Awesome - only slightly let down by the lack of high-definition compatibility
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Unless you go by the name of Rooney, debuts are never easy to make. Whether it's your first away game in front of a baying crowd at Highbury or stepping onto the green to attempt a vital putt at The Belfry, the pressures will nearly always outweigh the pleasure.
So you can just imagine the nerves tingling away in Panasonic's latest LCD offering, the TX-32LXD1. Why? Because this is the first LCD offering from the brand's hugely impressive Viera range.
The screen has the same black and silver colour scheme sported by the stunning Viera plasmas, but there's one key difference - the bulk of the silver content is found on the speaker-bearing 'wings' jutting out from either side of the screen frame, making it look bigger than the average 32in TV.
Connectivity is a mixed bag. There's a set of component video inputs able to take progressive scan signals. There's also a slot for a Conditional Access Module, indicating the presence of a built-in Freeview terrestrial tuner. But a big downer is the lack of any PC sockets. Also upsetting on a supposedly cutting-edge TV is the absence of any digital input, be it DVI or HDMI.
The lack of any stereo audio inputs associated with the component video feed is irritating too, as it means that to receive audio with a component feed you have to connect your source to the TV via the third Scart. You might also find that you require a special adaptor, if your component source doesn't have a Scart output.
The TX-32LXD1 thankfully ups its game with its performance. As we fired up our King Arthur DVD we were immediately struck by the image's intensity, as rich, radiant colours join forces with a storming brightness output to create a dazzling first impression - despite the often grim nature of our test movie.
The complete lack of interference is also outstanding (provided you stick with an RGB/component source or the digital tuner) - the picture is so clean that you feel like you're staring through a window at what you're watching rather than experiencing it on a screen. The quality of the processing - as well as its inherent response time - is also evident in the absence of smearing and dot crawl. Panasonic has developed a 'Overdrive' system for tackling LCD response time issues, and on this evidence it works a treat.
Occasionally - usually during darker scenes from our test disc - the colour feels a touch unnatural, especially with skin-tones. We also didn't quite experience the same fine detail impact as we might have hoped, although the picture certainly isn't soft.
If you're wondering why we haven't mentioned the high-def, it's for the simple reason that we couldn't get the Panny to take our D-Theater high-definition source - the pictures refused to sync properly. And this happened with two separate TX-32LXD1 samples, proving it wasn't just a problem with our model. Panasonic was trying to work out why this should be the case at the time of writing, but until we hear differently, we have to assume that it can only take still HD pictures through card slots, and not video.
Sonically the Panny is less impressive. In spite of the size of its speakers there's a lack of frequency response, leaving the soundstage thin and compressed. Trebles are tinny, the dialogue boxed in, and the rumble never really kicks in as it should.
The TX-32LXD1 is an awesome LCD screen, revealing a notable jump in Panny's LCD know-how. The lack of high-definition video compatibility is a serious error, but the performance is still good enough to warrant a Best Buy badge.
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