One thing that is conspicuous by its absence is an SD card slot. My TH-PX600 has an SD card slot and the TV is able to record video in MPEG-4 directly to a card, although it won’t playback DivX files, which is a shame. That said, the TH-PX70 represents the entry level of Panasonic’s new plasma range, so the lack of SD support isn’t a huge surprise.
It’s the fact that this is an entry level TV that makes its picture performance all the more amazing, because if there was ever an argument in favour of plasma over LCD for the masses, this TV is it. I’m sure you’ve heard many times about how much brighter plasma is than LCD, and how the black levels and contrast ratio are streets ahead – well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to say the same things again. I set the TH-37PX70 up next to the Toshiba Regza 42C3030D and the Panasonic, quite simply blew it away on pretty much every level. Obviously you’re getting a bigger screen with the Tosh, but I’d happily go for slightly smaller physical size if it means vastly superior picture quality.
Panasonic was kind enough to lend me its brand new DMP-BD10A Blu-ray player to test this TV. In essence the DMP-BD10A is the same as the DMP-BD10 that we reviewed back in January, except the a new firmware allows for Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTS-HD support. Panasonic has also dropped the price on its new Blu-ray considerably in an attempt to be more competitive with Toshiba’s HD DVD players.
Firing up the superb Blu-ray print of Casino Royale really showed the TH-37PX70 off to great effect. The chase scene through a Madagascan building site confirmed that this TV can handle very bright images without losing detail in areas of high intensity, while also managing to keep up with the action no matter how fast the movement. At the other end of the spectrum, it also did a sterling job with the night time scene at Miami airport, where the quoted 10,000:1 contrast ratio made its presence felt. Despite the dark setting, the TH-37PX70 managed to pick out the subtlest of details, and again didn’t appear to have any issues with fast motion – of which there is a great deal in this scene.
The impressive contrast and black levels made themselves known again when I watched V for Vendetta on HD DVD. This is a notoriously dark movie, both figuratively and literally, meaning that some LCD screens can struggle to create the dark, menacing ambience that this disc deserves. There were no such issues with the TH-37PX70 though, it managed to produce deep blacks without losing detail, while still making colours vivid and rich when necessary.
The same talents ring true when playing a particularly dark game like Gears of War on the Xbox 360, while bright and colourful games like the superb Virtua Tennis 3 just come to life on this TV. Obviously the pictures aren’t as sharp as they would be on a Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 panel, but with a screen this size, you’re unlikely to notice too many soft edges, especially from the comfort of your sofa.