Consumer trends ebb and flow, and the prevailing fashion in consumer electronics has been for piano-black surfaces. Before that it was a two-tone black and silver look, and Panasonic has kept its foot firmly in both camps for the design of its last few TV ranges. With its '09/'10 range, Panasonic unified its LCD and plasma screens under the same naming conventions, and for the V series, for example, sizes 37 inches and under are LCD and 42 inches and over are plasma. But the two technologies don't necessarily share the same design elements, and we must say that we prefer the look of the V LCDs. The stand features a brushed metal-looking plastic stand that "goosenecks" into the bottom of the TV. It either looks like a a ceremonial headdress (if you're kind) or the head of a vacuum cleaner (if you're honest) but either way we like it.
The TV is quite slim, with a depth of only 2 inches which may make it better suited to wall mounting than some of the other "thickies" out there. Of course, this reduced depth is of little consequence when you factor in the stand as it's necessarily large.
The remote control is the same as it's been for several years, but with a couple of tweaks that we don't necessarily like. For example, we've complained before about the fact that the Viera Tools button is right above the D-pad and that the oft-used Menu button is hidden away at the top.
The Panasonic Viera TH-L37V10A is a 37-inch LCD which features a full high-definition resolution. As a "V-series" display it's the company's premier model, but it lacks the LED-backlighting of some of its competitors and instead features good ol' fluorescent tubes. The panel itself is an IPS Alpha model which in the past has translated to a bright screen with an impressive viewing angle.
Picture processing features are pretty scant — there's no THX mode as seen on the V-series plasmas, for example — but it does include Panasonic's own 100Hz mode called Motion Picture Pro. The TV also features 24p Smooth Film support and has a backlight rated at 60,000 hours.
Connectivity is pretty standard for a TV of this type, though it lacks the advanced web features of its Sony and Samsung competitors. The TV has four HDMI ports, though at first glance you could be forgiven for thinking there's only three as the fourth is hidden in an obscure spot under the stand. Like almost every Panasonic TV, the V10 features an SD card reader which is able to handle JPEGs and AVCHD videos. The rest of the ports include a VGA slot, two component inputs and three composite ones. There's also a digital output so users can feed the sound of the on-board tuner to their sound systems.
We've been fans of Panasonic's LCD TVs for some time, and while never flashy, they perform well and seem fairly reliable. The V10 continues in this vein.
When setting the television up for testing we found that we needed to tweak it quite a bit to get acceptable picture quality from it. For instance, the TV follows in the popular fashion of boosting Sharpness levels in order to give the impression that it's displaying more details than are actually there. Even with the sharpness level all the way down the noise levels were still a little high, but turning off Colour Manager helped in getting rid of some of the fug we found in the image.
This hyperactive sharpness meant that the TV did fail a couple of tests in our synthetic Silicon Optix HQV suite. While it passed the jaggies test and was capable of showing a video image successfully it failed in getting rid of the mosquito noise from the test image and also was unable to display a 24p feed properly.
This last test translated to a small jerkiness in displaying the opening shot of the Bridge scene in Mission Impossible III though detail was good and there were few image artefacts. There was also a lack of image ghosting and black levels were in order during the rooftop scene later on in the movie.
As we expected from this TV it didn't quite have the inky blacks of a Panasonic plasma, but dark material does look impressive, and the off-axis performance is much preferable to the LG 47SL90QD we saw recently.
Switching to DVD, King Kong was presented in a natural and detailed fashion. While the quality jump from Blu-ray down to DVD was noticeable this TV is still able to clean up a standard-definition source to an acceptable standard. It was able to track movement without motion blur and also get rid of the few instances of image "ringing" and straight out blockiness without cracking a sweat. This TV would make a good choice for a holiday house or kids room if all you have is a DVD source, as a result.
We switched to the on-board tuner and it was capable of pulling in high-quality pictures and presenting them faithfully. However, the only disappointment we found was when we engaged the 100Hz mode, it made the movement in a sports broadcast actually worse. Only one system, Sony's 200Hz MotionFlow, has ever been successful in actually making sport look better on an LCD.
Sound quality was acceptable, though a little lacking in presence. The speakers are mounted on the underside of the bezel and lack the treble response or "ssss" sounds of leaders such as LG and Sharp. Whereas the V10 plasma exhibited a good deal of distortion at high volumes, which the LCD equivalent didn't suffer from. But then again it didn't go up very loud either.
The Panasonic Viera TH-L37V10A is another solid TV from the Japanese manufacturer. It may lack the killer features or even the insane picture quality of the best TVs but it's nonetheless consistent. The set may retail for AU$1899, but you should be able to find it online or haggle your local salesperson down to about AU$1300. At that price, it's a pretty good deal.