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The Panasonic Viera TX-26LXD600A 26-inch LCD TV is an all in one unit comprising both analog and digital tuners, screen, speakers and a swivel stand. Many of the 26-inch LCD TVs we've reviewed recently still carry an analog tuner only, which simply does not do the TV justice for two reasons. The 4:3 format of analog TV does not match the 16:9 format of the screens themselves, plus the resolution of the TVs are far superior to that of analog television so it looks terrible when displayed. It is refreshing to come across a television that has a built in digital tuner.
The Viera is finished in silver and black and while the speakers are mounted on either side of the screen, there is still a wider portion of bezel underneath the screen. It has very narrow speakers which are concealed behind a two centimetre-wide strip on either side. It sits on a stand that can swivel 20 degrees either direction from centre and the controls are mounted underneath the screen behind a swivelling door. The overall build quality of the Viera could be improved. Some of the plastic finish on the front looks a little bit cheap and the controls concealed on the front had sticky buttons that had to be pulled out after being pressed. It is possible that the unit we received was faulty.
The casing, at 14 centimetres, is very deep for a TV of this type. All the inputs are mounted at the back and concealed with a clip-on back cover with a channel for the cables to exit at the bottom of the unit. Hidden behind the front door where the controls are concealed is an auxiliary S-video and composite combination inputs for connecting a gaming console or video camera. An additional feature on the front is an SD card slot which facilitates the playback of movies and still images from your digital camera. You can also use the SD card slot to directly record from the television.
The menu system is mainly used for picture, sound and tuning adjustments. We found the menu system a bit "clunky" and slow to respond in certain situations but thankfully, the remote is very comprehensive and there is a direct button for nearly every feature. The remote itself is laid out well and includes additional controls for controlling a Panasonic VCR or DVD player.
The Panasonic Viera is packed full of technological features. As well as having a built in HD/SD tuner, there is also an included analog tuner. If you have no problem using the digital tuner, you can quite safely ignore the analog one, but it does come in handy with the picture in picture feature. Using the digital tuner naturally gives you much better sound and image, and you also have access to program guide data.
The 1366x768 pixel screen has a very wide 178 degree viewing angle and for viewing, there is a large range of aspect ratios available that includes regular settings such as panorama, 16:9 and 4:3. There are also more unusual options such as 14:9 and various wide screen configurations for correctly fitting "in-between" formats.
For video inputs, there are a total of three S-video/composite inputs with one of those located at the front of the TV. There are two HDMI inputs, one VGA, one component and an optical audio out for connecting to a digital amplifier.
Overall we were very impressed with the Viera TX-26LXD600A. The digital tuner is well integrated and HD TV looks stunning. Picture in picture works very well and is easy to use. However, we thought that the blacks were not very deep. Black areas on the screen appear as a very deep dark blue. In addition to this, shadow detail can get lost. As far as everything else goes, colour saturation and brightness is very good and skin tones are reproduced very well.
Sound from the two 10-watt speakers is very good. Understandably for their size, there is limited bass reproduction but the SRS surround sound effect adds depth to the sound. There is ample volume to fill a large room and there is no distortion even when driving the speakers at full volume.
We connected a PC via the VGA port and were surprised by the fact that the screen did not automatically adjust the alignment of pixels for a clear image. Manual adjustment of clock rates and phase can be time consuming and is not easy. After this was sorted, we had no problems playing fast paced 3D games on the screen. There was no motion blur with the relatively quick 8ms screen. We did have a little bit of concern with the slight loss of detail in the dark areas.
The Panasonic Viera has a recommended retail price of AU$1,869 which is a lot higher than the average 26-inch LCD television, but you have to take into account that both an analog and digital tuner has been included and there are quite a few features such as the dual HDMI connections, picture in picture and an SD card reader. We have our reservations about overall build quality but are generally impressed with the performance of this TV.