Panasonic is one of the very few manufacturers still making both LCDs and plasmas – Sony, for example, has long since hitched its star to LCD. Its reasoning is simple: LCD suits smaller screens best, while for anything big, plasma is where it’s at.
But the new TX-37LZD70 blurs that boundary in no uncertain terms. It’s the largest LCD TV Panasonic has made to date, putting it firmly into territory the company previously reserved exclusively for plasma panels. Not only that, but it’s pitched head-to-head with a same-sized plasma rival from within the Panasonic camp, the TH-37PX70.
So what gives? Simple answer: market forces. Pressure to adopt 1920×1080 Full HD resolution has driven Panasonic to introduce a new range of Full HD sets. The PZ-series plasmas are priced to sit slightly above its HD-Ready PX-series 42in and 50in panels. The LZD-series LCD does same ‘bigger brother’ job for its 37in plasma sibling, but Panasonic has made the switch to LCD simply because packing all those pixels into a 37in plasma screen was just too difficult.
So, now you know the history – what about the set itself? It’s an elegant enough design, if not as sultry as the best LCDs from Samsung or Sony. The chassis seems wider than is ideal, with a bit too much frame around the screen.
It’s well-enough equipped for the cash though. Aside from the high resolution, you get a Freeview tuner, an SD card reader and a PC input, plus Panasonic’s well-developed Viera Link system network bus. The only downside is that there are only two HDMIs, which seems mean in the modern market.
Set-up is a doddle. This being a Panasonic, it starts to auto-install the minute you pop in an aerial, and the process takes mere minutes. The remote, while no beauty, is also superbly laid out.
And the image quality? Largely fabulous. Panasonic has clearly made strenuous efforts to endow its largest LCD screen with something of the black depth and contrast feel of its acclaimed plasmas: the LZD70 is notably richer and more involving ‘out of the box’ than, say, a Samsung.
Of course, once you’ve fine-tuned things a little the gap closes a tad, but the Panasonic continues to impress. It’s sharp and natural to look at, even with off-air TV. Motion-handling is swift and assured, and support for 24fps video from HD-DVD or Blu-ray assures a nicely cinematic feel when you’re watching movies.
The downside – and there had to be one – comes when watching night scenes: watch the final third of The Bourne Ultimatum, and you’ll struggle to make out the action. Predictably, Panasonic’s cheaper, lower-resolution plasma alternative looks far better here.
Should that put you off? Not necessarily. We can’t think of any LCD that can go toe-to-toe with a plasma with that sort of material. For almost everything else that you want to watch, including gaming, this is a cracking TV. It also sounds better than the plasma – that wide chassis gives plenty of space for two decent, properly spaced loudspeakers, which ensure a good stereo image and fair bass for a flat TV.