Panasonic G10 (TX-L37G10) LCD TV Review

With the 2009 plasma range so far covered in detail, itâ??s time for Phil Hinton to see what Panasonic can do with LCD.

by Phil Hinton
TV Review

57

Panasonic G10 (TX-L37G10) LCD TV Review
SRP: £900.00

Introduction

Although best known for their plasma screens, Panasonic also have an extensive range of LCD models for 2009. The company release these models in the 37 inch and smaller screen sizes that are just not economical for plasma technology. So what we have here is the 37 inch LCD in the G10 range which offers many of the new features including a freesat HD tuner and Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) Technology.

Design and Features

As part of the G10 family, the design of the bezel is identical to the 32 inch LCD and larger screen Plasma models. Black plastic and a silver stripe under the panel are the basis for the TV's design which is functional if not fashionable. It’s a no-nonsense approach which is never going to win any design awards, but at the same time doesn’t look out of place in the average living room. It’s certainly not a statement like the new ultra slim LED LCDs, but then again Panasonic don’t charge you for the design privilege. You are not wasting unnecessary funds on fancy lines or backlight technology.

What we do have is an IPS Alpha full HD (1920 x 1080) panel which Panasonic claim offers a wider than normal viewing angle for an LCD. This is backed up with 100Hz IFC motion technology along with 24p smooth film for Blu-ray playback. Rounding off the special features are the usual Viera link and Viera image viewer settings (no Viera cast on this model), and V audio surround.

Moving to the connections on the G10 and we have four HDMI slots (the fourth on the side of the panel), a host of legacy video inputs including two Scarts plus satellite connection and Ethernet port for the Freesat tuner (for use with future Freesat features when launched). Also included is an SD card slot for playing back photos and videos using the Viera viewer.

Rounding off our look at the TV's design is the remote control which is a bulky plastic affair. It is identical to almost all of Panasonic's 2009 range with large buttons which are well laid out and intuitive. Again the design is nothing special, but like everything with G10, it's no-nonsense and functional.

Set Up and Menus

Moving on to the set up of the Freesat and Freeview tuners and this is automatically run as soon as the TV is first switched on. The entire process takes around 15 minutes and on each run, the set found all the available channels.

Looking at the Freesat usability first – the EPG and menu systems are well designed and very easy to use. The flexibility of choosing a genre to search for content is very welcome. And the freeview EPG was also effective and straight forward with further menus for now and next and synopsis information.

So, with Freesat and Freeview taken care of it was time to look through the main menu system and low and behold this is identical in design and layout to every other Panasonic model this year. The main picture menu has the usual picture preset choices, front panel controls (Brightness, Contrast etc.) and the useless colour management on/off switch that does no management at all. (It basically adds a wider colour gamut on to what ever preset you are in, so it changes material by adding what is not there and is in no way accurate to critical image viewing). The most annoying omission for me with this LCD (apart from the usual lack of calibration controls) is the lack of a backlight adjustment control. With the European models having basic calibration controls this year and the UK missing out; it also looks like the US models have backlight control (according to online manuals). Some might think this is no big deal, but as we move to the picture area all will become obvious at my disappointment here.

Moving to the sound menus and we have identical choices to those on the recently reviewed TX-P42X10 plasma with a choice of ‘Music’ or ‘Speech’ and bass, treble and balance controls. There are also controls for the V-surround settings and a choice of headphone volumes. Like the X10 plasma, the best setting I found here was the music option.

The final menu selections include control over Viera link options, parental setting, system menus and input names. Also here is the set up controls for the Intelligent Frame Creation mode which allows ‘Off’, ‘Mid’ and ‘Max’ to be selected. This control option changes slightly when fed a 24p signal from a Blu-ray player as it activates the 24p smooth motion options.

As with all the other Panasonic TVs we have reviewed this year, the menu system and selections are well thought out and easy to understand. However, I can’t help but feel disappointed that there is a lack of an expert menu selection. We would (and have) recommended this type of control to Panasonic as there is a growing enthusiast market along with a growing number of people wanting to calibrate their sets to industry standards. We will cross our fingers that this type of flexibility is made available on future models as they are long overdue.

Test Results

As with all Panasonic consumer TVs the TX-L37G10 does not have any calibration controls in the user menus. Because of this we will be forced yet again to use the service menu to calibrate the greyscale and gamma performance. It is obviously not advised that untrained individuals enter the service menu without knowing exactly what they are doing and having the correct equipment for greyscale calibration.

But first of all we have to see which presets on the TV offer the most accurate picture quality to the industry standards. As with all Panasonic TVs this again turned out to be the ‘Cinema’ preset and ‘Warm’ colour temp . So how well do things look in this preset?

As expected the greyscale in ‘Cinema’ and ‘Warm’ tracked uniformly but with blue high and red falling low of the ideal mix points. Gamma was also high of our desired 2.2 point with an average point of over 2.8 throughout and a high 3 at the low end of the scale. The main reason for this problem is with the panel used in this LCD and we could improve the gamma performance by switching to the Normal mode which uses an adaptive picture type feature. The problem with doing that is the Normal mode has slightly wider colour points and a greyscale that is far from correct, and these points change with image fluctuations.

Looking at the out of the box colour points in the Cinema preset were certainly a lot closer than the recent Plasma screens. There are a few errors present with Green hue pushed and cyan also out of alignment. Absolute luminance errors are also present but deltaE errors look promising enough bar cyan being just a tad high. So overall the colour points are close enough to be worthwhile towards the standards and although there are errors with the Greyscale out of the box, we should be able to fix that with a service menu tweak.

So after a full ISF calibration with the controls available to us, we managed to get the greyscale to track extremely well with average DeltaE errors of around 0.7 and accurate RGB mixing from 30ire upwards. The colour points in the CIE chart are also improved especially with the secondary colours after correcting the Greyscale. The yellow point is the only area where things have changed towards a larger error, but cyan and magenta are closer then originally placed out of the box. There is nothing we can do to correct the Green hue error and slightly oversaturated red point. Had there been a 3D Colour management system we could have corrected these issues as well as the absolute luminance points, as it is this is the best we can reasonably do with the G10.

One issue that the eagle eyed will have noticed from the results, after the Greyscale calibration, is the Gamma response. We have no gamma controls so all we could have hoped for was that it would come back towards 2.2 when the greyscale was corrected. However, this is not the case and it is still very high between 3 and 2.8 for the majority, indeed it has hardly changed from out of the box results. This in turn does effect on screen images and with a panel that struggles with black levels and shadow detail already, this result will only impact further on the final image performance. So, the greyscale results were excellent after calibration and the colour points fairly accurate to Rec.709, but gamma and a poor panel may impact on the image more than we would like.

Picture Performance

Moving to motion resolution on the G10 and the overall performance for an LCD panel is very good. The panel does have Intelligent Frame Creation with selections for ‘Mild’, ‘Full’ and ‘Off’. I found that 'Mild' worked well with sports footage without adding in any noticeable artefacts and looked smooth enough without drawing attention to itself. However, with all other material, even mundane TV dramas and poorly encoded freeview channels, the IFC algorithms seem to fail to be completely convincing. Indeed the full option makes everything look like digital video and because it is guessing what the interpolated frames should look like, we get copious amounts of artefacts showing up. My advice would be to leave IFC off apart from when watching fast moving sports.

The IPS-Alpha panel used in the G10 has a very wide viewing angle which is unusal for LCD technology and screen uniformity is extremely convincing. Indeed, this is one of only a handful of LCDs where I haven’t been distracted with poor backlighting and clouding issues. However, there is one downfall with this panel.

Black levels on the TX-L37G10 are what I can only call weak. There are a number of issues that no matter what solution I could think off, I just couldn’t get any convincing black levels and detail from the G10. With dark scenes within ‘The Usual Suspects’ on Sky+HD the shadow detail that should have been visible with fine luminance fluctuations, such as dark jackets which should have displayed (and did on our reference monitor) fine detail on fabric folds just merged in to a blackish object with no detail at all. I have to say this was very disappointing and whenever a dark scene would appear the G10 would just display one level of black with no shadow detail and a very flat image. The reason for this result is likely due to the gamma setting being high and clipping all the shadow details that should be present. As I said before the Normal preset on the G10 has a slight dimming feature and lighter gamma level which very slightly improves on the performance we found in Cinema mode. However, as explained this also adjusts all the other parameters of the image which we have just spent time correcting.

Getting away from the disappointing black levels there are some areas of the image that do look good. Colour reproduction in bright scenes looks fairly convincing and skin tones, although not perfect, certainly get towards lifelike tones. Watching the ‘South Pacific’ documentary on BBC HD via the Freesat tuner brought out the strong points of this LCD. Colours and details were very good with accurate enough looking shades and primary colours without any visible errors. But because of the issues already mentioned, I felt that even with a corrected greyscale the G10 struggles to produce images that should have a good depth of field to them. Wrapping up our assessment was sound quality from the built-in speakers and again this proved to be disappointing. The speakers appear to point downwards on the rear of the set and the sound can seem distant and lacking in dynamics.

Verdict

5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Freesat HD Tuner
  • Good out of the box accuracy for colour points against Rec.709
  • Good Greyscale tracking which is improved with service menu calibration
  • Good screen uniformity
  • Good level of viewing angles for an LCD panel
  • Above average video processing and motion resolution
  • Full HD panel
  • Viera link and SD card playback

The Bad

  • Lacklustre black level performance and lack of shadow detail
  • Sound quality from the speakers is poor
  • Lack of calibration controls and no gamma correction

Panasonic G10 (TX-L37G10) LCD TV Review

Our goal at AVForums reviews is to find the best possible displays for our members to use in their Home Cinema systems, viewing of film and TV material to accurate industry standards. We use effective and measurable testing that can be repeated and this approach allows objective data collection and actual critical viewing to narrow down the displays on the market in to two categories. One is for the best displays that win badges of approval, and then those that had plus points but ultimately have one or two issues that mean they miss out. And sadly the Panasonic just misses out here.

The main reason that the Panasonic misses the badge winners podium is its lack of convincing black levels and complete lack of black detail on the most demanding of material. Once the panel reaches a low luminance point, it clips all the detail within the image and takes away any depth of field, plus it ends up as just a one shade of blackness, with no shadow detail. The main culprit for this disappointing performance is down to the panels’ lack of black level and the gamma we just have no way of controlling.

Having said all that, the G10 should perform well in a bedroom or kitchen environment where critical viewing is not required and you just want to catch up with Eastenders. Some viewing material allows the LCD to show what might have been, with HD material from the Freesat tuner looking very good with most bright and colourful programmes. The plus points include a fairly accurate colour gamut in Cinema mode and a Greyscale that can get accurate after a service menu calibration. Plus if image accuracy is not a high priority, you can also use Normal mode with its adaptive picture that slightly improves the black areas at the expense of overall image accuracy and consistency.

Overall the G10 LCD fails to live up to its plasma brother’s performance levels in the G series line from Panasonic. The panel offers good uniformity and viewing angles, but it Achilles heal is the lack of black level detail. If you’re looking for a second set for the kitchen or bedroom where accuracy and critical viewing is not high on the list, it is certainly a TV to hunt down for a demo and with some material it can look very impressive, as long as the deepest blacks are not required. However, if it is a home cinema workhorse that offers good performance for film and TV material you are looking for, there are better examples of what LCD can do out there. Close but no cigar on this occasion for the Panasonic.

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Smart Features

.
.
.
.
6

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
.
6

Build Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Value for Money

.
.
.
.
.
5

Verdict

.
.
.
.
.
5

Picture Quality

.
.
.
.
6

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
8

Colour Accuracy

.
.
.
7

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
.
.
.
4

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
.
.
5
5
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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