Is it just us, or does it only seem like yesterday when 32in was pretty much as big as a TV could get while still being affordable? And the thought of having a 32in screen 'dominating' a corner of the living room supposedly had us house-proud Brits shuddering with horror?
Oh, how times have changed. Since flat TVs arrived with their space-saving derrieres, more and more people are starting to find 32in TVs laughably puny, with the mass TV buying market now fast adopting 37in as the minimum screen size requirement for their homes. Especially now that prices are plummeting faster than David Beckham's football credibility.
With that in mind, let's cast our eye over an intriguing crop of the latest 37in flat contenders, taking in plasma as well as LCD, and covering a diverse range of prices to see if spending a little more is always worthwhile.
Price comparison:Loewe Modus L 37 More info: Loewe Size (off stand): 934(w) x 647(h) x 106(d)mm Weight: 25kg Native aspect ratio: 16:9 Resolution: 1366x768 Claimed max contrast ratio: 800:1 Claimed max brightness: 500cd/m2 Connections: One HDMI input, two Scarts (1 RGB), component video input, composite video input, S-Video input, D-Sub PC input, Stereo audio output, headphone jack, stereo audio inputs, CAM slot, RF input
At £1,700, this LCD model from acclaimed German brand Loewe is unusually expensive by today's 37in standards. This obviously places a burden on it to be something quite special - a burden Loewe usually carries comfortably thanks to its penchant for gorgeous designs, exemplary feature counts and uncompromising performance. But today something seems to have gone depressingly wrong…
For starters, the design is nothing particularly special. The minimalist lines and curves are reasonably sweet, but the finish is more plasticky than usual for Loewe. Then there are its connections, which depressingly include just a solitary HDMI input alongside a PC port, component video jacks and the customary Scarts etc. Having just one HDMI these days wouldn't satisfy on a budget TV, never mind a premium one like the Modus L 37.
There's more disappointment in store as we find rather less features than we might have expected. Really the only excitement comes from a digital tuner - which just about every TV has anyway nowadays - and Loewe's Image+ processing engine. This engine works on boosting motion, black level response, sharpness/detail, and colour richness and tone.
Perhaps the Modus L 37 will redeem itself with its performance? Not really. It's not actually a bad performer or anything; colours can look rich and vibrant during bright scenes, moving objects lose less resolution than we often see with LCD TVs, HD pictures look crisp and textured, and Image+ works hard to make standard definition pictures look pretty tidy too.
But a lack of black level response and some icky colour tones during dark scenes stop the L 37 from being the truly great picture performer it really ought to be for £1,700. Even its audio, while decent, fails to scale the heights of many previous Loewe TVs we've come across.
Solid audio, decent pictures, subtle design Minus points
Only one HDMI, black level issues, far too expensive
Price comparison:Panasonic TH-37PX70More info: Panasonic Size (off stand): 917(w) x 667(h) x 97(d)mm Weight: 30kg Native aspect ratio: 16:9 Resolution: 1024x720 Claimed max contrast ratio: 10000:1 Claimed max brightness: N/A Connections: Two HDMI inputs, two Scarts (both RGB), component video input, D-Sub PC input, stereo audio output, headphone jack, stereo audio inputs, CAM slot, RF input
As the only brand still making 37in plasma TVs in the UK, there's considerable pressure on Panasonic to prove with its latest 37in offering that plasma still has something to offer at this relatively small screen size.
Things start well enough, with an attractive all-black design, and a roster of connections that includes two HDMIs. Oddly Panasonic hasn't bothered with composite RCA or four-pin S-Video sockets on the 37PX70, but actually we didn't miss these low-quality jacks at all during our tests.
Despite a surprisingly low price tag of £999, the 37PX70 is certainly not short of features. Particularly important is the set's Vreal2 image processing system, which incorporates a plethora of handy tools designed to improve colours, noise levels, black level rendition, and motion handling. Vreal2 also includes a 1080p engine that both remasters standard definition into the HD format before scaling them to the screen's 1024x720 native pixel count, and accepts 1080p/50/60Hz signals in their native form from suitable HD disc players or upscaling DVD decks.
Panasonic's Real Black Drive technology, meanwhile, in conjunction with a new Deep Black Filter element, helps the set deliver a claimed contrast of 10,000:1 - way higher than anything truly achievable in the LCD world right now.
What's more, this contrast figure isn't just be the result of some 'optimistic' measuring on Panasonic's part. Dark scenes really do look much blacker, more natural and generally more cinematic than with any of our LCD contenders, giving the set a huge immediate advantage. This is then built on by the set's colour palette, which looks way more natural during dark scenes than most LCD rivals, yet can also 'do vibrant' where necessary.
The 37PX70 also scores over LCD with its motion handling, with the players in the recent Charity Shield football match looking crisp and detailed as they charge around the pitch. HD pictures also look sharp, too, while standard definition pictures look less noisy than with any other set in this group.
LCD screens can make relatively static HD images look crisper still, to be fair, and the Panasonic can make some rich red colours look a touch orange. But with a perfectly respectable audio performance to round things out, the 37PX70 certainly sets a high benchmark for the rest of our LCD contenders to overcome.
Superb pictures, fair price, plenty of features Minus points
Slightly orangey reds at times
Claiming that all plasma TVs are better than all LCD is complete balderdash. Not including the best LCD TVs in the review verifies that the review is absolutely useless. The best 1080p LCDs Sony and the best Philips TV 9831 etcetera should have been included if the review was meant to be independent and fair. I shall have to check but I donot think that the best Blu-ray and HD DVD films were used with the best products that also verifies that the review was rigged. What were the lighting conditions and the calibration for each TV also?
What happens when 'burn-in' occurs on plasma TVs, are the manufacturers and editors going to pay for new replacement TVs?
I don't think so, and manufacturers has made it extremely ...