With 17in LCD TVs going for as little as £250 these days, it's a brave move by Panasonic to launch one with a price tag of double that. Can the Viera TX-17LX2 really have enough features and/or performance credentials to justify such an outlay?
Actually,one pretty significant reason for its cost emerges the instant you clap eyes on it, since it's widescreen where most 17in TVs are resolutely 'square'.
It's dressed to impress,too, following through on the black screen surround/silver undercarriage and trim look sported by Panasonic's big Viera sets.The dramatic desktop stand is a cut above the norm.
The first disappointment with the 17LX2 is its connections.There's just one Scart, an S-video jack, stereo audio inputs,and the RF socket. Surely a premium-priced TV could have doubled up on its functionality by building in a PC jack?
Happily the 17LX2 gets back on track with its specifications,which include a pleasingly high native resolution of 1366 x 768,an assured claimed contrast ratio of 500:1,and an above-par (for this screen size) response time of 16ms.
When it comes to features,the stand-out is a new LCD AI system that automatically adjusts contrast levels and backlight output based on the content of the incoming picture, to deliver what Panasonic claims will be consistently improved black level/brightness levels.
Aside from this key finding, though,there's really only picture noise reduction and an ambience audio mode worth crowing about.
Moving on to the Panasonic's pictures,the news is mainly good. The richness and tone of the colour palette is particularly likeable. There's none of the common orange tone to flesh tones or peak reds,or green tinging over darker hues.
The LCD AI system we mentioned earlier also seems to work well too, generating a very convincing balance between high brightness and subtly delineated black levels that contributes a sense of scale and solidity to even quite dark scenes that's seldom witnessed in the small LCD world.
There's even more good news when it comes to the set's motion handling,which while not completely blur-free, is still much cleaner than usual.This strength, together with the pleasingly high native resolution, helps the picture look detailed and textured.
It's not all sweetness and light, though.First, our review model showed a trace of backlight seepage from the bottom right corner.A more serious problem is that,clever though the LCD AI system is,black levels can still look rather greyed over at times.Finally,peak whites can occasionally look a touch anaemic compared with the rest of the picture.
The unassuming speakers under the 17LX2's screen actually deliver a surprisingly unrestrained mid-range that plays out well with dialogue, and benefits from the fact that the rest of the 17LX2's soundstage is impressively wide.Perhaps inevitably there's not much bass, and trebles can slightly dominate. But the TV's overall sonic impact is still a cut above most small-screen rivals.
So can Panasonic justify the 17LX2's £500 price tag? Yes it can, just about.PC compatibility would have really sealed the deal,but even as it stands there's enough build quality and all-round performance here to warrant you saving up for that little bit longer. John Archer