With Sony focussing on pushing its current crop of TV innovations, its more basic V4000 range could easily slip under your radar. But it really shouldn't.
Not that first impressions are particularly winning. The KDL-26V4000s glossy black bezel and silver speaker strip along the bottom certainly don't look ugly, but gone are the illuminated logos and see-through panels that distinguish Sony's premium sets.
The 26V4000 is decently connected, though. Its three HDMIs are highly satisfactory on a TV at this price, as is the dedicated PC input alongside all the typical ordinary TV stalwarts.
Features are another story altogether. For starters, the nicely presented onscreen menus contain precious few tweaks for making adjustments; only an optional dynamic contrast system, noise reduction, and manual backlight adjustment catch our eye. Also 100Hz processing and 1080p/24fps support are notably absent.
Probably the best news feature-wise is that the 26V4000 carries Sony's estimable Bravia Engine processing, though this isn't the latest Bravia Engine 2 incarnation.
Happily, the 26V4000 doesn't need overboard specifications to deliver really good pictures. Its black levels, in particular, are superb for such a small TV, helping it reproduce dark scenes with an authenticity, sense of scale and abundance of shadow detail that's in a class of its own.
The 26V4000's black levels also help it produce winning colours, combining rich saturations and vivid tones with natural hues for 99 per cent of the time. The screen's 1,366 x 768 resolution works very nicely with the Bravia Engine processing when it comes to showing high-definition sources too, delivering real snap and detail with our favourite Blu-ray disks.
Even better, though, given that the 26V4000 may do second-room duties with non-HD sources, is the way the Bravia Engine system upscales standard-def fare. Images look consistently sharp, but crucially don't over-stress any noise in the original source material. In fact, the processing does a good job at reducing noise.
If the 26V4000 has an Achilles Heel, it's motion. For there are definite signs of blurring over rapidly moving objects, plus a touch of judder when playing Blu-rays. But neither problem is really severe, and doesn't prevent the general impression of sharpness from carrying the day.
The 26V4000's audio isn't quite as satisfying as its pictures, due to the way the set slightly exaggerates trebles in the mix. But there's also more volume and bass around than we commonly find with small TVs, so it's far from a sonic washout.