A brief product review by Bobulous.
The Sony KDL-26S2030 is a twenty-six inch LCD television that uses Sony's Bravia Engine technology. The KDL-26S2030 has a native resolution of 1366×768 pixels, which makes it HD Ready, able to show high definition sources up to 1080i. The KDL-26S2030 also has a built-in digital television tuner and electronic programme guide.
Connectivity includes two SCART sockets, camcorder video input, a PC input, an HDMI socket, and component sockets. Plus the aerial input for watching freeview channels on the digital tuner. Outputs include hi-fi channels and a headphone socket.
Once powered-up for the first time, it's very simple to setup. The KDL-26S2030 asks you which country you're in, and then uses that information to search for digital television signals over the aerial socket, assuming you've connected an aerial. I've not had a chance to test the digital television tuner, because I've got cable TV, but I'll update this page if I get a decent roof aerial sometime soon.
By default, the picture on the Sony KDL-26S2030 is far too bright. In fact, the display is so bright that I've set mine to use the low power-saving mode, and set the backlight power to 3 out of a maximum of 10. But everyone will have their own opinion on what makes for the perfect television picture. So the Sony settings menu should please people who like to tinker. Alongside brightness, contrast, and colour saturation, you can choose settings such as colour temperature, sharpness, gamma, noise reduction, and enable features like contrast enhancer, black corrector, and MPEG noise reduction. And that's only the picture menu. Sound and screen menus have another set of options to play with if you're so inclined.
High definition video sources are rare and expensive at time of writing [March 2007], so I've not been able to test the high definition picture quality on this television yet. But the standard definition format that is still used by the vast majority of television programmes, and by DVDs, looks very good on the Sony KDL-26S2030. In fact, the picture is so good that I found myself judging the quality of each television programme, rather than the television itself. Some shows look well exposed, in-focus, and sharp. The KDL-26S2030 reveals that a lot of shows are out-of-focus a lot of the time, and filmed on low-quality cameras or film. It also shows up cheap po-pro, such as poor compositing and unrealistic special effects.
Even on this 26" screen, considered small by some, I'd not want to sit closer than one-and-a-half metres away, because the sharp picture on this Sony betrays the artefacts caused by video compression used to make the digital picture fit into the limited broadcasting bandwidth. (If digital television broadcasters struggle to stream standard definition programmes without visible compression, I'm pretty skeptical that they'll be able to stream high definition programmes without even more visible compression artefacts.)
The sound quality is very good, though my ears aren't as sharp as my eyes. The sound is clear and natural, though, so I don't think many people will have any complaints. Extra sound-related options include TruSurround XT, which is supposed to simulate surround sound effects with stereo programmes, but I couldn't hear any difference. And BBE High Definition Sound System, which also didn't make a difference to my unsophisticated ear.
The KDL-26S2030 is an excellent television. The picture is bright, vibrant, and sharp, and the sound is clear and well balanced. There are more connection options than I can ever imagine needing, allowing your TV aerial, cable box, DVD player, PC, camcorder, and high definition games console to all remain connected at once.
In a room where the seats are two to three metres away from the television, I think the 26" screen size of the Sony KDL-26S2030 should be just right. The picture quality is sharp enough to pick out compression artefacts in digital television streams, so a bigger screen size will just make these artefacts look worse at the same distance. People with less than perfect eyesight may decide they need a bigger screen, however, especially if they want to admire fine detail in high definition footage.
Now that I'm getting high definition content from a new Virgin Media set-top box, the picture on the Sony KDL-26S2030 looks even better. It's now even easier to spot that a cameraman was focusing on the subject's ear rather than their eyes, that a lens has a mild problem with chromatic abberation, or that a digital sensor is struggling in low light. But when the shot is sharply focused and well exposed, the extra pixels offered by high definition content give the picture a very pleasing crispness, with hard edges and text showing up very cleanly.
The Virgin Media box offers both 720p and 1080i output, and I can't spot a difference between either mode, so the Sony Bravia Engine is likely doing a very good job of scaling the different resolutions to fit the LCD panel.