With its twin Freeview HD and freesat HD tuners, LED edge lights and support for a plethora of online services, as well as digital media streaming, it's unsurprising that the Panasonic Viera TX-L37V20B is priced towards the higher-end of the TV market. But does this 37-inch, 1080p LCD TV's premium £1,050 price tag also buy you first-class performance?
Some of Panasonic's recent LCD TVs have looked so plain that they've flirted with downright ugliness, but no such complaints can be levelled at the TX-L37V20B. It really is a handsome display. It's slim, measuring a mere 77mm deep, and this, combined with the silver finish on the chassis and stand, gives the set a very sophisticated appearance.
Take a peek around the back and you'll find it also covers off pretty much all the connectivity bases. Like many of Panasonic's current TVs, the TX-L37V20B has a satellite input for its freesat HD tuner, as well as an RF input for its Freeview HD one, so you should be able to pick up high-definition broadcasts no matter where you live.
There are three rear-mounted HDMI ports, as well as a side-mounted one, for easy access if you decide to mount the TV on a wall. You also get two Scart sockets, a VGA port, a set of component sockets and an optical audio out for feeding audio from the internal tuners to a surround-sound set-up. Finally, the set has two USB ports (one of which you can use for the supplied Wi-Fi adaptor), an SD card slot and an Ethernet port.
Get on t'Internet
Connect the TV up to your broadband router via either the Ethernet port or Wi-Fi adaptor and you can make use of the Viera Cast Internet services. These include access to YouTube, Picasa, Skype (if you connect a webcam to a USB port) and the Acetrax movie-rental service, among others. It'll also stream DivX and Xvid files from a PC, although, sadly, the popular MKV format isn't supported.
The TV even supports the BBC's iPlayer on-demand service, but this is only accessible if you've got a satellite feed, as you can only call it up via the red button on BBC channels. If you use the Freeview tuner alone, you can't access the iPlayer functionality, which is both a shame and bizarre. The set also lets you record TV to an external USB drive, but it's fussy about the drives it supports, and none of the ones we tried worked.
The TX-L37V20B has two different electronic programme guides for the Freeview and freesat services. On Freeview, it uses the Guide Plus+ system, which displays Web-style adverts on the left-hand side of the planner. This is not only annoying, but also reduces the amount of room available to show programming information. The set's freesat EPG doesn't suffer from these adverts.
Lighting on the edge
The TX-L37V20B has LED edge lights. This not only helps to make the panel much slimmer than a traditional LCD screen, but also helps to improve colour accuracy and contrast performance. This TV really does produce exceptionally vivid and natural colours. It also impresses with its deep black levels and its ability to tease out shadow detail in darker scenes. As with many other LED sets, however, there's an ever-so-slight amount of haloing visible at the edges of the screen during very dark scenes.
This is only a minor issue, though, especially as the TV excels in most other areas. The upscaling of standard-definition broadcasts, for example, is excellent -- the set does a great job of cleaning up jagged edges and smoothing out nasty artefacts, without making pictures look soft. HD pictures are also razor-sharp and the TV's 'Intelligent Frame Creation' technology does an excellent job of reducing judder.
As the TX-L37V20B's chassis is so slim, you wouldn't expect its speakers to be very powerful, but they're actually not too bad, and certainly better than many of the speakers built into slimmer LED sets. The bass isn't exactly earth-shattering, but it's good enough for day-to-day TV watching, and dialogue sounds crisp and clean. If you're a fan of action flicks, however, we'd definitely recommend you hook the set up to a decent surround-sound system.
The Viera TX-L37V20B is one of Panasonic's best LCD TVs so far. It looks gorgeous, delivers fantastic high- and standard-definition pictures, and offers good sound quality too. We also like its solid line-up of Internet features, although it's a shame you can only access iPlayer if you use the freesat tuner.
Edited by Charles Kloet