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I absolutely adore my Sony KDL-26S3000U - I bought it to replace an ageing Samsung 17 inch LCD, and it's been fantastic. It's actually completely outshone the £700 Toshiba we have in our living room.
First, let me start with the ease of use. The remote is excellent - a great button arrangement, nice to hold and with a reasonable range. It's the menus on the TV its self that are brilliant though. The EPG is fantastically easy to use, even offering a 'VCR' mode that, when set, automatically switches the channel over to the desired program so your VCR can record it. It'll also remind you of when a desired program is about to start - something that, bizzarely, my £180 Humax freeview box doesn't do.
Also included is a 'timer', which automatically switches the TV on at a desired time. I've found this particularly handy and use it as a sort of clock-radio. You can set this to come on just once, every day, or for Monday-Friday. A superb idea.
The KDL-26S3000U has a wide range of inputs - there's a couple of scarts, 2 HDMIs, Component, Composite, VGA, S-Video, you name it. It's also got a handy phono output that allows me to directly connect it to your hifi or surround sound system (which I have done). Speaking of which, there's also a handy 'sound offset' feature in the menus to ensure that sound matches to the picture even if your hifi system delays the sound slightly (which mine does). Very thoughtful.
Surprisingly I haven't actually connected this to anything hi-def yet- I'm yet to make the upgrade to Sky HD or Blu-Ray. However, I have connected my laptop through the VGA port and the quality has been excellent. It makes for excellent gaming, I'll give it that.
The only niggle I have is that there's no manual 'off' switch. The digital button on the top actually takes it out of standby and makes it unresponsive to the remote (and stops the alarm clock function from working), but I'm not entirely sure if it actually kills the power completely. This is a little annoying, but it's still more than most LCDs offer you.
Sound quality is actually surprisingly good. I usually send the audio through my hifi, but for the alarm clock function I set it to go through the speakers (purely because my hifi doesn't have an alarm clock function to get it to turn on at the same time). And it's quite impressive. Obviously it's not all that bassy, but still perfectly adequate for watching normal TV.
An excellent all-rounder, basically :) I've been converted to Sony!
The Sony KDL-26S300 is a 26 inch flat panel LCD HDTV that is part of Sony's Bravia S-Series. It cost £370 from www.directtvs.co.uk - over £100 cheaper than on Amazon at the time proving that it really does pay to shop around for a new TV. It was very east to set up with everything more or less happening automatically as soon as you switch it on or plug them in. The set is a well built and sleekly designed right down to the stylish remote control. It perhaps doesn't possess the aesthetic qualities of a Samsung or of Sony's more expensive Bravia models, but it does have a lustrous streamlined finish often associated with the Sony Bravia range and certainly adds an element of style to my already ultra modern lounge area.
The Sony KDL-26S300 comprises full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution which is still quite unusual on 26" screen televisions. Unlike most 32" models, there are only two HDMI inputs on this set which might prove problematic for some people. There are also two scart sockets along with composite, component and s-video inputs. This model offers full digital audio and video integration. The set features HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) and PC connectivity that lets you easily hook up to your PC and other components.
This television produces a picture with very fine detail and a clear and sharp image, especially when in High Definition (HD) mode. In the past I have often been disappointed in the contrast range of many LCD televisions on the market. The 26S3000's seems to have moved forward a notch and produces strong black levels in the shadows and importantly it lacks the drab grey cast that seems to overlay darker images on many earlier LCD screens. According to Sony, it is the combination of the Bravia engine and WCG-CCFL backlight technology that enables this set to produce truer and more accurate colour tones for enhanced picture depth and clarity. Overall I was impressed with the depth of colour range and colour contrast. As is often associated with many Sony visual products, the colours produced retain an impressive vibrancy that is often lacking in cheaper brands. This is no doubt due to the Bravia engine full digital video processor.
The TV has both a 800:1 'on screen' contrast ratio and a 6000:1 dynamic contrast ratio. Both are more than adequate in producing excellent image quality. I found the viewing angle of 160 degrees on this set more than satisfactory. There is some reduction in colour quality if you view at an extreme angle with the image becoming paler and there is some acute darkening of the screen if viewed from and angle above or below. However, as my room seating arrangements are such that the screen can only be viewed more or less straight on and level with the viewer's eye line when seated, this is never a problem. One nice feature I like is the innovative inbuilt light sensor that monitors the ambient light of your living room so as to automatically adjust screen brightness.
Unlike some higher range models, this S-series model does not include a digital amplifier for enhanced sound. It relies solely on Virtual Dolby and BBE ViVA HD3D technology. However, as I, like many I imagine, use an external surround sound speaker system, the sound quality has never been an issue. Although even without external speakers the sound is more than satisfactory. In my opinion the sound quality is much better than that on Samsung BDX series TVs that I've heard.
This could be considered an entry level LCD TV, not top of the range, but ideal if you are intending to make your first purchase of an LCD TV. There are better TVs out there if you're prepared to fork out more cash and you will also find similar sized LCVD TVs selling in Tesco's for a lot less, but I would argue in terms of all round value for money the Sony KDL-26S3000 is a fair deal to be had in today's saturated TV market place.