We're big fans of Panasonic's plasmas with built-in freesat, as they give you the chance to watch high-definition broadcasts from the BBC and ITV without the need for an expensive Sky or Virgin Media subscription. One problem, however, has been that Panasonic hasn't offered any LCD models with this feature. But that's all changed with the arrival of the 37-inch Panasonic Viera TX-L37G10, which, at around £1,050, not only has a freesat HD tuner, but also a 'Full HD' 1080p resolution and 100Hz support.
The TX-L37G10's design is best described as pleasantly understated, and that's a good thing in our book -- we'd much rather our TV garnered attention when it's switched on, rather than when it's turned off.
Hooking up your other AV kit to the set is pretty straightforward, as it has good connectivity, with four HDMI ports -- three of which are rear-mounted -- two Scart sockets, a component input and a PC D-Sub connector.
It's also a cinch to set up the freesat service, especially if you already have a dish on your home (an old Sky dish works perfectly in our experience). Just hook up the dish feed to the input on the rear of the TX-L37G10 and then run the auto-tune function, which will tune 104 TV channels in a matter of seconds.
Both BBC HD and ITV HD look absolutely stunning on the set, which renders HD broadcasts with superb levels of sharpness. You can pick out absolutely every bit of detail in the picture and the extra resolution offered by the 1080p panel is very apparent in longer-range shots. Contrast performance is also impressive and the 100Hz processing adds visibly to the smoothness of fast motion and panning shots. Also, as this set uses an IPS panel, it has a very wide viewing angle, so even those sat at the further edges of your room will see a decent picture, with less of the colour and contrast loss suffered by other sets at these extreme viewing angles.
As well as the freesat tuner, the set can also receive analogue terrestrial and Freeview broadcasts -- handy if you don't want to miss out on channels like Dave that still aren't available on Freesat. Other extras include an SD card slot that lets you view pictures from your digital camera, and can also be used to playback AVCHD footage from HD camcorders.
Many 1080p sets struggle to put in as good a performance as their HD Ready 720p counterparts when it comes to showing standard-definition TV. Sadly, the TX-L37G10 is no different. Compared to previous Panasonic 720p models, such as the Viera TX-32LZD85, this set just doesn't handle SD signals in the same way -- no doubt because the upscaling is harder to pull off in a 1080p set with all those extra pixels to manage. Results with SD signals generally look acceptable in cinema mode, but, in the brighter modes that drive the panel harder, like the normal and dynamic settings, blocky images and noise become more of a problem.
The other issue is that, although the set features an Ethernet port on the rear, it's currently unused. It's present purely to make the set conform to the freesat specification (freesat plans to launch an IPTV service in the future to give users access to BBC iPlayer and other similar services). This seems like a missed trick, as other sets in the Panasonic range support Viera Cast and DLNA, for media streaming from a PC.
The Panasonic Viera TX-L37G10 is a stunning performer with HD signals, and the addition of the freesat HD tuner, alongside the Freeview tuner, means you get access to the widest possible range of free channels without the need for any messy external boxes. Our only misgivings concern the credit-crunch unfriendly price and the fact that the set's SD performance isn't quite as impressive as some other models in the Panasonic range.
Edited by Charles Kloet