Panasonic Viera TC-37LZ85 review: Panasonic Viera TC-37LZ85

Performance
All told the Panasonic TC-37LZ85 delivered a middling picture, displaying fine depth of black and uniformity but color temperature that was among the least-accurate we've seen from a name-brand LCD in awhile.

Because of the lack of detailed color temperature adjustments, all we really did for our standard calibration on the Panasonic was to put it into the Warm preset, reduce light output for our darkened viewing environment, and tweak a few of the other controls. We chose the Light option for Black Level, for example, because it brought out the best shadow detail. For our complete picture settings, check out the bottom of this blog post.

For our comparison, we lined the Panasonic up next to a few competing, smaller LCDs, including the 37-inch Vizio VOJ370F, the Hitachi UT37X902, as well as the 32-inch Sony KDL-32M4000. For reference (not to represent comparable models) we enlisted the Samsung LN52A650 LCD and the Pioneer PRO-111FD plasma. To perform the majority of image quality tests, our film of choice this time was Bangkok Dangerous on Blu-ray played via the Sony PlayStation 3.

Black level: In dark areas, the Panasonic delivered a relatively deep shade of black--just a tad darker than the other small-screen displays. During the dark intro when Cage first arrives in Bangkok, Thailand, as the coolies unload the truck and the cityscape passes by his car window, the shadows looked dark enough, although they lacked the depth of either of the reference displays. A larger difference between the 37-inch models was distinguishable in the arena of shadow detail. The dark jackets of the two mobsters discussing Nicholas Cage's reliability, for example, seemed somewhat more realistic-looking on the Panasonic than on the others.

Color accuracy: The TC-37LZ85 evinced an overly-red grayscale that didn't help its performance in this department. The reddish tint was most obvious in skin tones, which made Cage's face appear relatively ruddy instead of the sickly greenish look the director intended--judging from our reference and the other displays. Dark and black areas also appeared too red, although they weren't as objectionable as the bluish and greenish tinge seen in dark areas on the nonreference displays.

We elected to turn down the color control to minimize ruddiness in skin tones, and as a result colors looked more muted than on the other competing LCDs. The golden light of the Buddhist temple, for example, seemed a bit less intense on the Panasonic, and also tinged too red compared with the yellowish gold of the other displays. Primary colors were relatively close to the HD standard, but they couldn't make up for the Panasonic's other color accuracy issues.

Video processing: The Panasonic successfully resolved every line of a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution test pattern, correctly deinterlacing video but not film-based sources and scored between 300 and 400 lines on our motion resolution tests. As usual, none of these resolution characteristics was distinguishable in program material; the 1,366x768 resolution Sony, for example, looked just as sharp as the 1080p displays in our comparison.

Uniformity: Panasonic's LCD excelled at delivering an even picture across its screen, with none of the brighter or darker areas that were visible on some of the other LCDs. From off angle it maintained black levels about as well as the Hitachi and better than the other comparable LCDs, although it did suffer from bluish discoloration from more extreme angles.

Bright lighting: The TV's matte screen evinced the usual stellar performance under high ambient conditions with afternoon sun coming in through the windows. The screen attenuated reflections as well as the other matte LCDs in the lineup and better than the glass-screen plasma or the shiny-screened Samsung, although the latter maintained black levels better in bright lighting.

Standard-definition: The TC-37LZ85 scored below average on our standard-definition tests. It didn't quite resolve every line of the DVD format, and details in the stone bridge and grass from the HQV's detail test clip appeared a bit softer than the other displays. We did appreciate its capability to remove jaggies from spinning diagonal lines. However, the stripes of a waving American flag evinced more jagged edges than we saw on the Vizio, for example. Noise reduction was solid, squelching motes and snow from skies and sunsets better than the Vizio, but not quite as effectively as the Hitachi set. The Panasonic's film mode processing eventually kicked in to remove moire from the grandstands behind the race car, although it wasn't as quick as some of the other displays.

PC: When connected via an HDMI input, a PC with a digital output set to 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution was displayed perfectly on the Panasonic's screen, which is exactly what we expect from a 1080p LCD. The TV resolved every line with no overscan or edge enhancement.

Test Result Score
Before color temp (20/80) 5654/5592 Poor
After color temp N/A  
Before grayscale variation 864 Poor
After grayscale variation N/A  
Color of red (x/y) 0.634/0.337 Good
Color of green 0.3/0.623 Good
Color of blue 0.15/0.066 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Yes Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Panasonic TC-37LZ85 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 142.69 92.59 118.57
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.24 0.16 0.2
Standby (watts) 0 0 0
Cost per year $44.17 $28.66 $36.70
Score (considering size) Good
Score (overall) Good
*Cost per year based on 2007 average U.S. residential electricity cost of 10.6 cents per kw/hr at 8 hours on/16 hours off per day.

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