Panasonic is now the only brand in the UK offering you a choice between plasma and LCD technologies at the 37-inch screen size. This inevitably adds a little extra bite to proceedings as we get our testing teeth into the brand's flagship LCD model, the £1,000 Panasonic Viera TX-37LZD800.
Although none of Panasonic's new flat screens have been remotely ugly, the 37LZD800 is definitely the aesthetic pick of the bunch. This is because it employs what Panasonic calls a 'Clear Panel' design, which helps the screen look a touch sharper and cleaner.
There's more to like, as the 37LZD800 serves up a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and no less than four HDMIs. That's one more than the other sets across Panasonic's LCD range -- and one more than you'll find on most LCD TVs, full stop. These HDMIs are all built to the v1.3 specification too, permitting compatibility with the increasingly important Deep Colour picture format. Plus, they can take 1080p/24p feeds from Blu-ray players.
Another way in which the 37LZD800 differs from cheaper Panasonic screens is with its Advanced Smart Sound system. This separates out the speaker tweeters and woofers to deliver a more powerful, dynamic soundstage. Evidenced by the superb job the set does with the audio of even a tough action scene like the opening 20 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, this sound system really could be enough in itself to justify the 37LZD800's premium price to anyone not already owning or thinking of owning a separate sound system.
Panasonic has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at improving the 37LZD800's pictures too, including 100Hz processing to make motion look cleaner; Panasonic's proprietary V-Real 3 Pro image processing to reduce video noise and improve colours and detailing; a dynamic backlight system that helps deliver a high claimed contrast ratio of 10,000:1; and Motion Focus technology, which sequentially fires the backlight in a further bid to make motion sharper.
We're pleased to say that the combination of these high falutin' picture tricks really does result in some first class pictures. Colours, for instance, are positively radiant, enjoying outstanding vibrancy and fulsome saturations, but also proving able to be subtle where required.