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Panasonic TX37LZD85 Picture Quality
1080p HD (Blu-ray Disc)
20th Century Fox's recent release of Juno on Blu-ray is a good example of 35mm film transferred to high definition video. The film has a rich colour palette and a great amount of visible detail, meaning that its aesthetic will be enjoyed by many. And, since it originates on 35mm film, there's some fine grain visible, which gives the film a nice texture and increases its perceived detail.
At closer distances, the Panasonic TX37LZD85's sharpening - which can't be disabled - did work against the quality of the image, by emphasising the boundaries of the blocks which make up the compressed image. Additionally, the film's natural grain pattern became harsher on the eyes due to the sharpening to the point where some viewers will perhaps find it objectionable. You probably won't spot this processing from a few feet back, but why is it even here in the first place, and why can't it be turned off?
The already warm skin tones appeared a little over-cooked due to the overly warm greyscale, but overall the colour reproduction was suitably pleasing.
The Panasonic TX37LZD85 LCD HDTV can accept 24p Input and display it as such, meaing that no telecine judder will be visible from Blu-ray Discs outputting in this mode. While we're on the subject of 24p, it's worth discussing the "24p Film" option tucked away in the LCD television's "Setup" menu. This isn't a toggle for 24p Processing, but instead controls a Motion Interpolation mode which attempts to give 24fps Film content a more video-like look. Because film sources have 24 frames per second, creating new frames to boost the motion fluidity requires that the TV's video processor tracks the motion of objects in the input frames, and uses this data to creates new in-between ones.
The biggest problem with this, though, is that films aren't that simple. Any sort of camera panning or complicated movement will confuse such a system and inevitabily create motion artefacts, unless the source features little to no complex motion to start with. For example, in Juno, there's a scene where the film's main character rides a bike down the street of her neighbourhood, with the camera trucking left. The movement of the camera and the spinning wheels on the bike mean that the bike actually distorts into blocks and even intermittently disappears. This in itself isn't a failing of the Panasonic TX37LZD85, because any other HDTV with this option will create the same sort of problems. Needless to say, I recommend turning off this mode and watching films at their original frame rate!
Standard Definition (Freeview Digital Television)
Video-wise, the images output from the Panasonic TX37LZD85's built-in DVB tuner are treated a little differently than those sent to the AV inputs. To put it simply, everything is treated to MPEG Noise Reduction which, like so many of the other video processing options on this LCD television, isn't actually an option, so the user can't disable it.
From the point of view of removing compression artefacts, the Panasonic TX37LZD85 actually does a good job. Unfortunately, all the caveats of MPEG Noise Reduction naturally apply: lessened detail, and a slightly artificial look (that is, it blurs out genuine details as well as MPEG artefacts). It's possible to minimise the artificial effect by lowering the Sharpness setting and blurring the image slightly, but Digital TV pictures aren't exactly crisp to start with, so this is far from ideal. Likewise, raising the Sharpness control higher exposes the frequency cutoff effects of the MPEG NR filter - there is obvious missing image data in the picture, giving it a severe "watercolour painting" like look.
The bottom line of this is that while pictures from the on-board digital tuner are largely free of compression artefacts, this has been accomplished in a way that damages other areas of the quality. Some people will love the artefact-free look and be able to look past the artificial appearance that the image takes on, whereas others may find it exasperating. As with so many other functions on Panasonic's LCD range, you wonder why it wasn't simply an option.
HD Console Gaming (Xbox 360)
Although I'm a Halo 3 addict, for months and months, I've had one frequent complaint about the game: how insanely unfair it can be whilst playing online. Well, now I know partly why I was at such a disadvantage: my own HDTV has much more input lag than I originally thought.
When I say "Input lag", I do not mean the response time of the LCD panel, which is a totally separate measurement. "Input lag" refers to the time taken by the TV's video processor to prepare the frames before sending them to the actual display. In this area, the Panasonic TX37LZD85, is a huge improvement to my own TV. After playing Halo 3 on this LCD television, I wondered how I'd ever tolerated it before: suddenly, the game was much more responsive, and as a result, a lot more fun. With this HDTV, my only enemies in online play were network connection lag and my own abilities. Measurements against a PC CRT monitor (which should have no input lag at all), showed that the Panasonic TX37LZD85 has only 30ms of delay.
More interesting, still, are the psychological effects of display lag. The game felt like it was playing at a much faster speed as a result of the Panasonic TX37LZD85's speediness. Even better, the "24p Film" mode, which I found to create a disconcerting effect when enabled on 24p films, became incredibly useful for games. Most current-generation console games sadly do not feature fluid frame rates, and even then usually only manage around 30fps. Enabling the 24p Film mode whilst playing Halo 3 filled in extra frames, making the game much easier on the eyes whilst at the same time presenting almost no visible artefacts.
The only down-side, yet again, is the Sharpness. As the LCD TV features non-defeatable edge enhancement, the aliasing (jaggies) in the game were made slightly more pronounced.
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