Panasonic TX-20LA2 review

Is the latest compact up to scratch?

Our Verdict

Far from cutting edge, but a fine - if pricey - second screen for the home

For

  • User friendly

    Sharp

    Vibrant image

    Quick response time

Against

  • 4:3 screen

    No PC connection

    Price

Membership of Panasonic's stylish new Viera range is not limited to hefty plasma screens. It also features a number of smaller LCD TVs, including the TX-20LA2. In terms of both style and substance however, this neat, compact 20in model shares precious little with its bigger Viera brethren.

Firstly, it isn't a widescreen TV. This is surprising coming from a firm with Panasonic's pioneering track record, as - despite the fact that most analogue TV programmes are still broadcast in the format - 4:3 aspect ratio screens are a dying breed.

This screen is also quite different in style and design to the larger screens, and although beauty is certainly subjective and in the eye of the beholder, we think the lack of any distinctive styling - à la the Viera's black and silver look - to be a bad thing.

Secondly, while all the larger Viera TVs benefit from Freeview-enabling digital tuners, the TX-20LA2 sports an analogue tuner able only to receive the basic five terrestrial channels.

Then there's connectivity. Given the fact that none of the Viera plasmas have DVI or HDMI connections, it isn't surprising to see that there are no digital video connections on offer here; what is somewhat unexpected, however, is the total lack of any kind of PC connectivity at all. But then again, with a resolution of only 640 x 480 pixels, it wouldn't make much of a monitor, would it?

Still, in spite of these flaws and drawbacks, there is much to like about the television. Like all Panasonic models, it features a simple, well laid out user interface which makes setting up and adjusting the TV a walk in the park. Naturally, automatic tuning is thrown into the bargain, and once you've got the TX-20LA2 out of its box and plugged in you can have it up and running in a matter of minutes.

The picture quality is also a strong point, and despite the low resolution and average contrast ratio figure, images possess a reasonable amount of depth and detail. Hooking up a DVD player via the RGB-capable Scart socket, we found the bright, bold images in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket to be sufficiently sharp and vibrant. Admittedly, we noticed that the darker areas of the picture tended to seem fairly indistinct and lacking in definition, but this shouldn't affect your everyday viewing too much.

Performance

However, if you plan on wasting away your days watching a lot of DVDs on the TX-20LA2, it's difficult to get round the fact that it isn't widescreen. This means that you either have to chop detail off the sides of your widescreen movies or watch them in letterbox mode, with black bars at the top and bottom, which is clearly far from ideal.

A speedy 16ms response time on the LCD panel means that you hardly get any ghosting or blurring during fast movements. This is good for watching general material, but even better news for console gamers, who can frag to their heart's content without having to worry about unsightly smears following their characters around the screen.

Sound quality is also a big plus point, with the tiny stereo speakers providing plenty of grunt for basic two-channel stuff and general TV watching. Panasonic's 'Ambience' sound system - a kind of virtual surround mode that widens the spatial audio effect - is included.

All in all, this TV is a tricky one to recommend. As a main screen for the living room, its 4:3 screen and limited connectivity make it almost worthless; equally, you can't use it as a combination TV/monitor because, well, there aren't any monitor connections.

The TX-20LA2 is probably best suited to the role of a second TV for the bedroom or kitchen, where its compact size, tidy design and decent all round performance will be put to good use. At £900, though, it's far from the cheapest option available; you may well want a bit more functionality and flexibility for that kind of money.