Recognising that flat panel TVs are as much about design statements as they are about technology features, Panasonic's new VIERA LCDs are sleek units that feature a pearl-silver finish and curved base. No longer looking like an oversized monitor, the black screen frame looks great and helps to make the images stand out.
Two screen sizes are available: the 66 cm/26 inch (TX-26LX1A - $5499) and the larger 80cm/32 inch (TX-32LX1A $6599). For an extra $659, the 80 cm unit can be mounted on a glass display stand that has a cable management system to hide the obligatory mass of cables that will be required for connecting devices such as set-top boxes, DVD players and game consoles.Both sets are High Definition monitors with 1,280 x 768 pixel resolution. The VIERA LCD panels feature Panasonic's LCD AI technology which incorporates its Active Light Control and Active Contrast/Gamma Control functions which Panasonic claims creates greater brightness, deeper blacks and superior gradation. Active Light Control circuitry automatically detects the brightness level of the input signal and adjusts the backlight accordingly in real time. Other features include four two-way speakers on the wings of the panel, AV 'Picture-in-Picture' and both an SD Memory Card slot and a PC slot. In September, Panasonic also plans to release a smaller, entry-level LCD TV in the VIERA range, a 50cm (20 inch) 4:3 model with analog tuner. Downside:
Although built to support 1080i and 576p standards, you'll still need to buy a set-top box if you want HD reception. Surely the day is coming when more HD receivers will be integrated within the sets themselves - a measure in line with the cable-free sleek design message.
The VIERA LCDs also lack an all-digital DVI connection, which is the way of the future, so you'll be using good, but still analog, component and S-video connections.
If style is as important as picture quality, check out Panasonic's sleek VIERA LCD TVs.