EXCLUSIVE REVIEW: Our verdict on Panasonic's Full HD TX-32LZD80
Judging by the number of questions we're being asked on our Forums about Panasonic's 2008 range of flatscreen TVs, you're keen to find out how they perform – to put it mildly!
So never ones to let you down, this week's exclusive online review – brought to you several weeks before it appears in the magazine – is our verdict on Panasonic's first Full HD 32in LCD TV.
Is Full HD really necessary on a 32in screen? And can you really tell the difference? You're about to find out.
For: Compact, tidy looks; absorbing, enjoyable images from any source
Against: We can't discern any meaningful difference between Full-HD and HD-ready resolutions at this screen size
Verdict: We've seen and heard more successful Unique Selling Points but, as with most Panasonic flatscreens, there's a lot to admire here.
Finally, we can stop speculating and start declaiming. Panasonic, flatscreen front-runners for, oh, ages now, has delivered a 1920 x 1080 resolution, Full-HD LCD TV of just 32 inches. In the past, we've said that screens of this size may not offer picture-quality benefits over 1280 x 720 resolution, HD-ready sets – but that was easy to say, because we hadn't seen a 32in full-HD screen until now.
Apart from that attention-grabbing resolution, the TX-32LZD80 is par for the accomplished-and-desirable flatscreen course. The standard of build is competitive, the finish compact and cleanly attractive, and three HDMI inputs will keep the Blu-ray/games console/Sky HD crowd happy.
Where the ergonomics of remote control, set-up menus and EPG are concerned, the 'LZD80 continues the good work of Panasonics past: they're straightforward, well thought-out and comprehensive.
Crisp, detailed and natural pictures
The Full-HD performance may be the main attraction, but first we'll deal with the support acts: off-air TV reception and standard-definition content. The Panasonic has both analogue and digital TV tuners – pictures from both are crisp, detailed and natural.
Movement presents no significant problems, edges are generally stable and contrasts are handled with assurance. Standard definition content (in this instance our trusty DVD of Training Day) is equally impressive: the 'LZD80 produces nice deep blacks and doesn't scrimp on the details. It's adept at motion-tracking, poised where skin-tones and textures are concerned and the overall image is immersive and convincing.
Sonics are nothing special
So, how about sound? Nothing special to report, we're afraid. The Panasonic TX-32LZD80 isn't bad by flatscreen standards - but that's not high praise. Panasonic is promising sonic superiority for its '800 sets, so maybe they'll show a genuine improvement over this distinctly average performance.
Does Full HD resolution make a difference?
So with the crowd having been whipped into a frenzy by the opening acts, it's a shame that the big draw turns out to be a case of 'seen it all before'. Don't get us wrong, pictures from the 3.10 to Yuma Blu-ray are delightful: generous levels of detail, even in the brightest or darkest scenes, brilliantly smooth edges and wide-ranging, natural colours.
However, we should point out that although the set supports 24 frames-per-second video from Blu-ray, it does so using the 4:4 pulldown method rather than delivering 'pure' 24fps. That said, it does work extremely well.
Depth of field impresses too, and motion is gripped with absolute authority. But we parked the '32LZD80 alongside the Panasonic TX-32LMD70 we gave five stars to in March – having looked at a variety of content for much longer than is advisable, we felt that maybe – maybe – the Full-HD set offered cleaner edge definition.
So our suspicions are borne out. Unless you're prepared to stare until you're cross-eyed, Full-HD at this screen size seems to bring no significant gains. Of course, that doesn't stop the TX-32LZD80 being a splendid flatscreen well worth its five stars.
£550 5 stars
A TV that looks good, produces cracking images and says 'Sony' on the front - yours for under a monkey if you shop around. What's not to like?
£1100 5 stars
That's more like it - at this screen size the 1920 x 1080 resolution starts to make its presence felt. And with the Panasonic range undergoing a revamp, there should be deals around
Screen size (in): 32
Aspect ratio: 16:9
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Inputs: Composite, S-Video, 2 x Scart, Component, 3 x HDMI, RF, RS-232
Dimensions (hwd) (cm): 54 x 83 x 10
Weight (kg): 15.5