We guess that the TX-37LZD70, costing less than £900, must be something of a bittersweet product for Panasonic. For as the first 37-inch LCD TV the brand has ever released in the UK, it flies in the face of the argument Panasonic has long espoused that you should use plasma rather than LCD technology for anything bigger than 32 inches.
So is it a case of 'if you can't beat them, join them', or has Panasonic finally got its own LCD technology to a point where it can compete with plasma?
Right off the bat, the 37LZD70 hits you with a clear advantage of LCD over plasma, as it delivers a 'Full HD' resolution -- something not even Panasonic has managed to achieve on a 37-inch plasma. What's more, it's fully compatible with the 1080p/24fps format gaining currency with the arrival of HD DVD and Blu-ray -- a compatibility certainly not found right across Panasonic's plasma range.
Connectivity is fair, including as it does two HDMIs, component jacks for HD viewing, plus a PC port and an SD card slot for direct viewing of digital photos. In an ideal world, a third HDMI might have been nice, but two is in line with most of its rivals at a pretty reasonable £900 price point.
A superb remote control and effortless onscreen menu system, meanwhile, makes the 37LZD70 one of the easiest TVs to use we've ever come across.
As we'd hoped would be the case, the 37LZD70's pictures are driven by Panasonic's impressive V-Real 2 Pro processing engine, complete with its tried and tested techniques for -- among other things -- reducing video noise, improving colour toning and upscaling standard definition sources to the Full HD pixel resolution.
Predictably, V-Real 2 Pro helps the 37LZD70 achieve some real picture highs. For instance, HD pictures look just about as sharp, detailed and above all free of video noise as we've seen on an LCD screen of this size. Watching a pristine HD source, such as the Blu-ray of Pirates of the Caribbean, feels at times like looking through a window at another world.
Crucially, though, the 37LZD70 doesn't just like HD. V-Real 2 Pro's efforts with the set's own digital tuner also make it a better purveyor of standard definition than most Full HD LCD sets.
Other good stuff finds motion looking reasonably crisp by LCD standards and there's plenty of brightness during light, colourful scenes.
Although the 37LZD70's pictures are hard to fault at times, those times don't occur when there's much darkness on show. For there's clear evidence during night-time or dark interior footage of that age-old LCD problem of shallow black levels, revealed as a kind of grey veil over a picture's darkest areas. The Pirates of the Caribbean sequence where Captain Jack and his followers fight with Captain Barbossa inside the latter's dingy treasure cave thus lacks visual depth and dynamism compared with how it looks on a few rivals -- including, we can't help but reflect, Panasonic's own 37-inch plasma models.
To be fair, the 37LZD70's black level response certainly isn't shockingly bad by any means; indeed, it's well above average by LCD standards. But we can't ignore it -- especially since it has a knock-on effect in the shape of some slightly muted colours during dark scenes.
When the 37LZD70's pictures are good, they're really quite excellent. It's just a shame that these good times only tend to roll when the picture content is uniformly bright and colourful -- especially when Panasonic's own 37-inch plasma models deliver much more impact in the key area of black level, while also costing less than this set's £900 asking price.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire