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Panasonic TX-L37V20B LED Review

Panasonic’s edge-lit TX-L37V20B is one of its thinnest and most attractive LCDs to date. A metallic bezel and 45mm-deep cabinet house a fine feature count that includes both Freeview and Freesat HD tuners, plentiful multimedia options including HD video recording to USB and Panasonic’s top-level picture processing suite. There’s also a healthy suite of picture calibration tools, one area in which Panasonic has been rather miserly on previous LCD generations.

If £1k price tag is a bit steep for you, Panasonic has a range of ‘designer’ edge LED models, the D28 series, available in 37-inch, 32-inch, 22-chin and 19-inch flavours, with the 32-inch and smaller models also available in a variety of colours, including purple and white.

The more conventional D25 series still use edge LED lighting and include Panasonic’s first 42-inch LCD TV.

You can make the most significant savings, though, by heading further down Panasonic’s range to its CCFL-lit LCD TVs, as represented in decreasing order of features by the G20s (which have Freeview and Freesat HD dual tuners), the S20s (Freeview HD only) and finally the X20s, which don’t have Freeview HD or any significant picture processing.

As noted in the introduction, the L37V20B is more attractive and slimmer than most of Panasonic’s TVs, thanks to its use of edge LED lighting.

It still manages to find the room for a healthy suite of connections on its rear, including four HDMIs, a component video input, a D-Sub PC input, an Ethernet port, two USB slots, and an SD card slot. As you would expect, this sort of connectivity opens up an expansive suite of features.

Perversely, the TX-L37V20, alongside every other Panasonic LCD this year, is not 3D ready. What it does have, though, is plentiful multimedia support. The USBs, for instance, can play back video, photo and music files, make the TV Wi-Fi capable via a provided dongle or else you can use one of them to attach a Buffalo JustStore Desktop HD-EU2-UK HDD for recording video from either of the set’s Freeview or Freesat HD tuners.

The Ethernet port is just as flexible, enabling you to stream in files from a DLNA PC, use future interactive services associated with the HD tuners, and access Panasonic’s decent – if unspectacular – Viera Cast online service. Highlights include YouTube, Skype video phone calling if you add an optional external camera, EuroSport, and the AceTrax on-demand movie service.

The system is currently let down (compared with some rival online TV platforms) by its lack of any TV catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer. Panasonic isn’t currently showing much interest in app-style functions either, which may need to change if it wants to keep up with its rivals in 2011.

The SD card slot, meanwhile, offers an alternative way of playing the same multimedia files supported by the USB ports. You can’t record video onto SD cards, though.

The TX-L37V20′s screen is full HD and its edge LED lighting enables an extravagant claimed contrast of 2,000,000:1. Experience suggests, though, that such manufacturers’ contrast ratio figures should be taken with even more of a pinch of salt than usual when applied to edge LED technology.

Potentially more interesting is the amount of video processing Panasonic has thrown at the L37V20B. For a start, it’s got the very top level of the brand’s processing engine, Vreal Pro 5. On top of this there’s the most powerful incarnation of Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation system, IFC Pro. Obviously, frame interpolation systems like IFC Pro aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but hopefully Panasonic’s will prove at least persuasive.

Video gamers alarmed by the sound of all this processing should note that it’s mostly optional, and that a provided Game preset deactivates pretty much all of it to leave you with an acceptable input lag of around 30-40ms.

As well as making most of the processing optional via its onscreen menus, the TX-L37V20B gives you a reasonably large suite of tools for fine-tuning pictures. Just choose the Advanced ISFCC option – found, rather unhelpfully, within an advanced features menu rather than the picture menu – and you’ll be free to tinker with such niceties as the hue, saturation, gain and cut-off of the RGB colour elements and gamma settings via a series of presets. There’s room for improvement in terms of both gamma and colour calibration, but the set is sufficiently flexible to an endorsement from the independent Imaging Science Foundation (ISF).

Other key features of the L37V20 that help define it as a flagship model are picture in picture options, playback of Deep Colour sources if you find any, and its use of an IPS (In-plane Switching) LCD panel. Such displays are far less prone losing contrast and colour saturation than normal LCD panels when viewed from a wide angle, which is very handy to for anyone with potentially large audiences to cater to.

Even if the TX-L37V20B wasn’t a flagship LCD TV from one of the TV world’s biggest brands, its pictures would disappoint.

There’s one simple but unavoidable reason for this: backlight inconsistency; while watching predominantly dark scenes it’s possible to make out areas of the picture that look brighter than the rest.

The TX- L37V20 is hardly unique in this respect, particularly among edge LED TVs, but the problem affects a few disturbingly large portions of the picture, and as such is more distracting than usual.

It is possible to reduce the aggressiveness/obviousness of the backlight issues if you take care to adjust the contrast and reduce brightness to around 35 per cent, but the point at which the backlight inconsistencies fade to the extent that a discerning eye will be happy with them leaves you with a picture that looks dull and, worse, is severely lacking in shadow detail.

Some other reviews of the L37V20 have suggested that the TrueCinema preset delivers an unusually good picture for an LCD TV and while this may be true in terms of colours and sharpness, the setting suffers extremely badly with backlight inconsistencies until you work your way around them.

The Cinema preset is probably the best starting point, but the bottom line is that no matter what mode you use, the backlight issues are never completely resolved.

This is a pity, because there’s no doubt that the TX-L37V20B has got some potent picture tricks up its sleeve. HD pictures are ferociously sharp, for starters, especially when Blu-ray is the source, picking up every last detail from the best discs.

Crucially, the sharpness feels wholly natural, with none of the forced, gritty, edge-stressing nonsense produced by the circuitry of some rival sets.

Colours are frequently superb at time; post-calibration the set produces a really startlingly wide tonal range and proves remarkably adept at combining intense saturations with blend subtlety, even within single frames. Skin tones in particular have seldom – if ever – looked more credible on an LCD TV and for this Panasonic deserves hearty praise.

The TX-L37V20B also handles motion deftly. It’s not as adept at spotting different video cadences as it perhaps should be for a flagship TV, but it handles judder nicely and the screen’s fast response time irons out most motion blur.

You might even want to give Panasonic’s IFC frame interpolation processing a go, for provided you don’t set it beyond its lowest level of power, it definitely can reduce judder without producing too many distracting side effects. Some may not like the way it makes ‘film’ sources look more like video, but it’s certainly not the total no-go area found with some motion processing engines.

The TX-L37V20 is also an above-average rescaler of standard-definition. The key to its success appears to be that it doesn’t get too caught up with trying to make standard-def pictures look like HD in detail and sharpness terms, instead focusing adeptly on retaining colour tones and reducing noise.

The unusually wide viewing angle is apparent during everyday use and overall there’s no question that the TX-L37V20 can produce pictures of mind-boggling quality. It’s just a shame that this quality tends to slump during the sort of very dark sequences that find their way into almost any film at some point.

The TX-L37V20B does a better job with sound than the vast majority of edge LED TVs. There’s more power and dynamic range than you would usually expect to find, enabling the soundstage to open up at least a little during the transition from a quiet to a loud scene. There’s even a hint of bass in the soundstage, which is almost unheard of on modern flatscreens.

While it’s got the features and processing power to justify its price, the TX-L37V20B’s performance isn’t dazzling enough to make it a particularly tempting thing on which to blow the best part of a grand, especially when you can the superior, larger TX-P42V20 plasma TVs for around the same money.

Ease of use

The more other brands serve up vibrant, colourful menus able to handle huge amounts of features effortlessly, the more out of date Panasonic’s current menus start to look. They’re drab to look at, text heavy, prone to forcing you to scroll down long boring lists, and rather unintuitive with some of their organisation.

The remote control feels plasticky for a unit supplied with a premium TV and, although Panasonic zappers used to have the best button layouts in the business, all those extra features haven’t been accommodated particularly well and relegating the main Menu button to a small key in the top left corner proves problematic.

The good news is that the onscreen menus are pretty free of jargon and the system feels like a first step towards a more sophisticated operating system.

Panasonic has consistently struggled to achieve the same critical success with its LCD TVs that it routinely enjoys with plasma. But the TX-L37V20 is, on paper at least, unusually well equipped to put this imbalance right, given that it’s Panasonic’s most fully featured LCD TV to date, complete with that technology du jour, edge LED lighting.

It even looks a cut above Panasonic’s usually rather drab TV aesthetics, with its silver, vaguely metallic finish and slinky lines.

It hits all the right buttons with its multimedia support, offering playback of most of the key video, photo and music file formats, enabling you to record from its twin HD tuners to USB drives and carrying DLNA support for PC streaming.

However, while its pictures exhibit many strengths, familiar edge LED weaknesses rear their ugly head during dark sequences.

If you have a very dark room and so can run the screen with its brightness dialled down, the TX-L37V20 is possibly worth considering if you don’t mind a lack of shadow detail, but should you really have to accept such compromises with a TV that costs nearly £1,000?

We liked

The TX-L37V20B hits the ground running with its slender design and metallic bezel and builds on this with exceptional connectivity and an impressive feature sheet, complete with multimedia tools galore and some solid calibration aids.

Its HD pictures are very sharp and colours are superbly well judged. It’s no slouch sonically, either.

We disliked

The edge LED lighting’s problems with achieving a consistent lighting level across the screen are at times excessive, and trying to calibrate around them results in a rather dull image devoid of shadow detail, which ends up making the L37V20 look rather expensive.

Final Verdict

The TX-L37V20B delivers considerable strengths in the sharpness and colour departments, but also suffers significant disappointments when it comes to black levels and, particularly, backlight consistency.

The strengths of the TX-L37V20B arguably suggest that with a little more experience Panasonic might be able to use edge LED tech to deliver a truly excellent LCD TV, but it’s not there yet.

Source: crosat.us

 

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