One of the benefits of undertaking a large scale kitchen refurbishment is the scope it affords for slipping in a couple of otherwise unjustifiable purchases. I mean, when you've spent that much what's a couple of hundred quid here and there (and yes, I do work in Government backed IT project management, since you ask). So it was that my wife got her ridiculously over priced Dualit toaster and I got my flat screen TV, which was lucky as I'd specifically designed in a blank wall to be its home.
So, what were we looking for. To fit in with its lovely surroundings it would have to look good, this isn't that difficult though as you'd have to pretty work hard to find a flat screen telly that doesn't look good. Picture quality is always the most important thing but also the sound output from internal speakers had to be acceptable as it wouldn't be supported by additional speakers. A freeview tuner and, if possible, a DVD player would all be important and finally a reliable brand at a good price. Piece of cake.
Having nosed around the electrical stores and trade mags we settled on the Panasonic TX-26LMD70. A multiple award winner on its release in 2007, a year on it would still be as good but at a more reasonable price. Did it meet our requirements and is it worth a punt, let's have a look at the criteria in order of importance. It does come with a freeview tuner but integrated DVD players were harder to find and did not come with this TV.
This 26 inch panel is one of Panasonic's entry level models; it comes with an impressive array of features but lacks some of the whistles and bells of its more expensive cousins.
As you'd expect this is HD ready and is able to accept 1080p signals, although how much benefit this would give on such a small screen is debatable.
Impressively, this comes with Panasonic's V-Real 2 image processing engine, normally only found on more expensive models. This does lots of clever things to ensure picture presentation is as good as it can be and includes modules for video noise reduction, colour management and dynamic backlighting. Unless you're REALLY into these things you're not going to be able to identify which bit is doing what but you will see the overall effect and on this panel the effect is very good indeed. Assisted by a 7000:1 contrast ratio superb black levels are produced and colours are clear and bright. For most usage it is hard to see what this entry level model lacks against more expensive models but it does come up a little short in coping with fast paced action. With a scanning rate of 50Hz it lacks the crispness of the 100Hz models but this is an acceptable sacrifice at this price point. The TX-26LXD70 model does offer 100Hz but will cost a couple of hundred pounds more.
Viewing angles are good, which is important in a kitchen where you are moving around.
A kitchen isn't the best acoustic environment, all those hard surfaces create a hollow, echoing space but despite this the Panasonic does produce very acceptable sound from its internal speakers. Forgiving the predictable lack of bass which is normal for a screen this small audio is good across the range with impressive detail in the higher ranges and doesn't suffer too much in high action film sequences.
The level of connectivity is appropriate for the price and, given its likely use, more than adequate. Twin HDMIs are provided for digital high definition duties, component video for analogue HD and happily there's a D-Sub PC input so that you can double the screen up as a PC monitor. This sort of dual functionality is particularly handy on this size of screen as it makes them very suitable for use in the study or bedroom where the ability to connect a PC would be very useful.
Additionally, you have a couple of SCART sockets (both RGB), stereo audio input; headphone jack and RF input.
That's a good level of connections for an entry level model and should meet most people's needs for a screen of this size.
Look and feel ~
Part of Panasonic's Viera range it shares the same robust good looks and would look the part in any environment. Its predominantly black finish is in line with current fashions and although it is a fraction deeper than some other flat panels it still sits very nicely on the wall.
The control panel is annoyingly set on the top of the unit which given that it is mounted at eye level means you have to scrabble around above your head to use them but you really only need the on/off button as the comprehensive remote control handset covers everything else.
The speaker array runs below the screen for the width of the panel. I prefer this configuration to having speakers at the sides as it balances out the overall look and doesn't make it unnecessarily wide.
Set up and in use ~
Wall mounting this screen is very easy, particularly so when you get your builder to do it. Most standard brackets will be acceptable and there is no shortage of these around from £15 to £50 depending on if you want to be able to pan/tilt etc. Going onto a new wall we were able to design it so that power and aerial sockets are hidden behind the screen to give a very clean finish. Weighing about 10Kg the stud wall was reinforced with a noggin (that's what the builder told me anyway) to ensure that the fitting was secure.
Once in place and connected set up is straightforward and largely handled by the unit itself. On first powering up the system will go through its auto set up routine, detecting channels and requesting some user information including a PIN if you want to add some security to it. The whole procedure took a couple of minutes and there's very little you have to do except wait. Once complete everything is ready to use, the programme guides are comprehensive and easy to use as are the interactive options.
The supplied manual is comprehensive and well presented. It goes into good detail to help you install and set up the screen and the written instructions are well supported by clear diagrams. There is technical information if you need it but the majority is written in clear, plain English.
Navigation is simple and can be achieved by either keying in the channel number or through the programme guides. The remote control handset is a generic Panasonic device and meant for use with a variety of products. Therefore there are many redundant buttons and is rather cluttered for what you need it for. It is however quite easy to use and the TV's settings menus and so on are simply accessed and adjusted.
Weighing in at around the £400 mark the TX-26LMD70 offers good value for such a well specified machine from a marquee name like Panasonic. It looks great on the wall and offers great visual and audio performance, if you're in the market for a flat screen in this range this is well worth looking out for.
Loverly tv but having problems with an intermitant high pitched buzz coming from the top right hand side of the rear or the set???? Retailer replaced it with another set but this tv also makes the same noise. Very anoying when watching dramas/films!!