When we reviewed Panasonic's earlier TX26LXD52 model we questioned whether it could be improved in the coming year -- a few months later it has.
The TX26LXD60 features the same future-proof HD Ready specification enhanced by new picture processing systems and advanced connectivity. Typical LCD constraints, such as poor contrast, staggered movement and restricted viewing angles, have been successfully improved. And, with the advent of high definition, there's now a choice of two HDMI digital inputs so you can simultaneously connect both an HDTV receiver and digitally equipped DVD player.
Unfortunately, there's still no VGA input. As long as PC applications or high-definition gaming isn't a priority though, the screen's dazzling picture performance justifies the comparatively expensive price tag.
The LXD60 features a few subtle style changes with some more evident modifications to the overall specification and connectivity. The range's understated style is left largely unscathed, featuring a trademark black frame supported by a silver lining and pedestal stand. However, the speaker system across the base is no longer grilled, giving the finish a more contemporary feel.
Primary controls are conveniently located above the screen and, unlike in some smaller sized LCDs, a set of easily accessible AV inputs at the side hasn't been ignored. If you own a camcorder or games console you can make occasional connections including S-Video without reaching around the less approachable rear panel.
At first glance, the arrangement of rear connections appears limited compared to the LXD52. A Scart terminal has been sacrificed, leaving only two -- although both are RGB-enabled for uncompromised performance from devices such as DVD players or set top boxes.
A closer look reveals advances elsewhere with a choice of two HDMI digital inputs. HDMI allows the direct transfer of digital video and surround sound signals offering improved performance with the convenience of a single cable. Sky's set-top boxes will use HDMI to receive HDTV broadcasts, while you can also watch high-definition pictures from a digitally compatible DVD player. The inclusion of two HDMI inputs means you can connect both without having to constantly switch between a single input. If you're haven't switched to digital yet, there is also a set of analogue component inputs that offer enhanced picture quality, especially if you own a DVD player with progressive scan video.
However, the continued exclusion of a VGA PC input is still cause for complaint for media centre owners and Xbox 360 gamers -- especially as HDMI-adaptors don't seem to work.
The compact remote with its oversized controls and bold labelling might look a little basic in its design, but the arrangement is well-spaced and incredibly easy-to-use, with functions that can also be used to control a Panasonic DVD player or recorder.
With its revised specification, the LXD60 can finally be considered future-proof. The high-resolution widescreen panel and corresponding digital connectivity mean it's compatible with Sky's HDTV signals using both 720p and 1080i formats. And an integrated Freeview tuner allows you access to terrestrial digital channels -- with a CI card slot for receiving limited subscription channels from TopUp TV.
Panasonic has also installed a number of new picture processing technologies to help improve performance. Traditionally poor LCD contrast levels have been raised using systems such as Active Contrast Control and the accompanying Active Light Control, which claim to double the dynamic contrast range of previous models. The CATS (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) uses a light sensor that automatically adjusts levels according to your room's ambient brightness. And movement is more cohesive courtesy of an 8 millisecond motion response system that reduces ghosting and streaming movement.