It was no surprise when Panasonic started producing LCD TVs -- it's not financially viable to use plasma technology in the smaller tellies that most non-geeks are so keen on. But it's only now that the company has started knocking out 3D LCD TVs, trailing competitors by about a year.
The 37-inch, 1080p, LED-illuminated Viera TX-L37DT30 LCD TV is Panasonic's latest bite at the 3D cherry. Here are our first impressions.
The DT30 uses an IPS Alpha panel. This type of panel offers very good viewing angles, and suffers relatively little from inaccurate colours. That should help mitigate some of the damage that wearing 3D glasses does to your perception of colours.
It's reasonable to assume that the 3D glasses that come with the DT30 will be the same as those provided with Panasonic's plasma sets. We hope we're wrong, though, because Panasonic's glasses suck. They're too heavy and don't sit correctly on our medium-sized mush.
Crosstalk makes us angry
Plasma TVs don't suffer from ghosting, or crosstalk, around 3D images because they generally have a much faster response time than LCD sets. Basically, they can transition between the two images needed to create a 3D picture sufficiently quickly to avoid giving the impression that you're seeing double.
The DT30, however, has an unusually fast response time of 2ms, so we had high hopes for its 3D picture quality. But, during a Panasonic demonstration, we didn't find the 3D images to be as flaw-free as we'd hoped. This wasn't a huge surprise, though, as most LCD TVs suffer from crosstalk to some extent.
400Hz of hurt
Panasonic is making plenty of noise about the DT30's 400Hz picture-processing mode, claiming it will make for ultra-smooth motion. Generally, we don't like these advanced modes. They're a blight that's been messing up TVs for some time now. As televisions leave factories with this kind of mode switched on, we worry that users are seeing a corrupted, artificial image without understanding that they can avoid it.
We'll judge this mode when we see a review sample of the DT30. For now, we're pre-unimpressed.
Take a stand
Last year's Panasonic LCD TVs were available with a funky stand that put the TV at a slight angle. The stand was great if you had a low table, and wanted the TV to be angled slightly upwards towards you. Sadly, last year's stand didn't sell well, so the company isn't bringing it back to the UK in 2011.
Nevertheless, the overall design and style of the DT30 is impressive. Its bezel is thoroughly charming, and the edge-mounted LEDs allow it to be thin and gorgeous. Its slender nature will certainly help if you have limited space in your gaff, or you want to mount the TV on a wall.
Internet functionality is important these days. Panasonic's Viera Connect feature provides a portal through which users can connect to a number of online services, but we find the line-up rather lacklustre.
The lack of access to BBC iPlayer is particularly disappointing. We've bleated on about this since Panasonic introduced the forerunner to Viera Connect, Viera Cast, but the fact is that Sony and Samsung have both had working iPlayer apps on their TVs for some time now. Panasonic tells us that iPlayer is on the way, so we hope it launches soon.
On the plus side, the Skype implementation is one of the best we've seen, and, when paired with Panasonic's USB camera, the results are very good. The full-screen interface is easy to use, and we really like the idea of making video calls on our TV. It makes us feel like we're in Star Trek.
We also like the YouTube app. It's one of the better implementations we've seen on a TV. It seems to buffer video quickly, and it's really easy to use. Panasonic includes a Twitter app too, but it's a full-screen service, which means you can't watch TV while following your timeline or watching a hashtag.
Panasonic's LCD TVs haven't blown us away in the past. We do, however, have high hopes that the Viera TX-L37DT30 will be a big improvement, so stay tuned for our full review.
Edited by Charles Kloet