Panasonic’s enduring love affair with plasma technology is paying great dividends this season, with all of its models from its G20 series upwards seriously impressing. But there’s a catch for people who can’t easily accommodate a screen of at least 42in in size, in that Panasonic hasn’t introduced its key new NeoPDP technology down to the 37in plasma screen level.
The only 37in Panasonic plasma TV you can get belongs to the brand’s X20 series, which doesn’t use the latest and much-improved NeoPDP engine, and suffers as a result. So if 37in is as big as you go, it might be that Panasonic’s new 37in LCD G20 series model, the L37G20B, is the way to go.
Not that the L37G20B‘s design does anything very much to tempt you in. For in typical Panasonic style, it looks rather perfunctory with its bare minimum of sculptural flourishes - though there does appear to be a hint of blue around when the light catches it right. (A silver version is also available)
The L37G20B hits its stride with its connections, though. For alongside the predictable four HDMIs can be found a wealth of multimedia jacks and not one but two HD tuner inputs. These latter jacks show that the L37G20B joins its plasma G20 brethren in sporting both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, so that you can receive free HD broadcasts right away, no matter where you live in the UK. Panasonic is currently the only brand offering such twin HD tuner support.
Going back to the multimedia connections, the L37G20B has an Ethernet port, two USB inputs, and an SD card slot, all of which merit a little explanation. The SD card slot is able to play video, photo and music files using Panasonic’s Viera Image Viewer utility, as can the USB inputs. The USB ports can also record video - with seemingly no loss of quality - from the HD tuners to the latest Buffalo JustStore Desktop USB HDDs.
It’s worth stressing in response to one or two emails we’ve received that the flexibility associated with these recordings doesn’t compare with what you might get with a fully fledged separate digital recording device. The USB recording system is designed to be a high quality but convenient rather than completist option. Though of course, you could argue that the convenience factor is rather let down by the fact that the recordings are only guaranteed to work on a single brand of HDD, and can only be played back on the TV you made them on.
One final talent of the USB ports is that they can take an optional dongle to make the TV Wi-Fi capable. Otherwise, you’ll need the Ethernet port to access the set’s triumvirate of network features: 1) access to potential future interactive services from the Freeview and Freesat HD tuners; 2) access to content stored on a DLNA-enabled PC; and 3) access to Panasonic’s Viera Cast online platform.
This platform has long been one of the best presented TV online systems around, but with the recent addition of Skype video calling and the AceTrax movie streaming service to the previous YouTube, Eurosport and Picasa headliners, it’s also become likeably content rich (though it has to be said that it still lags behind the online content level of Philips' and Sony’s latest Internet TVs).