Panasonic continues to declare to anyone who cares to listen that no matter what the LCD-loving likes of Sony and Toshiba might say, when it comes to home cinema entertainment, plasma rather than LCD is the only technology to use.
So it comes as something of a relief to find that this stance does not seem to have stopped the company's own LCD models from being really rather good. The 32LXD700 model is available for around £780.
Probably the most useful way to start this section is by uncovering what differentiates the flagship 32LXD700 from the LXD70 models lower down Panasonic's range.
Kicking things off is a third HDMI -- one more than the LXD70s. But there's also an SD card slot built into the TV, via which you can play back your digital photos, and finally the TV employs a considerably more powerful audio system, dubbed 'Smart Sound', which uses separate tweeters and woofers to boost -- very effectively, as it happens -- the dynamic range and sense of openness in the soundstage.
The 32LXD700 also shares plenty of other intriguing features with the LXD70s, including Panasonic's V-Real 2 image processing engine. Among the many tricks up this engine's sleeves areprocessing, 3D colour management, automatic backlight adjustment, to help produce better black levels during dark scenes, and last but certainly not least, 100Hz processing to double the TV's frame rate in a bid to improve the clarity with which moving objects are shown.
Happily this 100Hz engine really works, too, helping the TV reproduce a good action scene, like the lorry/motorbike chase on the HD DVD of Terminator 2 with much greater clarity than is common in the LCD world. Even better, the extra clarity and fluidity of motion is not accompanied by any significant unpleasant side effects, as can happen with rival 100Hz systems.
The set also excels with its colours, which combine rich, solid saturations with some of the most natural LCD tones around. And in terms of fine detail reproduction and sheer sharpness, the 32LXD700 is tough to beat.
On the performance side, there's only one downpoint to mention: some slightly iffy black levels. Dark scenes definitely suffer the tell-tale greyness over the blackest corners -- not to a shockingly bad or even especially distracting degree, but certainly more so than with the best of the TV's rivals.
Our other 'complaint' is that while the added features of the LXD700 over the LXD70 range are all worthwhile to the right person, it's entirely possible that many of you might not actually need them. For instance, if you only have two digital sources, you only need two HDMIs. And if you're not into viewing digital photos on your TV or you're happy just using the AV lead supplied with your camera, you don't need the LXD700's SD card slot. And finally, if you've got some sort of external home cinema audio system, you don't need the LXD700's more powerful speakers.
In other words, it's entirely possible that for some of you at least, saving a few bob and getting the LXD70 instead might be the sensible option.
Panasonic's flagship 32-inch LCD TV proves that while the brand might openly prefer plasma technology, it's certainly no mug with LCD. In fact, there are few 32-inch rivals out there to touch it, at £780. But we urge you to think carefully before you buy a 32LXD700 nonetheless, for it might just be that a cheaper 32LXD70 will serve you just as well.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire