Compared with a lot of other name-brand HDTV makers, Panasonic offers far fewer picture adjustments. Yes, the basics are there, including Contrast, which the company was calling Picture for years. We liked that all four of the global picture modes are adjustable and that the fifth, called Custom, is independent per input. The company's Game mode is basically just a picture mode; it doesn't eliminate video processing like some other makers' Game modes.
Beyond the basics there are three color temperature presets, of which Warm came closest to the D65 standard, although unfortunately no further provisions for tweaking the grayscale exist. An A.I. picture function dynamically adjusts the backlight according to program content; a Color mgmnt. control affects color decoding; a pair of On/Off settings reduce video noise; and another allows you to set black level (the Light option exposed the correct amount of shadow detail). That's about it--there's no gamma, detailed color management, or other more advanced settings.
You can choose from four ratio options with high-def sources and standard-def sources, including a Zoom mode that allows adjustment of horizontal size and vertical position. The TV lacks picture-in-picture and cannot freeze the image temporarily to catch a phone number, for example. It can, however, accept SD cards with digital photos into a slot on the left side, which allows it to play back the images on the big screen. We also liked the energy saver option, which reduced the TV's backlight control to cut down on power use.
Connectivity on the TC-LX1 is adequate but not extensive, starting with three HDMI inputs: two on the back and a third on the side. Other back-panel connections include an analog PC input, a single component-video input, an AV input with composite video, and an RF input for cable or antenna. There's also an optical digital audio output that can, as mentioned above, pass audio from an iPod to a home audio system. We would have liked to see an iPod-compatible analog audio output, too, (the JVC has one) but that's not in the cards. In addition to the HDMI port and SD card slot, the side panel offers a second AV input with composite and S-Video.
iPod testing: Panasonic' dock worked as well as we expected. We tested it with an iPhone (3.0 software), iPod Touch, iPod Nano 3G, and an iPod Nano 4G and experienced no major issues. Sound quality via the TV speakers was pretty poor, but that's to be expected and not a problem if you connect an external audio system. The iPhone had to be put into airplane mode, as usual, to work well with the dock, and we did get a few onscreen messages warning of device incompatibility--but everything seemed to work fine regardless.
Not surprisingly, videos blown up to the full screen looked much worse than on the tiny 'Pod screen. We checked out a video of "Iron Man" ripped from the DVD and the quality looked significantly worse than DVD, with evident softness and compression artifacts. The same went for a rental of "Gran Torino" from the iTunes store, which looked basically the same (notwithstanding differences in panel performance; see below) on both the Panasonic and the JVC. All things considered, however, video was still watchable by nonvideophile standards, and we really appreciated having picture mode controls available.
Our biggest hang-up with video playback was the lack of aspect ratio control. Native wide-screen content like Hollywood movies and some rented TV shows looked fine, but with 4:3 content such as a rip of "Schoolhouse Rock," the image was zoomed and we couldn't get it to display properly (the words "Rufus Xavier Sasperella," for example, were cut off toward the top of the screen). We tried disabling wide-screen video output on our iPod Touch but that didn't work. In another instance, a 4:3 version of "The Office" on our iPod Nano 3G appeared stretched but not cropped, so everyone looked shorter and fatter. It was frustrating not to be able to resize the image to the correct proportions without cropping, which we had no problem doing on the JVC.
HDTV testing: Overall the Panasonic is a perfectly adequate HDTV in terms of picture quality, but it won't wow home theater fans seeking deep black levels--one reason, along with off-angle performance, why we consider the JVC a better performer. The Panasonic delivered slightly more accurate color, however.
There's not much you can do to adjust the TC-LX1's picture beyond the default settings. We began with the Cinema setting and increased its relatively dim light output from 25ftl to our standard 40, and that's about it for calibration. The set doesn't have custom color temperature settings, but we didn't miss them too much since the grayscale in Warm mode, the most accurate, came quite close to the standard (although it veered toward blue in midbright and darker areas). One note: the A.I. picture function, which is active by default in all of the picture modes, is more heavy-handed than most such modes at dynamically controlling the backlight, and its fluctuations were obvious and distracting in plenty of normal program material. We definitely recommend leaving it turned off for home theater viewing.
Our comparison for the TC-L32X1 involved the iPod-friendly JVC LT-46P300, as well as a couple other midrange LCDs, the Philips 42PFL6404D and the Sony KDL-52V5100. We also included our Pioneer PRO-111FD for reference. For this review we used the Blu-ray of "Marley and Me" for most of our image quality tests.
Black level: The Panasonic LCD did not deliver a very deep overall shade of black in our tests. In dark scenes such as when Luke Wilson turns the garage lights out on Marley, the shadows, the black edge of his box, and the letterbox bars above and below the image appeared lighter than on any of the other displays in our comparison aside from the Philips. The more washed-out blacks took a good deal of the pop an impact away from the image. We could make the black areas a bit darker by engaging A.I. picture, as noted above, but it didn't help much.
Color accuracy: The TC-L32X1 was decent in this category, showing good primary and secondary colors (better than the company's plasmas), and a relatively accurate grayscale. Color decoding also had some noticeable red push, however, so Caucasian skin tones, such as Jennifer Anniston's face on the wedding night, appeared less natural and overly sanguine compared with our reference. We reduced the color control, which helped quite a bit, but of course that negatively affected the punch and saturation of the image. The Panasonic also showed a characteristic blush cast in very dark and black areas, which was worse than the JVC and the Sony but not as bas as we saw on the Philips, for example.
Video processing: The Panasonic TC-L32X1 failed to correctly de-interlace film-based content, although it handled 1080i video-based content well. We didn't conduct any of our other tests on this non-1080p TV, as it doesn't have much processing to speak of. It's worth noting, as usual, that especially at this relatively small screen size we thought the image looked just as sharp as that of the 1080p displays in our comparison, and we didn't miss having the extra resolution at all.
Uniformity: We didn't notice any serious brighter spots on the TC-LX1's screen, although in very dark scenes we could detect a slightly brighter area along the top, and in white fields, like the white bathtub in the wedding hotel room, we could see that the right and left edges were a bit darker than the middle. Seen from off-angle the Panasonic looked second-worst to the Philips in the lineup, washing out dark areas and showing color shift worse than ether the JVC or the Sony LCDs.
Bright lighting: The matte screen of the TC-LX1 performed well in bright light. It didn't reflect as much ambient light as our glass-screened reference plasma display, and fared as well as the other matte LCDs in our lineup.
Standard-definition: Panasonic's LCD was a below-average standard-def performer. The set didn't resolve every line of the DVD format, coming up a bit short on the horizontal resolution axis, which led to some softness with SD sources, such as in the stone bridge and grass from our sample image. We noticed more jaggies along diagonal lines in a waving American flag, for example, than we did on the other displays. Noise reduction was decent, but it left more motes of moving snow than did the same circuit on many other sets. Finally, it successfully engaged 2:3 pull-down detection.
PC: Via the analog PC input the best-looking resolution we could get to display was 1,024x768, a disappointment given the sreen's native resolution of 1,366x768. That resolution, along with 1,280x768, did display but scaling was incorrect and edges showed a ghostly outline that was worse than the softer, yet much clearer image of 1,024x768. Via HDMI we still couldn't get a 1,366x768 image to display properly, although we suspect that with a different video card we might have more luck. Regardless, the TC-L32X1's PC performance was worse than we suspected from a flat-panel LCD, even a relatively low-resolution one.
|Before color temp (20/80)||6769/6524||Good|
|After color temp||N/A|
|Before grayscale variation||117||Good|
|After grayscale variation||N/A|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.637/0.338||Good|
|Color of green||0.303/0.62||Good|
|Color of blue||0.153/0.07||Average|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Pass||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Panasonic TC-LX1 series, but we did test the cnet:link int="/flat-panel-tvs/panasonic-tc-l32x1/4505-6482_7-33549739.html">32-inch model. For more information, refer to the review of the Panasonic TC-L32X1.