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Panasonic TX37LZD85 Operation
Never one to buck the trend of consistency, the on-screen menus on the Panasonic TX37LZD85 are presented with the same clean, grey and blue design seen across all of Panasonic's LCD and Plasma TVs. It responds reasonably quickly, but is not necessarily lightning-fast. However, it shares the same main down-side as other Panasonic displays: there's no numerical indication of the settings you've made, meaning you have to rely on the position of the white bars in order to remember or share settings.
Pressing MENU on the remote brings up the "Viera Main Menu", which is neatly organised into four sections: VIERA Link, Picture, Sound, and Setup. VIERA Link was of no use to me, because I didn't own any other VIERA Link compatible equipment, and therefore couldn't test it.
As such, I moved straight on to arguably the most important configuration menu: Picture. Panasonic's menu system is designed around picture presets (termed "Viewing Mode"), with the user being able to switch between four of them: Dynamic, Normal, Cinema and Eco.
From there, they can adjust the Contrast, Brightness, Colour, Sharpness, Colour Balance, Colour Management setting, and P-NR (Noise Reduction) for each profile. There are no per-input settings on the Panasonic TX37LZD85: the user must exploit these four Viewing Modes in order to accomodate any quirks in their equipment.
The Contrast, Brightness, and Colour controls hold no surprises. As usual, they control White Level, Black Level, and Saturation Level accordingly. Sharpness also does what it says, but its implementation gives cause for concern (more on this later). Meanwhile, Colour Balance allows a greyscale preset of either Cool, Normal or Warm to be selected. Colour Management provides an almost undetectable tweak to the colours, and the P-NR Noise Reduction setting applies a subtle spatial cutoff to the image to try and tame noise.
Moving on to Audio, the user can switch between presets in a similar way to the Picture menu. Both "Music" and "Speech" can be used as a basis for adjusting Bass, Treble, and Balance. There's also control over Headphone output volume, and an option called "Surround", which allows selection of either "Simulated Surround" or "BBE ViVA" sound tweaking algorithms to squeeze some more depth out of the TV speakers. There's also an option called "Speaker Distance to Wall", which allows you to optimise the LCD television's audio output depending on how it's installed in your setup.
Lastly, the Setup menu contains, amongst others, features to change the TV's Power on Prefence - whether you want it to automatically default to the TV tuner or to the AV inputs when it's first turned on - as well as options to control "24p Film" (which probably doesn't do what you'd expect) as well as Picture Overscan. I was glad to see that the Picture Overscan function can be controlled on a per-mode basis, meaning that you can leave it turned off for the AV inputs, but leave it turned on for the TV's digital tuner (handy, because TV broadcasts often have junk around the edges of the image which is concealed by Overscanning, whereas DVD and Blu-ray Discs are best experienced with it off).
Inserting an SD Card into the slot under the flap on the right of the LCD TV automatically brings up a message on screen, which asks the viewer if they'd like to enter the Photo Viewer mode. Clicking Yes brings up a grid-style view of all the JPEG images on the inserted memory card. From there, you can browse through them at your leisure, or begin a slide show of images on the card.
Electronic Programme Guide (EPG)
Rather than creating their own EPG layout, Panasonic have instead chosen to license the GuidePlus system from GemStar. You might already have seen this EPG system used on some DVD Recorders and PVRs, and it works nicely. The default view for the EPG shows 7 channels arranged from top to bottom, with large, easily readable text, which, by the way, is rendered by the same system which draws the pin-sharp on screen menus and is literally pixel-perfect as a result: it's not the blurry, ringy text seen on some TV EPGs.
Navigation was reasonably fast, with only a small delay in the EPG responding to remote control actions. A nice feature of the GuidePlus system is that it's possible to sort available channels by Category by pressing the Blue button. I used this to select "Free Services", eliminating any encrypted (TopUp TV) channels which I don't subscribe to (although if you do, this TV does feature the appropriate card slot).
Panasonic's stock remote control is included with the TX37LZD85 LCD HDTV. As always, it's a sleek-looking, weighty unit. I particularly like how the Volume and Channel buttons are designed to fit under your thumb and be easily rocked in either the up or down direction by it.
One thing I really didn't like, though, was the LCD television's response to the remote control. The IR sensor is located on the far left fo the TX37LZD85, beside the power button, but for whatever reason, I had to consciously aim in the direction of the sensor much of the time. This will likely become second nature after a short while, though.
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