Panasonic has been on something of a roll lately. Not only has it been consistently producing great plasma TVs at astonishingly affordable price points, but it has also managed to offer something that other manufacturers don't - an integrated HD tuner. Back in May I got a sneak preview of Panasonic's PZ81 series, with its integrated Freesat HD tuner, and I was pretty impressed. My initial thoughts were borne out when John reviewed the Panasonic Viera TH-46PZ81 and bestowed it with a Recommended award.
Now I have one of Panasonic's brand new Freesat HD equipped LCD TVs, so it's time to see how it measures up to the plasmas. Panasonic has always had a very black and white view of LCD vs. plasma - it used to be that LCD was offered up to 32in, then plasma took over from 37in upwards. That changed recently, due to the fact that the smallest Full HD plasma that Panasonic offers is 42in (shrinking plasma chambers is no easy task), so the company started producing Full HD 37in LCD screens to fill the gap. But what I'm looking at here is the TX-32LZD81, which is a 32in screen, albeit one that also sports a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 resolution.
It's fairly safe to say that this is one of the most feature rich 32in LCD TVs you're likely to find, from any manufacturer, and if you really are pushed for space, the TX-32LZD81 provides a feature set that far larger screens would be envious of. Despite its relatively small dimensions, Panasonic hasn't skimped on connection options. You get no less than three HDMI 1.3 ports, a set of component video jacks, two RGB SCART sockets, S-Video, composite and D-Sub for hooking up a PC - the maximum PC resolution is 1,366 x 768, rather than 1,920 x 1,080 though. There's also an SD Card slot, for viewing your digital photos directly on the TV. Another welcome addition is an Ethernet port, which is mandatory for any Freesat HD device, and should allow viewing of the BBC iPlayer on the TX-32LZD81 in the not too distant future.
Design wise, the TX-32LZD81 looks tastefully sleek and simple. The bezel and stand are both finished in glossy black, as is the norm these days. There's little to break up the simple lines of the TX-32LZD81 either, with a single power button mounted in the bottom left corner of the bezel, and all the "on TV" controls set down the right edge, behind the screen. The only downside is that the bezel is quite wide and makes the screen look far smaller than it actually is.