Philips LX2000 + 26PF532 review

£850
Price when reviewed

On the face of it, PC World’s combination of a svelte media-centre PC and 26in LCD TV is a winner at only £723. Both the LX2000 PC and TV share the living-room- friendly black-and-silver colour scheme, and the PC is both attractive and impressively tiny.

Philips LX2000 + 26PF532 review

There’s a stand so you can pop the PC vertically next to the TV, or it can sit horizontally underneath on a shelf in a TV cabinet. During our tests, the LX2000 proved a very quiet system, too, being inaudible even within 2ft. The slim size is partly achieved through the use of a notebook DVD writer, and even this remained quiet when discs were loaded and spun up – a nice touch.

Laid down, the power button is on the left, while a hinged cover on the right conceals two USB ports, headphone and microphone mini-jacks, plus a card reader that supports SD/MMC cards and Memory Stick. At the rear, connections include three more USB ports, DVI and S-Video outputs, mini-FireWire, audio in and out, plus an optical S/PDIF output.

All fine there, but sadly it doesn’t take much further inspection for the flaws to become apparent. In the box, for example, you’ll find a 2m HDMI cable along with a DVI-to-HDMI converter. But, since DVI can’t output audio, there’s also a mini-jack-to-phono cable for sending sounds to the LCD TV’s speakers. A minor quibble, yes, but grossly inelegant in a system that’s been paired together like this.

But there’s a far more serious issue with this pairing: the integrated Intel GMA 950 graphics chip and DVI-to- HDMI conversion isn’t even capable of driving the 26in TFT at its native 1,366 x 768 resolution. In fact, the TV’s manual actually states that the only supported DVI input resolutions are 640 x 480, 800 x 600 and 1,024 x 768 – none of which match the wide aspect ratio of the panel. It means that, whatever resolution you choose, characters are fuzzy and vary in colour across the screen. In reality, you might get away with photos and videos, which remain watchable, but it’s a far cry from a 720p signal supplied by an HDMI-equipped source.

It’s a shame, since the LCD TV is otherwise a decent panel. It’s bright (rated at 500cd/m2) and has dynamic contrast, which leads to a claimed 1,200:1 ratio. Blacks are deep, backlighting is even and viewing angles are more than wide enough to serve larger lounges.

There’s a decent range of features as well: two HDMI and two scart inputs, plus component, S-Video and composite connectors. Menus are relatively clunky, but allow you to quickly choose an input without having to toggle through each one in turn. There’s good picture-in-picture support and also Dolby Virtual surround sound, which is reasonably effective. The speakers are loud enough, but you’ll probably still want to use the LX2000’s S/PDIF output to connect a set of surround-sound speakers.

One feature missing from the TV is Freeview – it only has an analogue tuner built in. There’s a single hybrid tuner in the PC itself, allowing you to choose between analogue or digital reception but, as usual, there’s no MHEG support, so you can’t use the remote’s red button to access the interactive content on the channels that support it.

Also inside the box, which isn’t user-serviceable, there’s 1GB of DDR2 memory on two SODIMMs (leaving no free slots), a 160GB hard disk, plus the brand-new and, rather confusingly named, Intel Pentium Dual-Core CPU. Each core of the T2060 runs at a lowly 1.6GHz and, although based on the Yonah core, there’s only 1MB of L2 cache, somewhat crippling performance. This was borne out in our tests, where the LX2000 managed an overall score of just 0.61. Although Vista (in its Home Premium guise) doesn’t feel sluggish in general use, Media Center itself isn’t exactly zippy, and it will only become slower as you load up the hard disk with photos, MP3s and TV shows.

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