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Operating The Panasonic TX32LXD700
I’ve always liked Panasonic’s remote controls. It sounds silly, but a nicely laid out, sleek remote is a nice touch to any A/V set-up, and obviously a good remote helps usability. Panasonic don’t disappoint here, with a suitably large, weighty unit that’s also easy on the eyes. The buttons are of the “clicky” type rather than soft, easy-to-depress ones, but everything is well laid out. The top of the remote features buttons to control Aspect Ratio, access the EPG (provided you’re already in Digital TV mode), the Main Menu, and also an option for Subtitles. Near the bottom come the conveniently thumb-sized Channel and Volume controls, as well as buttons which provide limited functionality for controlling a DVD player or VCR.
A flap at the bottom reveals 5 new buttons, the most important one being the control over the TV’s Picture-in-Picture and Picture-And-Picture functionality, labelled “Multi-Window”. All in all, it’s a satisfying device with great build quality.
When you press the MENU button, you’ll notice that Panasonic have taken the opportunity to include some subtle branding, as the “VIERA Main Menu” presents itself in familiar Panasonic blue and grey colours. Strangely, the first option in this list of four is “VIERA Link”, which is Panasonic’s name for the HDMI-CEC function (that’s when HDMI devices “talk” to one another for easy setup and operation). Since the only other Panasonic-branded equipment I had to hand – my own HDMI DVD player from 2005 – was too old to be equipped with such functionality, selecting this only gave me a “Feature not available” message. Turning “VIERA Link” off in the TV’s setup menu did not remove this option from the Menu list like I expected, which was mildly annoying but easy to ignore.
Next up was “Picture”. The first option in here is “Viewing Mode”, which I would recommend setting to “Cinema” for the best black level and minimal video processing. Beyond this, the amount of customisability here is limited, with only White Level (“Contrast”), Black Level (“Brightness”), Colour, Sharpness, and Colour Balance being adjustable – as well as the largely irrelevant “Colour Management” (a simple on/off toggle which seems to change the gamut slightly, not full-blown colour decoder adjustments like the name might suggest), as well as “P-NR”, which performs some incredibly subtle Temporal noise reduction to the image, as well as a very light Spatial blur.
The “Sharpness” control did not appear to be adding any forced Edge Enhancement to the video, which is nice to see. With that said, there are two omissions from the picture options that I found it hard to live without. The first of them is a manual adjustment for the Screen Brightness, which is typically labeled “Backlight”. Although the existing “Brightness” command will alter the Black Level – in other words, the threshold the TV’s video processor chip will define as Black – the Panasonic TX32LXD700 is missing a manual adjustment for altering the overall light output of the panel. (There is reported to be a Backlight adjustment in the service menu, however, this is not an option available to me on a review sample, nor is it easily accessible for the faint of heart). The long and short of this omission is that if you find the TX32LXD700’s screen brightness not suited to your personal preference or lighting conditions, then there’s really nothing you can do about it besides switching to the “Cinema” mode, which lowers the light output somewhat – assuming you haven’t already done so, that is.
The second omission is a control over the 100hz picture processing feature. 100hz processing (or “120hz processing” if US-style 60hz video is being displayed) is sure to divide opinions, and mine is that for most purposes, it’s a bit of a gimmick. This feature is being added to several LCD TVs as a means of making motion appear more fluid, with less of the light motion blur we’re used to on current LCD panels. The reason for me being less than impressed by it is simple - I found that the motion artefacts it creates, to my eyes, look worse than the LCD blurring did in the first place. 100hz processing relies on Motion Estimation technology, where new “in-between” video frames are calculated by the video processor and slipped into the stream of frames displayed by the panel. Do remember that the process is called motion estimation for a reason, and complicated patterns can cause some visual oddities, where moving objects break into misplaced blocks. The artefacts are by no means constant, but if this is supposed to be a solution to LCD blur, then I'm just not sold and would rather turn it off.
Whether or not you view the 100hz feature as a curse or a blessing will depend on your perceptiveness, and what you watch. In Film-based content, complicated, erratic motion such as fire effects would confuse the processing, causing flames to shift into misplaced blocks. One particular scene from the opening of the Corpse Bride HD DVD (playing at 1080p via an Xbox 360 Elite connected to one of the HDMI inputs), which features a camera pan down an intricately-textured rooftop, confused the system and created artefacts. Fast-moving video effects, such as the “News Flash” effects on the Sky News channel, or those added to Channel 4 station idents, showed the same effect. The process was most obtrusive of all with traditional 2D animation, where characters now appeared to “float” or “morph” from pose to pose, significantly affecting the filmmaker’s intended look and interfering with the drawings.
Keep in mind that I very rarely watch sports on TV – I hear that the 100hz feature does wonders for these. That said, if the motion estimation faults are visible already, I do wonder if they would be worsened by the fast camera pans so often found in televised sports.
On the up-side, video games were the least badly affected by the 100hz/120hz feature – in fact, the processing actually improved the appearance of Halo 2 playing at 1080p on the said Xbox 360 Elite, artificially boosting the game’s 30 frames-per-second look without any artefacting.
None of this would really be worth mentioning, had Panasonic simply allowed the user to turn the 100hz processing on or off. With it constantly on, the usual advice of “try before you buy” is more relevant than ever. The amount of motion artefacts this processing introduced might be fine for casual viewing, or if you’re not susceptible to them, but I do wonder why Panasonic wouldn’t include a way of opting out.
Much more pleasing was the Sound options menu. In here, adjustment over Bass, Treble, Balance, Headphone Output Volume, and “pseudo-Surround” modes (such as the SRS TruSurround XT feature) is given. There’s also easy access to Audio Descriptive features broadcast on some TV channels, depending on the selected input. Volume Correction can also be configured, should one of your connected devices be outputting on a different volume level to others.
Lastly, the Setup menu offers control over the Off Timer, whether or not you’d like to be taken to the TV Tuner or AV inputs upon power-up, and easy labelling of the video inputs (so you can see an input referred to as “DVD” instead of “AV2”, for example).
The 32LXD700 has a “VGA” (D-Sub) input on the back, for connecting a PC to. Unusually, the TV allows the user to apply video processing commands – such as altering the Sharpness and Colour Saturation – to the PC input signal (most TVs disable most of the settings in PC mode). Don’t worry – it’s still possible to avoid these and get an unsharpened, unprocessed look from your PC.
When sending the TV 1360x768 resolution, 1:1 mapping was possible (meaning that no scaling went on ‘behind the scenes’, resulting in crystal-clear quality). However, this wasn’t automatic and had to be selected from a “PC Settings” menu that became available with the PC input selected.
Although I’d usually recommend hooking up an external sound system – which is easily possible with this TV thanks to its Optical Audio output – the TV’s built in speakers were surprisingly good. Unsurprisingly, the sound was a little “boxed in”, but that didn’t stop it managing some impressive bass and clarity with a little tweaking.
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