£1,800 is an awful lot of cash to spend on a small LCD television, but then Bang & Olufsen has never been concerned with catering to the entry-level market. The Danish company prides itself on producing exclusive, achingly stylish AV products, and its latest model, a 26-inch HDTV, certainly fits the bill.
While the BeoVision 8 is well equipped to show high-definition movies, games and television shows, its compact size suggests it's probably intended for use in a bedroom or study rather than as the centrepiece of a top-class home cinema setup. It comes supplied with a desktop stand, so you could even use it as a large widescreen monitor for a PC or Mac.
The BeoVision 8 is a well-built, highly impressive piece of design. There's a beautifully clean and uncluttered look to it, with no buttons or protruding logos to spoil the smooth lines -- a B&O logo is vaguely visible on the speaker grille and there's a single power indicator LED, but nothing else. Take a closer look and you'll find that the entire thing has a slightly bizarre rubberised coating, which we really liked -- it certainly makes a welcome change from the dust-attracting glossy black finish that 90 per cent of flat TVs have these days.
The one strange note to the styling is the speakers, which jut out as a ledge a few inches from the front. It's not exactly ugly, but seems an odd choice until you realise that B&O has done it to improve sound quality (more on that below).
Connectivity covers all the usual bases. At the back there's a single HDMI port, plus component video and VGA (so you have a few options for your HD kit) as well as a couple of Scart inputs. Once you've hooked your kit up, you can hide the mess behind a cable management panel. A removable side panel contains basic AV inputs for a camcorder.
Setting up a B&O television is never a particularly easy experience, mainly because they are so different from anything else around. For starters, you have to plough through multiple menu screens in order to assign your external devices -- DVD player, games console, PC and so on -- to the connections at the back, otherwise it's almost impossible to flip between them using the remote control.
Also, we discovered that there is only one audio input for the component and VGA connections, so you can't connect up, say, a PC and an Xbox 360 to the BeoVision 8 at the same time and get sound from both of them -- one will have to be hooked directly up to an external amplifier and speakers. You wouldn't expect this kind of flaw on a £400 LCD television, so seeing it on one that costs more than four times that amount is a tad rich (no pun intended).
This is one of the first models we've reviewed in a while that isn't supplied with a built-in digital tuner. While a little surprising, it's not a huge drawback -- if you're shelling out this much money you're likely to either have a satellite/cable service already or not mind spending a bit extra on a Freeview box.
There isn't much in the way of image-tweaking tools. You can adjust the basics, like brightness, colour and contrast, but most of the work is done automatically depending on the lighting conditions in your room. There's also a low reflection coating on the screen, which helps prevent light hampering your viewing during the day.