The 37-inch Viera TX-L37E3B is Panasonic's entry-level LED-illuminated LCD TV, and uses one of the company's newest IPS Alpha panels to provide wider-than-usual viewing angles. Available for around £600, this 1080p set lacks some of the more advanced features found on the company's mid-range LED models, such as the Internet services and 200Hz processing seen in the E30 series.
Panasonic has improved the design of its TVs for 2011. That's good news -- last year's models were among the dullest on the market. The TX-L37E3B still doesn't exactly fill you with lust, but the long straight lines look clean and sharp and the build quality of the set can't be faulted.
By using LED backlight technology, Panasonic has managed to slim the main part of the chassis down to just 41 mm thick. The bottom the set bulges out slightly, however, providing more room for the downwards-firing stereo speakers. It's a sensible move, because most speakers in LED sets are weedier than an overgrown garden. The TX-L37E3B's sonics, in contrast, are actually rather good. Dialogue cuts through well, and the set's also capable of producing a surprising amount of bass.
Like most of today's TVs, the TX-L37E3B has a Freeview HD tuner, so, along with the usual line-up of standard-definition channels, you can view programs in high definition on channels like BBC One HD and ITV1 HD. The addition of the Freeview tuner means that Panasonic has added an Ethernet port to the rear of the set, as this is mandated in the Freeview HD specification.
Usually, manufacturers make use of the Ethernet port to add a range of Internet services, as well support for media streaming across a home network. This isn't the case with the TX-L37E3B, though. In fact, although there's a network set-up option in the menu, the Ethernet port can only be used for downloading software updates -- there's no support for either BBC iPlayer or media streaming.
This is a big shame, as you get these features on similarly priced sets from rivals like LG. If you want these features on a Panasonic set, you have to step up to the E30 series, with the 37-inch E30 set costing around £150 more.
The TX-L37E3B even lacks a USB port. Although there's an SD card slot, it only supports a pretty limited range of formats, and it's really just designed to let you play content recorded on Panasonic's cameras and camcorders.
The TX-L37E3B is built around one of Panasonic's IPS Alpha panels. These panels are designed to provide a wider viewing angle than most other LCD sets. Indeed, this TV does an impressive job of retaining good contrast and avoiding colour shifting when you view it from more extreme angles.
The TX-L37E3B lacks the 200Hz processing that you get on the E30 TVs. While its motion-handling performance isn't bad, you do see some motion blur creep in during tracking shots or fast camera pans.
Picture-processing duties are taken care of by the Vreal Plus engine. Upscaling of standard-definition material, such as non-HD TV channels and DVD movies is handled well -- the set manages to sharpen up edges and give the impression of extra detail without making images look overly soft or noisy.
HD material is rendered beautifully too, with pin-sharp detail. As with many of Panasonic's sets, it's the impressive black levels and superbly natural colours that help the TV to really stand out from the crowd. Switch to the True Cinema preset, and the colours really do attain a deeply cinematic look that many sets from rival manufacturers struggle to achieve.
That said, like many LED-illuminated TVs, the backlight is slightly inconsistent. For example, in very dark scenes, the corners of the image are lighter than other areas of the screen. Nevertheless, you'd have to look for this to really notice it during normal day-to-day viewing.
The Panasonic Viera TX-L37E3B is certainly not a bad set. Unlike many slim, LED-illuminated TVs, it offers decent sound quality and good standard- and high-definition images. Its motion handling could be slightly better, though, and it's a shame that it lacks support for Internet services such as iPlayer.
Edited by Charles Kloet