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Panasonic TX26LXD50 review: Panasonic TX26LXD50

The Good Fantastic picture quality; clean design; great remote control; ease-of-use; integrated digital tuner.

The Bad Lack of digital video inputs; no PC connection; no digital audio output.

The Bottom Line Panasonic's TX26LX50 is a real benchmark product in terms of picture quality -- it costs more than some competitors' latest efforts, but it rewards the extra investment. It's a shame, then, that it rides the dying wave of pre-HD Ready technology. We advise waiting for the upgraded model to make this stellar performer a wise long-term investment

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7.5 Overall

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While LCD TVs have been commercially available for a long time, eager price watchers will have noticed that they've only very recently become a viable alternative to dull old CRTs. Panasonic's TX26LX50 is much cheaper than last year's models, making it a candidate for the bedroom or a smaller living room -- especially as it houses an integrated digital TV tuner.

While the Panasonic is very capable on picture quality, with rich colour depth and great contrast, it will be hindered by its lack of an 'HD Ready' badge, something which rivals Philips and Toshiba have offered on their latest mid-range models. And even though there still isn't any high-definition material available right now, it should be at the forefront of your mind as you make an investment that should last you a number of years.

Panasonic's Viera plasmas have won admiring glances from the AV world and style gurus alike, but this 26-inch LCD is a much more plain affair. The main panel sits atop a silver desktop stand, with a matching speaker grille sitting under the big black frame. It's classy, in an understated way.

Most of the connectivity is tucked away on the rear, so that the inputs sit vertically in the back. The selection is good, but it's missing a couple of the more modern connectivity options that are specifically designed to suit flat-screen TVs. Two RGB Scart inputs and one standard video Scart is more generous than we'd expect on a screen this size, and the component inputs are high-definition, progressive-scan compatible. If your DVD player doesn't have component outputs, make sure you make the upgrade along with the TV, as it'll make a huge difference.

That's it for the most important connectivity, but on the audio side there's a set of L/R stereo inputs and outputs, as well as a headphone socket sits under a nice fold-up panel on the front. This same section hides basic operation buttons as well as an S-video and composite video input -- obviously intended for ease-of-access when using a camcorder or games console. Finally, there's a Common Interface slot tucked away that will support TopUp TV's access module, if you want to upgrade the basic Freeview package.

Missing from this list of inputs and outputs is HDMI/DVI and VGA, for high definition and PC sources respectively. The lack of HDMI/DVI was commonplace up until recently, but the lack of PC input is a major problem. We imagine that many of you will want to set this TV up in the bedroom, so plugging in a computer is a high priority. And with Media Center PCs growing in popularity, you might be looking for an LCD TV to complete the 21st century home cinema.

We've lavished praise on Panasonic's remotes in the past, and we'll be treating this one with equal respect. It fits in the hand beautifully, and the buttons are large and logically laid out. Along the base, there's controls for a Panasonic DVD player, DVD recorder or VCR. The on-screen menu system is also well implemented, with the TV setting itself up automatically within minutes of activation.

The TX26LXD50 is part of a dying breed -- a mid-size LCD TV that doesn't qualify for an 'HD Ready' badge. High definition has become such a buzzword within the AV industry that it's spilled out into the mainstream and all that's left is for the manufacturers to catch up. Thankfully, we're finally there -- we've had 26/27-inch LCDs in recently from Philips and Toshiba that are HD-ready, and the TX26LXD50 could be the last TV at this size that doesn't meet the grade.

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