Despite being the only UK brand still making 37in plasma TVs, Panasonic isn't adverse to using LCD technology to make 37in TVs too.
Particularly as its latest flagship model, the TX-37LZD800, effortlessly demonstrates the picture prowess that LCD tech is capable of.
But what exactly does flagship mean in terms of features? The easiest way to find that out is to see how the TX-37LZD800 differs from the LZD85 models a step down Panasonic's range.
Firstly, the TX-37LZD800's Clear Panel screen design helps it pull off a slightly cleaner and smarter appearance than the cheaper models, as well as – according to Panasonic's marketing blurb – helping it deliver sharper, crisper images.
It also literally gets one up on the LZD85s in having a show stopping four v1.3, Deep Color-enabled HDMIs at its disposal.
The TX-37LZD800 also sports Panasonic's Advanced Smart Sound speaker system. This separates out the tweeter and woofer units into two distinct pairs, so that the TV can deliver a more powerful, defined soundstage with more bass and less potential for distortion at high volumes. We've found this system to deliver markedly better audio than Panasonic's standard LCD TV sound systems in previous incarnations.
The last key feature benefit of buying a TX-37LZD800 over an LZD85 is that this TV also carries picture-in-picture facilities for watching two AV inputs simultaneously.
Turning our attentions to features that the TX-37LZD800 shares with the LZD85, we start off with a Full HD pixel count of 1920 x 1080, and a rather high claimed contrast ratio of 10,000:1, thanks to its dynamic contrast system.
The TX-37LZD800 also gets Panasonic's V-Real Pro 3 image processing engine. Although at heart this covers much of the same territory – reducing noise levels; boosting colours, black levels and sharpness – as similar processing on rival LCD TVs, we've previously found V-Real to deliver more impressive results than most, so we've high hopes for it here.
Other common ground includes a dedicated 24p mode for less judder; 100Hz processing to reduce LCD's traditional motion blurring problems; an SD card slot for viewing digital photos onscreen; and picture noise reduction and colour management routines.
It doesn't take long with the TX-37LZD800 and a copy of Blade Runner on Blu-ray to see that this TV's pictures are among the finest the 37in LCD world has to offer.
Glowing HD performer
The reasons for such glowing praise begin with picture sharpness. The movie's glorious opening shots of a futuristic LA landscape look wonderfully deep and detailed, thanks to the complete lack of softness and noise in the hi-def picture.
Although Blade Runner is seldom a startlingly bright and colourful film, there are still enough stand-out moments in it – like the incredibly bright flying billboards – to allow the TX-37LZD800 to parade some terrifically rich colour saturations.
The movie's numerous dark scenes are revealing too: they highlight both the TX-37LZD800's uncanny knack for reproducing every little subtlety in every colour blend and its affinity for fleshtones.
Of course, it would be hard to make out colour subtleties during dark scenes if the TX-37LZD800 hid those scenes behind an inadequate black level response. And although we have seen even deeper black levels – like from the manufacturer's very own plasma TVs – the TX-37LZD800 easily goes dark enough to give depth and credibility to even the near-total blackness of J. F. Sebastian's apartment
Simply irresistible LCD
Elsewhere, the climactic fight to the death between Deckard and Batty looks irresistibly smooth, thanks to the quality of the 100Hz engine. What's more, you reap these 100Hz benefits with only one little processing side effect: very intermittent flicker over high-contrast edges during camera pans.
It's no slouch with standard definition either. The new series of Heroes reveals that V-Real Pro 3 is even better at upscaling standard-def to Full HD than its predecessor. Add some impressive audio
to the mix and it's overwhelmingly apparent that the Panasonic TX-37LZD800 is a serious AV force to be reckoned with.
If you have a separate audio system, there's arguably a question mark over whether this TV is really worth choosing over Panasonic's cheaper LZD85 range, given that there's little between the two ranges' picture qualities.
But if you do fancy the set's prodigious sonics – not to mention its fourth HDMI input – then this marvellous LCD TV is worth every solitary penny of its premium price.