While there's not a mountain of free HD content offered by the likes of BBC and ITV, it's coming - albeit slowly. And Freesat is your hassle free gateway to HD Heroes, Jools Holland and the incredible nature programmes that the BBC produces. If you haven't had the pleasure, we suggest you do.
This Panasonic set has Freesat built in, of course - all you need is a dish on the side of your house (if you don't already have an old Sky one) and you're good to go.
Currently, Panasonic is the only manufacturer to have Freesat capability in its range of sets and, as bonuses go, it's a seemingly big one when you consider a Freesat HD box costs around £150.Off-air HD broadcasts look terrific The Panasonic undoubtedly makes Freesat HD broadcasting look tremendous, but that ability seems to be at the expense of the things that make its TX-32LZD85 sibling so compelling a proposition.
These shortcomings are most glaring where Blu-ray playback is concerned. Most unlike the majority of Panasonic LCDs we've tested, the LZD81 doesn't get anywhere near the top of the class.
Contrasts are feebleDespite strong colours, contrasts are feeble, detail goes astray and there's an almost gauze-like effect to pictures, as if you're glimpsing them through a bit of Victorian London pea-souper.
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DVD images are more successful. There's not the outright depth to black tones that rivals can muster, and white tones aren't as dazzling, but skin-tones, edges, motion and detail are all closer to the best than their high-def equivalents.
The Panasonic sounds okay, too, though having heard the Panasonic TX-32LZD85, we're surprised that this set's sound doesn't have the same body or punch.
It is price, though, that sees this screen shed a star from it's First Test showing. Most competitors have been subject to discounts of one kind or another, but the 'LZD81 is still stickered at £800.
For a machine that makes Blu-ray look a bit lifeless and can't singlehandedly inject life into the new Freesat format, that can only be bad news.