp's £499 MSRP probably overprices the LC26D44EBK. But shop around. At the time of writing, you can find this capable 26-incher at sub-£400 price points.

While the LC26D44EBK might seem like an ideal impulse buy, it's worth noting that the 32-inch LC32D44 model is only £100 more and has virtually the same specification. The extra screen size is certainly worth it, especially if you're buying your second TV for gaming.