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Reviewed: 01 December 2008
Looking almost identical to Panasonic's LZD85 range of LCD's, the TX37LZD81 features a glossy black finish and a frame that curves subtly backwards along the full length of its sides. A feature which has become synonymous with flat panel TV's from Panasonic, an elliptical dark grey trim at the base of the screen actually houses a full length single speaker.
Along with integrated 'Freesat', the Panasonic TX-37LZD81 also comes equipped with digital Freeview and analogue terrestrial tuners. The recently launched Freesat service currently offers around 80 subscription free channels which includes all the major terrestrial stations (BBC1, ITV etc) apart from 'Five'. You also get the BBC HD and new ITV HD (exclusive to Freesat) channels. It is worth remembering that access to the 'Freesat' service requires a satellite dish.
Screen: 37in 16:9 Tuner: Digital Sound System: Nicam Resolution: 1920 x 1080 Contrast Ratio: 10,000:1 Other Features: Built-in 'Freesat' receiver, 24fps real cinema, noise reduction. Sockets: 3 HDMI (v1.3), 2 SCART, Component Video, Composite Video, PC input, SD Card slot, Ethernet Port.
The LZD81 series is essentially an LZD80 with the built-in 'Freesat' feature; panels and basic circuitry are the same although design is slightly different. There is also a 32in variant available.
The TX-37LZD81 sports the latest incarnation of Panasonic's picture processing engine 'V-real 3 Pro' which detects on-screen motion and activates backlight blinking to maintain resolution in those areas. Of course there is much more to V-real 3 Pro - Panasonic have apparently re-engineered almost every element of their picture processing engine in its latest guise.
There are two major constituents to the V-real 3 equation, V-real PRO 3 Processor and V-real PRO 3 Driver. The 'processor' element works on the raw video signal to optimize the incoming stream, while the 'Driver' element works with the refined signal and optimizes panel performance to this signal.
A Full HD (1920 x 1080) resolution has the potential to provide a great High Definition (HD) picture while 24fps (frames per second) 'Real Cinema' support should produce judder free renditions of films shot at this speed (The vast majority of TV is filmed at 25fps).
Elsewhere there are 3 HDMI (v1.3) inputs. HDMI v1.3 can utilize the Deep Colour (x.v.YCC) format. Deep Colour produces almost twice the range of available colours, but you will need a source that produces this level of detail (A few HD camcorders offer the feature and possibly in the future, Blu-ray discs played through a Deep Colour enabled player such as Panasonic's DMP-BD30).
A simple but effective feature on the 37LZD81 (shared with most of Panasonic's newer LCD/Plasma TV's) we really like is the photo viewer. Insert your camera's SD card into the screen's SD slot and it automatically shift into slide show mode. Your photos are then easily navigable through the TV's remote; and of course all this through a 37in display.
The TX-37LZD81 demonstrates perhaps that a TV's basic picture processing circuitry, in this case represented by the 'V-Real 3 Pro' engine, is the main determinant of overall picture quality. Without any form of 100Hz processing this panel handles fast on-screen action with a smoothness and fluidity that few can match. It takes very fast on-screen action to create even minimal amounts of distortion.
In other areas we can see 'V-Real 3 Pro' weaving its magic. Standard Definition (SD) pictures are virtually free from 'noise' interference, especially from higher quality cable or satellite feeds. Inevitably, poorer quality Freeview highlights the limitations of a signal designed for our old CRT (576 lines) sets with a degree of visible noise we could not correct even with 'noise reduction' set at its highest level.
While the merits of a Full HD resolution on anything much smaller than 37in screen are a hot topic for debate, there is no doubt that the TX-37LZD81 makes good use of its 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. High Definition (HD) pictures from Blu-ray were bristling with detail and a degree of sharpness which at times is simply breathtaking.
With both HD and SD source material the TX-37LZD81's ability to handle colour is outstanding. Tricky areas such as facial tones are handled with a subtlety that demonstrates an extremely well balanced integration of colour within the screen's picture processing circuitry. The TX-37LZD81 manages to produce a bold and vibrant palette while avoiding the trap of appearing too 'garish'.
Having witnessed such an accomplished performance in most areas it came as even more of a disappointment that the black level ability of the TX-37LZD81 did not match the performance of the screen in other areas. Perhaps Panasonic are a good illustration of the basic weakness of LCD technology in this respect with their LCD TV's consistently off the pace of their Plasma's in producing the deepest richest blacks.
While the TX37LZD81 is a better than average acoustic performance, as with most LCD TV's the focus on sound is really an afterthought. In pursuit of a stylish appearance, most manufacturers hide speakers or shave then down to a bare minimum. With the LZD81 the presence of BBE ViVA™ technology adds some depth and power to the TV's soundtrack but there really is no substitute for stand alone speakers.
A very good all round performance along with the convenience of a built-in 'Freesat' tuner make the the Panasonic TX-37LZD81 an interesting proposition.
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