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The P37X20 isn’t a particularly talented standard definition performer, either. For oddly (given that the HD Ready screen isn’t having to work as hard to upscale standard definition as a full HD screen would), its standard definition pictures look softer and less detailed than I’d like.
Standard definition pictures are also much more prone to rogue colour tones than HD ones, with the extent of the colour tone irregularities depending directly on how low in quality the source material is. For instance, while footage shot in the carefully controlled environment of the Sky News studio looks quite natural, whenever the footage switches to an outside broadcast, you can immediately see flesh tones becoming inconsistent (either too pink or too orange), greens becoming muted, and the overall colour palette looking less dynamic.
The example I’ve given there is a little extreme, I guess, since it’s not often that normal TV fare plumbs the quality depths of your typical outside news broadcast. But the P37X20B also displays more picture quality difference than usual when switching between low and high quality digital TV channels.
Another issue is that the P37X20B’s post-calibration picture isn’t as bright as your typical LCD screen (though you do, of course, get the P37X20B’s contrast benefits as ample compensation). And finally, I was disappointed by how reflective the toughened glass screen is of lights and objects in your room. This could become a quite major problem in very bright environments.
The P37X20B’s audio, meanwhile, is pretty much par for the affordable 37in TV course. Which means that a lack of bass and treble extension leaves the mid-range sounding rather crowded. However, the P37X20B does at least have enough raw power handling not to let that crowding tip over into distortion. Plus it’s able to nudge up at least half a gear when required by a potent action scene, avoiding that boring one-dimensionality so commonly heard with relatively small and affordable flat TVs.
The P37X20B is a tempting option for a reasonably serious, HD-loving, but cash-strapped AV fan. It delivers some clear and desirable advantages over similarly priced LCD screens and achieves an incremental improvement over last year’s X10 series.
However, it’s not without weakness, and I have to say from what I’ve seen at various demos so far that it’s actually Panasonic’s new G20 and higher plasma series that look more likely to set 2010 alight. So if you can manage to save up for one of those (though admittedly the P42G20 is currently nearly twice as expensive as the P37X20B), it might be worth at least holding on until we’ve had chance to do a full G20 model review.