Whenever we review a 37in TV from Panasonic, we always find it unusually interesting. Not because we really need to get out more (!), but because this is the only screen size where Panasonic offers both LCD and plasma options. So there's always the added frisson of trying to figure out which technology is working the best.
We've previously looked at and been very impressed by Panasonic's entry-level 37in plasma set, the TH-37PX80. So it's fair to say that the gauntlet has well and truly been thrown down for the brand's cheapest 37in LCD TV, the 37LXD85.
Aesthetically, at least, the 37LXD85 gets off to a good start, looking marginally cuter than the 37PX80 on account of its tasteful metallic arc sweeping along the TV's bottom edge. The plasma model is rather monotone by comparison.
In connection terms I could find nothing to tell the two TVs apart. Which is no bad thing, as they're both pretty well stocked. Heading things up are three HDMIs, all able to take 1080p/24 feeds from Blu-ray players; an SD card slot for playback of JPEG stills; a couple of SCARTs; and a D-Sub PC port.
As with the 37PX80, though, the 37LXD85's HDMI sockets aren't fully up to HDMI v1.3 spec, since they can't take in the x.v.Colour picture format. Just as well, then, that this format remains rather elusive in the AV world.
Looking at other key 37LXD85 specifications, there are a couple of potentially significant differences between it and its plasma sibling. For starters, its claimed contrast ratio is ‘only' 10,000:1 vs the 37PX80's 15,000:1. What's more, the 37LXD85's maximum contrast ratio is only achieved courtesy of a dynamic backlight arrangement whereby the image's brightness is reduced during dark scenes to improve black level response. The 37PX80's contrast, on the other hand, is a ‘native' one, requiring no reduction in brightness during dark scenes.
The 37LXD85 does have the edge on resolution, though, with 1,366 x 768 pixels versus the 37PX80's 1,024 x 720. However, this advantage isn't necessarily as clear cut as it first appears. For in both cases images will have to be rescaled to fit the screen (introducing potential video noise) during both standard and high definition viewing. And while the plasma's resolution seems ‘squarer' in aspect ratio terms than the full 16:9 ratio of the 37LXD85, Panasonic actually stretches its plasma pixels horizontally to give itself greater flexibility when it comes to balancing the red, green and blue colour components. The result is a supposedly more natural, video-friendly palette.
It should be added here, of course, that while the 37LXD85's 1,366 x 768 resolution is higher than that of Panasonic's 37PX80, it falls short of the ‘Full HD' 1,920 x 1,080 level now offered by the majority of other 37in LCD TVs.