Panasonic V20 (TX-L37V20B) Review

Does Panasonic's much anticipated TX-L37V20B deliver a picture that's as good as its list of features?

TV Review

90

Best Buy
Panasonic V20 (TX-L37V20B) Review
SRP: £1,199.00

Introduction

Panasonic, like many other manufacturers, has begun to roll out their 2010 lineup in anticipation of this month’s World Cup and the TX-L37V20B is one of the most anticipated. The TX-L37V20B represents the apex of current LCD display design incorporating as it does an IPS panel for improved off-axis performance, LED Edge backlighting, Internet TV, Freesat HD and Freeview HD. With features like that the TX-L37V20B can certainly be considered a flagship model but does its performance measure up to the specs, let’s see.

Styling and Connections

The TX-L37V20B mirrors the look of other Panasonic displays, offering a gloss gun metal grey finish to the front coupled with a silver plastic back panel. The bezel itself measures 5cm wide along the sides and top and 8cm wide at the bottom, and there is also a silver trim, along the top and bottom. As always design is very much a matter of personal taste and whilst the design of the TX-L37V20B is quite simple, it is elegant, and attractive to look at, and ultimately it’s what is on the screen that counts. Since the TX-L37V20B has LED edge backlighting it is very thin, measuring a mere 4cm, but the downward firing speakers are well hidden and the screen is suitably non-reflective. On the right hand side there are some basic controls such as volume, input choice and a power switch. The overall build quality is very good and the display is mounted on a solid oval swivel stand that is also gun metal grey with sliver trim.

The remote is the standard Panasonic remote which carries over the colour scheme from the display itself and is made of silver and grey plastic. It is simple, well laid out, comfortable to hold and easy to operate with one hand. It is intuitive to use and includes a number of useful buttons such as the VIEREA CAST, Tools and Link functions as well as Menu, EPG and Aspect Ratio. One feature that I did like was the separate buttons for the TV and AV inputs, which is handy if like me you are constantly switching between the TV and one of the AV inputs.

The TX-L37V20B comes well apportioned as far as connections are concerned with enough for even the most demanding consumer. At the back there are 3 HDMI inputs, one of which is v1.4 and includes an ethernet channel and an audio return channel(ARC). The audio return channel allows the display to send audio when connected to a v1.4 equipped AV Receiver. There are also 2 SCART connections, a LAN socket, component video (Y, Pb,Pr) using 3 RCA phono type connectors, an optical digital audio out, a USB port and an audio in and audio out, both using 2 RCA phono type connectors. Also at the back there is an antennae connection for receiving Freeview and a satellite connection for receiving Freesat.

On the left hand side there is another HDMI input, another USB port, a headphones socket, a SD card slot, a CI (Common Interface) slot and a composite video and audio in using RCA phono type connections. Its a minor complaint but I still feel that Panasonic would do better to use downward facing inputs to allow consumers to mount their display very close to a wall, especially on these ultra thin displays where wall mounting is quite likely.

Menus and Set Up

As is the case with most TVs these days the set up on the TX-L37V20B was fast and painless. Once you’ve connected the aerial; tuning in Freeview only takes a few minutes and the resulting EPG is large, colourful and easy to read. I do, however, have a couple of complaints; unlike with EPGs on other TVs there is no thumbnail image of the channel you are currently on and, in fact, there isn’t even any audio. In a worrying development there are also adverts on the EPG, but hopefully that won’t catch on. Unfortunately the cottage where I live is a listed building which means I can’t put up a satellite dish and I was thus unable to test out the Freesat features on the TX-L37V20B. If you want to use VIERA CAST, which is Panasonic’s Internet TV functionality, you just need to connect the display to your router using either a LAN cable or if it’s wireless the provided WiFi dongle. Setting up the WiFi dongle was very simple and once I had done so, I could access Panasonic’s internet platform with ease. It’s a nice touch that Panasonic includes the WiFi dongle with the display and an example that other manufacturers could learn from, especially those that don’t even include 3D glasses with 3D TVs.

Like the EPG, the main menu system itself is bright, colourful, easy to read and quick to navigate. It offers three choices which are titled Picture, Sound and Set Up. In Set Up there are general controls such as Network Set, Timer, DivX VOD as well as a control called Advanced (ISFccc) that allows you to gain access to the Professional1 and Professional2 picture modes. Hidden away within the Set Up menu is an option called Other Settings and within here you will find three functions that would have made more sense to be included within the Picture menu. There is a control for setting the frame interpolation function which Panasonic calls Intelligent Frame Creation and if the image being received is 24p then this function becomes the 24p Smooth Film mode. There is also a Resolution Enhancer control and finally a control for setting 16:9 Overscan. This last function is particularly important because only by setting it to off will you get accurate pixel mapping with no scaling and thus benefit from the full resolution of high definition sources.

The Sound menu offers three distinct modes which are Speech, Music and User, with User allowing you to customise the audio set up using an equalizer. There are also more general controls such as Bass, Treble and Balance as well as a setting for the distance between the speakers and the wall. Overall I found the sound of the TX-L37V20B to be quite good and actually better than the D25 that I reviewed earlier which is surprising when you consider how similar these displays are in most other ways.

The Picture menu offers a series of Viewing Modes which range from the eye blistering Dynamic to a preset called True Cinema that appeared to offer reasonable out of the box performance. There are also two isf modes called Professional1 and Professional2 which allow access to additional Advanced Settings and can be locked. The idea is that the isfccc modes provide a professional calibrator with the tools to accurately set the greyscale and colour gamut and then lock these settings so that they can’t be accidentally changed. The reason for two Professional modes is to allow the calibrator to create Day and Night settings, each of which is optimised for watching programmes under different viewing conditions.

As with other Panasonic LCD displays the TX-L37V20B doesn’t have a dedicated Contrast control, there is just a backlight control which is rather confusingly called Contrast. Without an actual Contrast control on the TX-L37V20B you can’t properly adjust the luminance of white, which will make eliminating any clipping very difficult. There is, however, a Brightness control for adjusting the black level, a Colour control and a Sharpness control. The C.A.T.S. (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) is designed to adjust the backlight depending on ambient lighting conditions but this can cause fluctuations in the image and is best left off. Finally there is a P-NR (Noise Reduction) function that is designed to reduce compression artifacts but I found this control to be of no real benefit so I turned it off.

If the Professional1 or Professional2 mode is selected you will have access to the Advance Settings in which there are menus for white balance, Colour Management and gamma. The White Balance menu allows two point calibration of the greyscale, the Colour Management allows adjustments to be made to the Hue and Saturation of the three primaries and the Gamma setting allows a selection of different gamma curves.

Features

As I mentioned in the introduction the TX-L37V20B has plenty of features including a DVB-S tuner for Freesat HD and a DVB-T2 tuner for Freeview HD. In addition the TX-L37V20B also uses an IPS (In Plane Switching) panel, which provides a wider 178° viewing angle which ensures clearer images even when viewed off-axis. Panasonic claim they have further enhanced the panel’s performance with a bright, energy-saving LED edge backlight. The use of a LED edge backlight is also intended to improve colour accuracy and contrast performance as well as contribute to the display's slim design.

The TX-L37V20B has 100Hz which effectively doubles the frame rate as well as Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation which uses frame interpolation to automatically compensate for the picture frame rate thus removing judder and making images smooth and clear. When watching Blu-rays encoded at 24fps the TX-L37V20B has a 24p Playback function that will increase the frame rate to a more appropriate 96Hz which is a multiple of 24. There is also a 24p Smooth Film function that does something similar but includes frame interpolation. The TX-L37V20B also includes C.A.T.S. (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) which is designed to adjust the backlight depending on the ambient light

The TX-L37V20B includes VIERA CAST which is Panasonic’s version of internet TV and allows access to selected online content such as YouTube and Eurosport videos and Google’s Picasa Web Albums. It isn’t a web browser but it does provide information such as weather and news and Panasonic plans to add Skype and Twitter in the near future. I found that the included WiFi dongle worked very well and never had any issues connecting to my wireless router.

The TX-L37V20B also includes VIERA Tools and VIERA Image Viewer which allows you to access photos, music or videos either through the SD card slot, the USB port or streaming from your home network via DLNA. In addition you can use a USB port to connect the TX-L37V20B to an outboard HDD but I wasn't able to actually test this function. Finally there is VIERA Link which allows you to control any other VIERA products you might own.

Test Results

Measured Results Out of the Box


For the purposes of these tests I used the True Cinema mode which represents Panasonic’s attempt at a calibrated preset. Since Contrast actually seems to control the backlighting I set that to suit the viewing environment but I left the Brightness and Colour settings as they were. I set the Sharpness to zero and for the same reason I turned the Resolution Enhancer off. The C.A.T.S. and P-NR controls were already turned off but I also turned off the Intelligent Frame Creation function as well. The Gamma function was already correctly set to 2.2 and hopefully the actual curve will be close to that number.

As the results show the greyscale performance was excellent for a preset with the all of the DeltaE (error) measurements being less than 2 which is almost imperceptible. The colour temp. was also very good, measuring just slightly over the D65 target and the gamma was a little over the 2.2 target in red but blue and green were spot on. The RGB Tracking is also very good with Blue and Green tracking very close with the target line of 100 and Red running about 5% below. This is a superb set of results but using the two point greyscale calibration available I should be able to improve this performance even further.

Much like the greyscale measurements the colour gamut performance shown on the CIE chart was also very good for an out of the box preset, with the TX-L37V20B measuring very close to Rec.709. The Luminance and Hue measurements are excellent but the Colour is a little oversaturated in the three primaries and two of the secondary colours but overall the colour reproduction is very good. The TX-L37V20B includes a Colour Management System so once again I would hope to make minor improvements with calibration.

Calibrated Results

As has been mentioned on many other Panasonic reviews the design of the menus is very frustrating for calibrators. The sliders for adjusting the CMS and White Balance appear over the very point where the meter is trying to measure the IRE window. Since I have recently calibrated another Panasonic I was already familiar with a work around and thanks to the excellent out of the box performance the adjustments required were minimal.

After using the White Balance controls to calibrate the greyscale the results were excellent with a DeltaE of less than one for most IRE levels which is imperceptible to the human eye. All three primaries are now smoothly tracking around 100 and the Colour Temperature is now spot on D65 and whilst the gamma is now tracking close to the 2.2 target there is a slight peak at around 90IRE. This is caused by some slight clipping but without a traditional Contrast control there was no way of improving this. Having said that the clipping is only minor and shouldn’t affect actual viewing material.
Although the Panasonic specifications claim the TX-L37V20B has a 3D Colour Management System (CMS) this isn’t strictly true since it only controls Hue and Saturation whereas a real 3D CMS would have controls for Hue, Colour and Luminance separately. In addition the CMS only controls the primary colours (Red, Green and Blue) so you don’t have direct control over the secondary colours (Cyan, Magenta and Yellow). However given the already excellent colour accuracy there were only minimal adjustment required from the CMS and the calibrated colour gamut borders on reference quality. As the CIE chart shows the Luminance and Hue measurements are very good and the Colour has been improved resulting in a DeltaE of less than two for most of the colours which is excellent.
Panasonic are to be congratulated for including ISFccc controls but perhaps next time they could include 10 point greyscale calibration and a proper 3D CMS with control over all six colours which would bring them in line with many of their competitors.

Video Processing

The performance of the TX-L37V20B in the video processing tests was very good overall, with just the usual cadence issues that I have come to expect from Panasonic displays. Using both my PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs I first checked the SMPTE colour bar test which the TX-L37V20B easily passed, correctly scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The TX-L37V20B also scored very highly in the jaggies tests on both discs as well as performing very well on the diagonal interpolation test, with two of the three moving bars appearing smooth and only the bottom most extreme bar showing very slight jaggies. The TX-L37V20B also had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs.
As expected the TX-L37V20B did not perform so well in the film detail test and failed to correctly lock on to the image resulting in aliasing in the speedway seats behind the race car (for those of you who are familiar with the HQV test footage). The TX-L37V20B failed all the cadence tests and was unable to correctly detect either 2:2 (PAL - European) or 2:3 (NTSC - USA/Japan) as well as a number of less common formats. However the TX-L37V20B did perform well when displaying film material with scrolling video text, correctly displaying the words without blurring or shredding.

The TX-L37V20BB also performed very well in most of the tests on the HQV Blu-ray using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the 16:9 mode is correctly set with overscan off) and showed good scaling and filtering performance as well as good resolution enhancement. The TX-L37V20B also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material. As with most other LCD displays the motion resolution is not up to the standards of a good Plasma screen.

The TX-L37V20B handled 24p content without any problems, although you needed to make sure that the 24p Smooth Film function has been turned off or you will introduce unnecessary artifacts and any film based images will have a video look to them.
I used my Spears and Munsil test disc to check the headroom performance of the TX-L37V20B from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255) and there was clearly clipping above video level 245 which just confirmed what I had suspected during calibration. A display should be able to clearly show detail up to the peak white video level of 255 but it is unlikely you would ever notice clipping above video level 244 in actual viewing material.

Overall this is an excellent set of results and the video processing of the TX-L37V20B is very good with the notable exception of film cadence detection which Panasonic really needs to correct.

Gaming Performance

In the Professional1 mode the TX-L37V20B measured an input lag of 40ms which is actually quite good and better than a lot of other displays I’ve tested. However in Game mode that improved to 10ms which is excellent and should keep even the most hardened gamer happy.

Energy Consumption

The energy consumption of an LCD display tends to be very consistent and largely depends on the brightness setting of the backlight, rather than being affected by the on-screen images. However dynamic contrast functions like C.A.T.S. will affect energy consumption because these controls vary the backlight and brightness of the display depending on the image and ambient lighting. In the Normal mode setting the TX-L37V20B consumed approximately 40w at 0ire and 70W at 50ire and 100ire and using the calibrated Professional1 setting it measured about 80w at all three levels; the difference was mainly caused by me disabling the C.A.T.S. function. In standby mode the TX-L37V20B consumed less than 1W of energy, so overall the energy consumption performance was quite good.

Picture Quality

The TX-L37V20B’s highly accurate greyscale, colour gamut and gamma performance coupled with excellent deinterlacing and scaling resulted in an excellent picture when viewing real world material. Standard definition Freeview broadcasts were quite watchable and any problems tended to stem from the broadcasts themselves rather than the display. With high definition broadcasts the TX-L37V20B deinterlaced the 1080i signal without any problems and the resulting image looked very solid and benefited from the increased resolution. When showing high definition images from Blu-ray discs the 24p Playback function increased the native 24p frame rate to the appropriate 96Hz but you need to ensure that the 24p Smooth Film function is turned off or it will ruin the film-like quality of the presentation. As I mentioned earlier it is also important to ensure that the 16:9 Overscan function is turned off to ensure that full 1080p resolution is being displayed.

The TX-L37V20B also includes Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation Pro which adds 100Hz frame interpolation and motion focus technology which is designed to further enhance the motion resolution. Whilst I have no problem with doubling the frame rate from 50 to 100 or using 24p Playback to increase the frame rate of a Blu-ray disc from 24 to 96 I am not a fan of any form of frame interpolation. Even though I can sometimes see slight improvements in video based material, I don’t find the improvements really warrant all the fuss that manufacturers’ marketing departments make and, ultimately, these systems make little or no difference to the motion limitations inherent in LCD technology. Worse than that, when used in conjunction with film based material the interpolation has a detrimental effect on the image, which loses all sense of being film-like and begins to look like video. Personally I rarely use any frame interpolation functions and, to be honest, I almost always just leave them off.

One of the major selling points of the TX-L37V20B is its use of an IPS panel and the improvements of this technology were evident when I tested the display’s off-axis performance. When viewed from the sides the image did not suffer from the usual loss of contrast and colour desaturation that plagues VA panels. There was a slight loss of contrast when viewed at extreme angles but the colour reproduction remained solid and the TX-L37V20B clearly showed superior off-axis performance, especially compared to the VA panels I have tested. Unfortunately due to the LED Edge backlighting the backlight uniformity could have been better and whilst certainly not as bad as other displays I’ve tested there was some slight clouding, especially at the edges themselves. I felt the black levels on the TX-L37V20B could also have been better and I suspect this is a result of both the IPS panel and the edge backlighting. I suppose that is just the price you pay for an ultra thin display and improved off-axis performance. Sadly no display technology is perfect and there are always compromises.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • True Cinema provides a very accurate preset
  • Excellent Greyscale performance after calibration
  • Excellent Colour accuracy after calibration
  • Deinterlacing and scaling capabilities are very good
  • IPS panel provides very good off-axis performance
  • Full ISFccc Calibration controls
  • Freeview HD and Freesat HD built in
  • VIERA CAST Internet TV features plus included WiFi dongle
  • Extensive networking and connectivity options
  • Excellent input lag in Game mode

The Bad

  • Black levels could be slightly better
  • Backlighting uniformity could be better
  • Still lacks film cadence detection
  • Menu system needs to be redesigned for easier calibration
  • Downward facing HDMI inputs would make more sense on an ultra thin display

Panasonic V20 (TX-L37V20B) Review

The Panasonic TX-L37V20B represents the very best of current LCD display technology and incorporates many performance enhancing features. The use of an IPS panel means that the off-axis performance of the TX-L37V20B is much better than those using standard VA panels and the LED backlighting results in a ultra thin and energy efficient display. The out of box performance is excellent when using the True Cinema preset and is in fact the best I’ve seen to date on an LCD TV. When you include the ISFccc controls you can calibrate the image of the TX-L37V20B to reference standard and for this Panasonic is to be congratulated; it is good to see a company delivering excellent images along with all the bells and whistles. As far as the bells and whistles go the TX-L37V20B is an embarrassment of riches which includes Freesat HD, Freeview HD, Internet TV, DLNA certification, DivX VOD and Dolby Digital Plus. Panasonic even include a WiFi dongle which is a nice touch.

The TX-L37V20B isn’t perfect of course, as is often the case there is always a compromise somewhere along the line. The use of an IPS panel means that the off-axis performance is much better than most LCD displays but the black levels could be a little better. Also the use of LED Edge backlighting might mean the display is ultra thin and energy efficient but the backlight uniformity could be a little better too. Given the otherwise excellent video processing it really is time that Panasonic fixed the cadence detection issues that plague all their displays. My only other complaints are fairly minor ones relating to the position of the rear inputs and making the menus more calibrator friendly.

Ultimately though the TX-L37V20B provides some of the best out of the box images I have seen to date from an LCD TV and this coupled with the excellent features and very reasonable price means that I have no hesitation in giving this display a Best Buy award.

Best Buy

Scores

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Smart Features

.
.
8

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Video Processing

.
.
8

Greyscale Accuracy

.
.
8

Colour Accuracy

.
.
8

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
.
.
7

Screen Uniformity

.
.
.
7
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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