When the L37S20B rolled up at our door, we have to say we struggled to muster much enthusiasm about reviewing it. For while Panasonic’s plasmas usually float our boat, and its edge LED LCD TVs have been interesting if flawed, its ‘vanilla’ CCFL LCD TVs have seldom been much to write home about.
This has been particularly true of CCFL LCD sets from relatively low down Panasonic’s pecking order. And as the S20 part of its name tells us, the L37S20B comes from the lower half of Panasonic’s current TV range.
However, our interest in the L37S20B suddenly took a big leap upwards when a search for prices on the set threw up a site selling it for under £500. This puts it in the same ball-park as the latest lower mid-range 37in TVs from LG, Samsung and even Toshiba - company that Panasonic traditionally struggles to keep when it comes to pricing.
Our surge of enthusiasm started to wane again almost right away, though, when we clocked the set’s design. For from a typical kind of viewing distance, at least, its design appears to be just another of Panasonic’s dull as dishwater black rectangles. Even if Panasonic believes that its target market is a relatively conservative one, we honestly think that sticking so resolutely with such a drab design for so many of its TVs is harming Panasonic’s business.
To be fair to the L37S20, if you get close enough to it you’ll see that it’s actually not quite as unimaginative as you thought, since its bezel contains an attractive little pimpled pattern and a touch of blue on its bottom edge. It’s just unfortunate that you have to be practically touching the set, or be shining a torch at it, before these ‘flourishes’ become readily visible!
It doesn’t help the L37S20B’s rather clunky appearance that it also sticks out a huge amount round the back compared with most of today’s increasingly svelte models. So much so that it makes the TV look very dated.
The L37S20B picks up its game a little - though only a little - with its specification and feature count. Its decently connected, for a start, with highlights of three HDMIs (one built to the v1.4 spec to offer an audio return channel), an Ethernet port, a D-Sub PC port, and an SD card slot.
The SD slot is capable of playing JPEG photos or AVCHD/SD-Video files - which is OK as far as it goes, but we wouldn’t have minded seeing support for at least MP3 audio and DivX video as well. Actually, come to think of it, it would have been nice to find a USB alternative to the SD card slot as well. And maybe the Ethernet port could have been used to offer access to DLNA PC files or Panasonic’s Viera Cast online service? Or maybe we’re starting to expect a bit too much now...