John Lewis JL26LED review: John Lewis JL26LED

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The Good Natural skin tones; Rich colour hues; Sharp pictures for both HD and standard material; Decent sound quality.

The Bad Slight backlight pooling; Some motion blur and judder.

The Bottom Line Don't let the lack of a Full HD resolution and Freeview HD tuner put you off, as the 26-inch JL26LED from John Lewis produces surprisingly punchy pictures with crisp detail and warm, natural colours.

8.3 Overall

Review Sections

John Lewis is a popular place for many people to buy their TV because it offers price matching and a free extended five-year warranty. As well as offering other manufacturers' TVs for sale, it also has a number of own-brand sets.

Here I'm taking a look at the 26-inch JL26LED, which uses LED backlighting and has a built-in digital media player. You can buy the set from the John Lewis website for £300.

User interface and EPG

The menus on own-brand TVs rarely look as slick or as polished as those of big name manufacturers. Sadly that's the case here. However, the interface on the JL26LED is far from the worst I've seen. Pressing the menu button on the remote calls up a transparent grey bar in the middle of the screen with a series of large icons inset into it. These include shortcuts to the picture, sound and settings screens, as well as icons for the tuning menu, channel list editor and the media browser.

John Lewis JL26LED main menu
The main menu lacks the flashy presentation of those on TVs from big name manufacturers but the large icons are easy to navigate.

The TV's picture controls are relatively basic. There are a number of presets you can choose from, including pretty good Natural and Cinema modes. As you would expect, these can be tweaked if needed using the standard contrast, brightness, sharpness and colour controls. The main picture menu also allows you to change the backlight setting, although this strangely seemed to have very little effect on the picture.

There's a noise reduction control, which you can move between low, medium and high settings. Entering the advanced picture settings menu allows you to change the colour temperature between warm, cool and natural options, as well as use the colour shift control to move the balance between the red and green hues.

Pop into the sound menu and you'll find that it includes a 5-band graphic equaliser, as well as a bass booster and automatic volume control. The latter helps to even-out changes in volume levels when TV shows cut to advert breaks, or when you're changing channels.

John Lewis JL26LED EPG
The EPG looks drab and would have benefitted from a splash of colour.

The set's electronic programme guide (EPG) is pretty basic, but it gets the job done. It lacks a video thumbnail window and it doesn't even keep the audio running from the channel you were watching when you call it up. It does, thankfully, use a normal landscape layout with programmes shown as rectangular boxes. The box length indicates how long a show is on for.

The guide looks quite dark and sombre as it has an all-black background with white boxes framing each of the programmes. Some colour wouldn't have gone amiss here. Nevertheless, I do like the way a grey bar runs through the currently showing programme to display how much of it has already played and how much remains. Navigation is speedy using the snappy remote and you can quickly filter by genre or channel type.

Design and connections

The glossy black finish used on this set doesn't exactly make it stand out from the crowd. That said, this is actually not a bad-looking TV as there is some nice detailing on the front, including a small angular lip at the bottom of the bezel and a silver bead perched just above the stand. The TV uses LED backlighting, so it's reasonably slender, with the panel measuring a rather slim 27mm deep.

The remote is a cut above those that you usually get with own-brand models. It's long and thin, with a glossy finish on the top that contrasts nicely with the black, rubberised buttons. The buttons feel responsive, especially the clicky central control pad, and it's also comfortable to hold. The only niggle is the EPG button, which is on the small side and is placed towards the top of the remote where it's a tad awkward to reach when you're holding the remote in a normal position.

John Lewis JL26LED remote
The remote's responsive buttons make it a pleasure to use.

The TV isn't exactly overflowing with connection options, but that's perhaps not unexpected on a set of this size. The panel on the rear houses two HDMI ports along with a full-sized Scart connector. A digital audio Coaxial output allows you to feed sound from the on-board Freeview tuner to an external amp. There's also a standard VGA port in case you want to hook the set up to a computer to use it as a monitor. Meanwhile, a panel on the left-hand edge is home to the headphone socket, as well as a mini-jack AV input. Here, you'll also find the CAM slot along with the USB port.

John Lewis JL26LED side
A benefit of the LED backlighting tech is a slim set, with the depth measuring 27mm.

Digital media

The USB port is present because this model can playback a range of digital media files. When you plug a memory key or hard drive into it, the media player automatically starts up. Alternatively, you can start it manually at any time by entering the main menu and selecting the media browser option.

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