Heading into the P37X20B’s menus reveals one or two new menu items. There’s a Vivid Colour option, for a start, which basically does exactly what it says on the tin. Plus there’s an option mysteriously called C.A.T.S., which turns out to stand for Contrast Automatic Tracking System. Despite the fancy name, though, this is actually nothing more startling than one of those now-common tools where the TV automatically adjusts picture settings in response to the amount of ambient light in your room.
One final feature point to raise before getting into the P37X20B’s performance is that it doesn’t have Freesat or Freeview HD tuners – those only kick in at Panasonic’s new G20 plasma screen level. You just get standard def Freeview and analogue reception.
In action, the P37X20B is a solid enough effort, but not the heart-stopping budget maestro I’d been hoping for.
On the plus side, as I would expect, the P37X20B has excellent black levels by affordable flat TV standards. Dark scenes manage to get nearly as black as the TV’s inky bezel, with no grey clouding worth mentioning. What’s more, the darkness is superbly uniform, with none of the backlight inconsistencies I often see to some extent with LCD screens.
Also giving the P37X20B a big leg up over most budget 37in TVs is the effortlessness of its black level reproduction. By which I mean that since the plasma screen doesn’t have to dim the whole picture to produce a respectable black colour, dark scenes are able to retain plenty of shadow detail and avoid that crushed look so common with LCD rivals.
There’s still one further contrast benefit with the P37X20B too, namely that unlike the vast majority of LCD TVs, its pictures don’t lose contrast – or colour saturation – when watched from wide viewing angles. This makes the P37X20B a potentially perfect option for people with large families and small living rooms, where some poor soul inevitably ends up having to watch TV from a nasty angle.
Another considerable, plasma-generated P37X20B picture asset is its freedom from motion blur relative to LCD TVs. Panasonic is only too happy to boast on the box about the P37X20B’s 0.001ms response time (versus a bare minimum of 4ms on budget LCD TVs), and there really isn’t any sign at all of the blurring and resolution loss when showing moving objects that we’ve become accustomed to seeing with affordable LCD TVs.
HD pictures, meanwhile, look enjoyably detailed and crisp despite the screen not having a full HD resolution, proving the point I raised earlier that sometimes the quality of a screen’s processing and core electronics is more important to sharpness than hard resolution.
HD pictures also enjoy some generally very good colour toning that combines a surprisingly deft touch when portraying blends with some really believable hues. It’s especially good with HD skin tones versus cheap LCD TVs – particularly since the rather orangey undertone noted on some of last year’s cheap Panasonic’ plasmas has been reduced (though not totally removed).
Let’s make no bones about it: with a good HD source, the P37X20B’s pictures are capable of looking really very good indeed.
There are a number of reasons, though, why the P37X20B is only a good rather than a great entry level TV. Kicking off with the fact that despite carrying 100Hz processing, the P37X20B’s pictures are a little prone to judder.