Televisions with built-in DVD decks seem to be right back in fashion at the moment and LG isn't a company to miss a trend.The idea hasn't really managed to get a firm grip on the mass market yet, though, so this 26in analogue set will be looking to strike a blow for one-box, do-it-all movie machines.
The 26LX5RV isn't going to be first on anyone's list of significant aesthetic breakthroughs,but the designers have done an efficient job of creating a set that will blend smoothly into any room.It's more angular than many and a subtle piece of shading on a transparent strip between screen and stand creates a 'floating' effect that lifts it above the ordinary. It's also pulled off that Sony-favoured trick where its standby LED appears to be suspended in clear plastic, although some light spillage underneath rather scuppers the illusion.A pleasant enough spectacle overall, though.
The chief feature is, of course, the built-in DVD drive. LG has pulled off a coup here by managing to smuggle one into what is still a remarkably svelte stand.An almost impossibly slight (and rather fragile) tray to emerge smoothly from its base, leaving you to wonder where the mechanisms, lasers, and electronics you thought were required to load and read discs can be hiding.The whole unit is also remarkably compact and light, particularly so when compared to DMTech's recent efforts,which now seem extremely bulky and heavy.
Just as neat is the housing of a handful of AV connections around the back of the foot, with composite video, optical digital and stereo audio outputs neatly and unobtrusively squirrelled away. The only other socket of major note is a DVI input,but this is aimed at PC users rather than high-def hunters and the set does not merit an HD Ready badge.Oddly, for something with such obvious bedroom/kitchen credentials, composite video input has been axed,while component occupies that socket's usual berth among the secondary inputs. Disc playback covers all of the expected bases and our sample was also able to handle DVD-Audio, although it's not listed on the spec sheet.
Operating the 26LX5RV really is a hotchpotch.The remote, for example, is large, pleasingly weighty and has an economical number of buttons, some of which are positively enormous.The labelling is also unambiguous,and all of this should add up to a pretty slick zapper.Trouble is, it manages to undo much of the good design work by its sluggishness.You soon find yourself doing that instinctive - but utterly pointless - thing of 'aiming' the remote at the set and jabbing the buttons really hard to make sure that the signal reaches its destination. It's mildly irritating, rather than catastrophic,but it's a shame to undermine what is otherwise a pretty well thought-out handheld controller.
The menu architecture is clean enough,however, and is relatively intuitively navigable and with a reasonably extensive selection of tweaks and presets.Tuning in for the first time seems to take an age, and,annoyingly,while the 26LX5RV managed to find and label each channel, it saw fit to muck up the allocation, with ITV and Five in each other's spots.Again, this isn't a capital offence,but assigning the correct number to a station that has already been correctly labelled 'Five' really shouldn't be a difficult nut to crack.
The overall user-friendliness of having a DVD deck built into your telly, though, is unquestionable: just unpack it, position it and plug it in and you're ready to enjoy the cinema in the comfort of your living-room.
The picture is serviceable, without ever suggesting that this set has the chops to convince properly as the mainstay of any serious home movie system. Broadcast pictures are pretty lively,but there isn't much consistency from channel to channel.Where Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics is the colour of re-formed ham,the cast of Home & Away seems to have been hewn from terracotta.This could be the source rather than the screen,but neither extreme is particularly lifelike. It's fairly dynamic, though, and simpler, less nuanced stuff like cartoons is punchy and vivid in comparison.
The DVD drive,meanwhile, is better,but is by no means perfect. There's plenty of detail to be had and the picture is pretty crisp and stable, with decent edge discipline and colour containment. It slips up in a big way with blacks, though. Our test disc,Titanic, really caused it to struggle when the going got dark, particularly during those exterior sequences as the boat goes down. Lots of detail is lost and the shades of darkness tend towards a smothering, inky hue that robs shots of texture and depth.
The overall experience isn't bad, but don't expect to be blown away by what is a competent rather than spectacular picture.
And don't rely on the audio to make up for any visual shortcomings, either.The soundstage is well ordered and precise,but there's hardly any muscle to back it up.You can crank the volume to its limit and still be straining to catch quiet dialogue or ambient effects. Stuff that's crying out for a bit of wallop, on the other hand, such as the creaks and groans that are supposed to suggest more than 46,000 tons of steel buckling under the might of the Atlantic, are almost entirely bereft of oomph.You can route the audio through an external system via the optical digital output and we'd strongly recommend that you do so if you are seriously considering this as your main screen for movies.
All ends up, though, the LG 26LX5RV isn't a bad little television and achieves what it sets out to with a dash of panache. It has some flaws and hardcore videophiles won't be particularly moved by it,but then they aren't who it's aimed at. If you want a fuss-free, thoughtfully designed combi set either for the bedroom or even as a workaday main set, this compact 26incher is worth a look. Jim Findlay