* Prices may differ from that shown
I've had this TV for five years. Although it cost £650 at the time, it would be much cheaper now. You can't buy it new anymore, but second hand versions are no doubt available through ebay and other stockists.
It's a 37-inch flatscreen model. In terms of the basic things a TV should do, it does them all well. It comes with freeview, and has worked fine with the variety of aerials and boosters I've had to use to get it to work (I live in an area with very poor TV reception). It automatically finds channels, and will alert you when there are new channels to be indexed (this is a bit annoying, as the message is smack bang in the middle of the screen when you first switch the TV on).
It is 'HD ready', which is salesman speak for 'not HD at all'. Its 720 dpi display is around two thirds true HD, so while modern games consoles and blu-rays look great on it, they're not as amazing as they could be. I've never had any complaints about the quality of the picture, expect that a screen that size it does expose the limitations of lower definition broadcasts and DVDs (and 37 inches is by no means huge). It has two speakers in the back of the set, which are more than adequate, but aren't exactly impressive.
It has a number of inputs in the back, including 3 HDMI sockets and two scart sockets for those more old-fashioned devices. There's also a PC input, which I remember trying years ago and not being too happy with, although I think that was just personal preference. The functionality was OK.
Changing aspect ratio is fine, and you can tinker with the settings to your heart's content (it's not difficult to figure out how it works, and the instruction manual is pretty good). The screen doesn't lose brightness or detail if viewed from a side angle and is non-reflective. The remote is easy to use and works well, and I've not had to change the batteries in all the time I've had it.
Any disadvantages, apart from the not-true-HD thing? If you switch it off when it's in standby mode, and then switch it on again, it will still be in standby mode. That annoys me. It seems to have as slight conflict with my current blu-ray player, although not a major one – it will sometimes randomly adjust the aspect ratio. But that's a very minor foible, probably caused by having a US blu-ray player.
All in all, this has lasted a long time, and I shall be sad to see it go when I finally decide to upgrade.
I have now had my Panasonic plasma for about 4 years and it still a great TV.
The TV looks very smart, it's all black with the word Panasonic in the middle of the bottom frame, it also has the word viera in faint grey lettering in the top left corner, the Tv comes with it's own stand, which is again black with a very glossy finish, the stand is extremely strong and holds the TV upright no problems at all, there are 2 metal pins that are attached to the TV and these slot into the stand...the TV is in no danger of falling over if knocked.
Great picture, it is sad that Panasonic are stopping making plasma screens as they really are a step up from LCD screens, the blacks are deeper the colours more natural and the most important aspect for me, is the way a plasma screen copes with movement, such as sports but also lip movement and body movement of an on screen image, it all looks so natural, which seems not much of a thing to ask but compared to the LCD TVs I viewed, without fail could tell it was LCD without knowing before hand if it were LCD or plasma, just by how the screen coped with movement, the LCD screens I viewed had a jarring, stuttery look to them, I believe the reason for this is the plasma screen pixels can switch on and off much faster than an LCD screen, so copes better with moving objects.
I believe some people do not notice the difference as badly as others, I know I noticed the difference straight away.
Not too bad at all, for such small speakers I am very impressed with them, they are not tinny and produce reasonable bass, to be fair, any TV is going to struggle with sound as speakers by design have to be very big to produce the best sound, so all TVs with build in speakers are going to have sound issues but this TV is not worse that most and better than some I have heard.
Setup is very easy, you enter your postcode and it basically takes care of the rest, you can even add your own details to store them on the Tv.
It has built in freeview, I do not use this as I have freesat, as I need a recorder but the couple of times I have used it, it looks very good.
Viera link, this is a Panasonic feature that allows you to turn on other Panasonic devices and control their menus from one control, very handy, I also have a Panasonic Blu ray player and this works seamlessly with the TV.
A great TV, picture is the best thing about this TV, sound is acceptable and build quality up where it should be, all in all a great TV, grab one whilst you still can.
Bought this TV just over six months ago so I have spent plently time looking at this great piece of kit! It might not be the most stylish TV on the market (there were some really nice LG ones when I was looking) but at the end of the day picture quality is (or should be) the most important. Some of our friends have now delved into the 'big screen' TV market have bought based on price without looking at the specs or having even seen the TV working (get your argos special deal Accoustic Solutions now - NOT!) only to get home and start complaining about the picture being grainy and, well to be blunt - crap!
The first time I saw this TV was in Currys and it simply blew away the rest of the LCD and plasmas away, although admittedly it was connected to a DVD player rather than the TV signal the rest were connected to. I also checked it out in Comet just to see what the picture was like in there and, connected to a TV signal, it was very good compared to the ones round about it. The one problem it does suffer from is when watching sport - football tends to look a bit grainy whilst (not that I watch it very often) swimming, well the graphics don't seem to be able to handle the close-up detail when water is frantically splashing about.
However for watching day-to-day TV, DVDs and gaming it is very good !
My criteria for a TV were:
* 32 or 37 inch
* Good picture in SD (normal TV, ie freeview)
* I didn't need a full HD TV as I do not own anything HD and am unlikely to get any HD hardware in years.
* TV picture needed to be good from 6 - 8 feet away
My biggest annoyance with flat screen TVs are the grainy pixelated edges you get on the picture. This drives me absolutely nuts. When asking staff/colleagues about this I was told it's to do with the transmission from the TV channel and the size/distance away from the TV. I'm still not 100% convinced by this though.
My initial research for a new television started with a trip to Comet. I wrote down all the TVs that I liked the look of and then googled them. My initial search did not include the Panasonic Plasma, I had been looking at LCDs. While googling I came across AVForums and it was there that I found the thread on the Panasonic Plasma TH-37PX80. Just from all the positive comments and rave reviews about this TV I made up my mind to buy one!
After convincing my husband that this was the TV to get, I started delving into the world of Plasma TVs looking up the pros and cons.
I'm ashamed to say that I thought they had to be refilled with gas, apparently this is a myth.
I also thought they didn't last very long in terms of years. But from the Panasonic website it says that they last 100,000 hours. My colleagues tell me however that the contrast will go down over years. I've only had my TV 2 months, so I can't comment on this yet, however another colleague of mine has had a Plasma for 3 years and she says it's as good as the day she got it.
Image Retention/Screen Burn
One thing Plasmas suffer from is image retention. This is where you have a static image on the screen, for example the little E4 logo in the corner, and if its left there for a very long time the image of the logo sort of stays like a shadow.
Image retention is not as bad as it used to be years ago apparently. It's recommended for the first 200 hours of watching your new Plasma to switch the channel over after an hour if you are watching a channel that has a static image.
I've found though that even the channels that do have these logos, they disappear in the adverts, so there's no need to worry.
The one to watch out for is when watching a film that has the black bars top and bottom. I watched a whole movie having forgotten to switch over temporarily half way through and at the end the image (of the black bars) did retain for a minute. But it wasn't permanent. And I did have to look for it :)
Playing computer games
If you are a hard core gamer then maybe a Plasma won't be for you. I know of people who play all through the night and if it were a game with static images on the screen then I'd be concerned about screen burn in this case.
We have a wii, but we only play for 2 hours max at a time. I've only played Guitar Hero on the TV since we've had it, but the picture is superb.
Anyway, taking all these factors into account I then needed to find the TV to see it in the flesh. I refused to buy a TV without seeing it in action.
We found that House of Fraser stock it (also with a 5 year warranty). We saw it, fell in love, compared it with the LCDs I had been looking at and for the SD channels there was no contest, the Plasma came out on top. We bought it there and then.
Some technical specs
* 2 scart sockets
We could have used more as we have no HD items, so we have a wii, ps2, and PVR to plug in. We've got a splitter now.
* 3 HDMI
* PC input
* Component video input
It has more but I'm afraid it's all a bit too technical for me.
It also has an SD Memory card slot, but I've not used this yet as I don't have an SD card :)
Well this was really easy. There's a little bit of assembling require to build the stand and then all you need is a strong husband to lift the TV into the stand and then screw it in place :)
To get going you just turn the TV on and press the AV button to navigate through the scart/hdmi ports to display the appropriate channel.
My general opinion
I love my TV and do not regret getting a plasma at all.
The blacks are much blacker when I compare it to the LCD we have upstairs where the blacks are surprisingly grey - I hadn't really noticed this before.
As for my biggest bug of the pixelated images, they are there on the poorer channels. I find E4 quite poor and in general the +1 hour channels. But sitting 8 feet back this is bearable. But on most other channels the picture is perfect and crisp and clear :) Am very happy.
I paid £629, but I wanted to buy it from a shop and have the 5 year warranty that House of Fraser offered. It's available much cheaper online. In comparison to the LCDs this was much cheaper. The only LCDs I were happy with were 32 inch ones (Panasonic and Samsungs) costing around £799 - £999.
Having now had the thing for a year, it seems like as good a time as any to revise what I wrote about it, as at least I can then comment on reliability, which has been exemplary.
After a year's use, I'm still very impressed with this set. Obviously by now, it'll be an endangered species aka 'old model', but none of that takes away its main virtue of superb picture quality. There is now one little niggle which doesn't affect me very much but which you might find annoying. The Electronic Programme Guide, or EPG, which is supplied by Gemstar (the VideoPlus people) has now sprouted scrolling advertising on one side of the panel when it's in use. Originally, this was just a single Gemstar logo, but now the money-grabbing bastards have decided that you'd like nothing better than to look at adverts even whilst choosing which BBC programme to watch next!
I'd been 'sort of' writing this opinion since early November 2008. In the early stages, I hadn't actually bought a new TV, but the process in buying one was such agony, I thought I'd give it an airing.
You, see, I'd already got a widescreen 32" Sony TV. I can only assume that picture-quality wise, the Sony has been punching above its weight all this time, as the number of people I'd had round who had opined that I'd have trouble finding a "panel TV any better than that" were legion.
To be fair, there was minimal pressure to upgrade to Hi-Definition in our house, since I don't have Sky (nor never will), and I didn't at that time have a Blu-Ray DVD player. Freeview was not slated to become 'HD' for several years* but, just to muddy the waters, Freesat, a free-to-view service using the same satellite as Sky has now reared its head with HD content from BBC and ITV.
Note: For many, HD Freeview is now nearer than I at first thought. For some it's already here, well sort of but as of January 2010, there was no hardware availible to view it (yet). Various makers are aiming to get stuff out there before the World Cup, predictably. No doubt, 'Muggins' will be an 'early adopter'! Following the Digital Switchover of the Winter Hill transmitter, serving much of the 'Granada' area, HD on BBC, ITV and C4 is now being transmitted, as it is from Crystal Palace serving London. Thus, a sizeable percentage of the viewing population, could in theory now start watching twin tuner HD recorders and single-tuner boxes are pencilled in for the second quarter of 2010. Watch this space for even greater web-integration, including built-in browsers and 'catch-up' like BBC iPlayer and C4 4oD.)
TAKING THE PLUNGE
Perusal of the 'wall of TVs' at our local big Tesco didn't help.
They were all demonstrating BBC HD Preview on Sky (what a surprise). Nowhere was a set to be found actually showing live terrestrial "standard definition" TV, which to my mind seemed highly unfair, as most of us will be watching a very high percentage of standard definition pictures for years to come.
How is someone supposed to decide on parting with several hundred smackers on the strength of what is shown? Even in stores where they ought to know better, like Currys Digital, just try finding live TV from Freeview.
In the end, you begin to wonder whether or not it wouldn't be better to go with what you know, read a few reviews that are favourable, including towards the standard definition picture, and find the best price for the lucky TV.
Then along came John Lewis' Kingston branch with a wall of TVs showing Freeview, bless 'em! It would seem that to really get to grips with a set's picture quality, checking out its standard definition makes a whole barrel o' sense, since they are ALL good at HD (well they would be wouldn't they?)
From what I'd read, one 37" set stood out for me - the Panasonic TH-37PX80E. This is a 'plasma' TV, not a liquid crystal (LCD), the impact of which is initially difficult to spot, but as you move around the set, you become aware of no picture fade of the kind you'd expect with LCD - yes, plasma can be viewed from just about any angle that you're likely to throw at it within the average lounge. Of course, you don't have to pay John Lewis prices, and a quick check of www.richersounds.co.uk revealed that it could be had for a very reasonable £499 (or £549 with 5-year warranty).
Why so cheap? Well, a cynic might say that because it has been a current model for nearly a year, it's due for replacement no doubt and it's only 'HD Ready', not 'Full HD Ready', which means that it's limited to 720 horizontal lines, not 1080. However, at 37" screen size, it's doubtful if there's much real difference from 11 feet away, and anyway, the likes of Sky HD and Freesat only push out 720 lines at the moment.
THERE WENT NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION ONE! (SPEND LESS ON LUXURIES)
Once I'd read the accolades heaped on the set by the press, I was hooked.
In October 2008, What Hi-Fi? Sound & Vision named it 'The Best 37-inch TV" full stop and in September 2008, Which? Magazine made it their Best Buy. Most heartening from my point of view were the several mentions of its excellent Freeview performance.
Just about the only drawback I could see is that it was rather glossy and black in the surround area, all of which shrieks 'Dust Magnet!' at me.
My heart sank as I approached the new Richer Sounds branch in Chiswick, W4.
No sign of the set on display, but then it is only a little shop and panel TVs take up a lot of wall.
As luck would have it, they had one in stock, so with a bit of a struggle to get it onto the car's back seat (plasma sets are supposed to be kept upright), home it came, completely unseen and on trust that the magazines were right.
Once you've struggled with extracting it from a box large enough to live under a subway in, you have to mate the set with its base, which is an anxious moment as you gently lower 500 quid's-worth over two metal prongs and fit the retaining screws.
SORTING THE SPAGHETTI
Set-up is largely automated these days. Once the mains and aerial are plugged in, off it goes finding channels. In my case this was a 'full house' of all locally-available Freeview channels, all at 10/10ths signal strength (Thank you Crystal Palace for being so powerful - that's the transmitter, not the bankrupt footy team). The menu allows for hiding pay-channels so that they don't appear annoyingly when using the channel up/down button. You can of course pay to rent channels like TopUpTV or ESPN Sport using the 'CAM' slot, (Common Access Module) with a suitable subscription card.
Initially, I'd no HD sources to connect, although my Sony DVD/HDD/Freeview recorder does have what's known as an 'upscaled' HDMI output which affects some gentle enhancement of its picture quality over its already excellent SCART output, barely discernable it has to be said.
My other set-top box, a Topfield twin-tuner PVR also puts out an excellent picture via its analogue SCART output.
The only fiddly one is my laptop PC feeding the PC input. Why bother with a computer connection? Well, if your PC has web access, you can access facilities like BBC iPlayer or C4OnDemand and use them full-screen as if they are recordings you've made yourself.
A graphics card with wide-screen capabilities is a distinct advantage, but even so, you may find you have to go through a whole raft of settings to get a good picture.
The Panasonic isn't exactly short of inputs. You have two full-function SCART (composite, S-Video and RGB) sockets, three HDMI terminals, a WXGA PC input, a set of three component video phono plugs and various audio in/out option. At the front under a discrete flap, you have another set of video inputs which can be used as a quick connection for a camcorder. There's even a card reader for direct viewing of digital camera slide shows. Somehow, it knows whether the still picture was taken as a portrait or a landscape, but only if you camera has one of those motion sensors to turn the picture up the right way on playback. Without this information added to the jpeg file, Panny can't jump through this particular hoop.
Yipee! The standard definition picture really is as good as the magazines say.
In the early days of colour TVs, they used to say that you could judge a set's colour quality by the accuracy of it's rendition of black and white. Panel TVs seem to follow a similar rule, in two ways. As a new rule maybe you should judge an HD set by the quality of its SD, and perhaps the old rule about blacks and whites still applies too.
Such is the contrast and colour rendition that I began to wonder whether a Blu-Ray player was going to be necessary.
After all, players are pricey and, we can't expect the upstart format to be around anywhere near as long as plain old DVD before it's superseded so it may not be such a good idea to commit to an expensive U-turn in movie collections. OK, I know existing DVDs would still be playable, but Blu-Ray disks cost considerably more in most cases.
Contrast and colour are the two key areas where plasma seems to win over LCD sets in my limited research (i.e. looking at several of each!).
Firstly, the contrast; the blacks really are as near black as they can be - technically it's got a real contrast ratio of 15,000:1, i.e. the black is 15,000 times darker than the white! Beware claims that some sets have 50,000:1 ratios - these may be post-processing figures, not the 'native' ones.
My old CRT TV was never going to achieve this, since even switched off, the screen was only light grey, and you can't get any blacker than 'switched off'!
The colour is quite stunning - brighter than before but never garish. Of course there's a whole gamut of variations from 'Edward Scissorhand's' complexion down to positively 'Dale Wyntonian' skin tones if you must, but after playing around, I came to the conclusion that the defaults were well-enough chosen in the first place.
Thanks to the 100hz picture scanning, the result is rock steady with not a hint of flicker on large expanses of sky. Although I have been susceptible to 50hz flicker (and spending 500 quid on a whim), I'd previously avoided 100hz technology on cathode ray tube sets as it always looked to me like someone had hung a net curtain across the screen, but this is something else. Motion is smoothed, and there's no annoying bleeding of saturated colours at the edges. It's enough to get me watching sport (nearly).
Frankly, I never dreamed that 'ordinary' TV could look this good.
It may well be some time* before the dreaded words 'upgrade to Blu-Ray' play around my lips as there's a whole DVD collection out there just begging to be re-watched!
(*It wasn't )
My only minor disappointment compared to my old set, is that in making a slim surround to the screen, speaker size has been compromised, and therefore the sound is only adequate, with not much bass. However, movie buffs, me included, get over this by having a 'home cinema' set up with enough loudspeakers to start a political movement in Nürnberg.
The remote is capable of controlling my Sony box too after a brief perusal of the manual, which up to this point has been largely superfluous.
Thanks to a level of compatibility between the Panasonic Q-Link and the Sony Smartlink systems, I am able to send a direct command to the recorder to start recording whatever's on my TV screen. This is useful for dubbing something on my Topfield PVR (which has no means of making a permanent recording) onto my Sony box which does.
In amongst its viewing mode (Normal, Cinema, Game etc) there's an 'Eco' mode which matches picture brightness to ambient light, thanks to a sensor at the front of the set.
I have but one very minor complaint - the remote control seems very 'directional', needing to be pointed quite accurately before the TV answers the helm.
VALUE FOR MONEY?
There are three key features that make this set very keen VFM.
a) Firstly, try finding a 37 inch set from a major maker for £499 without it being an old model.
b) It was just about the smallest plasma set anyone made
c) 100hz technology usually adds about £100 or so to a set, if Panasonic's other sets are anything to go by.
It's extremely versatile with more HDMI ports than I'll be using in the foreseeable future, and it handles all my existing needs better than my poor old Sony which was starting to look like the limiting factor to my future projects.
As a mainly Freeview- and DVD- watcher, this set is an immense upgrade to my viewing pleasure. Coming from a 32" CRT set, its picture is not only bigger but sharper too, which is a heady combination I wasn't necessarily expecting. The general rule that the bigger the set, the fuzzier the picture just didn't make itself felt.
The 'future-proof' mob who would baulk at buying a set with a 'mere' 720 lines of resolution when 1080 are already available will give it a wide berth, but I'm happy with it.
After the event, any mention of the fact that you've bought a PLASMA set brings sharp intakes of breath from all those experts that didn't say a word beforehand, largely based on claims that plasma sets cost more than LCD sets to run.
Perusal of my instruction manual does indeed reveal power drain of 235 watts, but to my relief this seems to be a pessimistic maximum. In reality, mine hovers between 80 and 120 watts. I think the figure of 235 watts relates to an all-white screen with the brightness turned up. Me, I'm using the 'ECO' mode where the magic eye assesses ambient brightness and adjusts the set accordingly.
For all those LCD protagonists I'd like to make two points. With very few exceptions, all the big sets were at the time plasma, so it's no surprise that they cost more to run. It's only where the two formats cross over at 37 inches that comparisons are fair. LCD current usage is almost constant, whereas plasma usage goes up and down with brightness of picture - in essence a black screen costs nothing to run in plasma.
The other 'cautionary intake of breath' I'd heard was that plasma screens can 'burn in', i.e. if you leave a bright image in one spot too long, permanent marking of the screen is possible. I'd certainly counsel against letting the kids use one for console games, given their short spans of attention, and thus the likelihood of walking away leaving the same frame displayed, but in ordinary usage, I've had no such problems.
Leaving the same image in situ for over 30 minutes is advised against, but other than that, it's a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. I'm told that avoiding high brightness in the first couple of hundred hours use helps - maybe I accidentally did something right!