Review: Panasonic TC-L42D30 LCD HDTV Page 3

Performance

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Captain America: The First Avenger — I’m already past my saturation point when it comes to superhero-themed movies — but it was a fun, worthwhile ride on Blu-ray.

The early scenes in a Nordic village turned out to be great for checking the Panasonic LCD’s performance. As the Nazi soldiers storm a church looking for “Odin’s Tesseract” (or some such silliness), I could make out details in their black uniforms against the dark background. But shadows in general lacked depth, which in turn caused the picture to look flat. Flipping on AI Picture added visual punch to dark scenes like this one, but the difference it made ultimately wasn’t that big a deal.

Another thing I noticed when watching dark scenes from Captain America was a uniformity issue stemming from the set’s LED backlight: Certain areas of the screen appeared lighter than others. This was most noticeable on 2.35:1 aspect ratio movies, where faint “spotlights” beamed out from the corners of the screen. But I also saw it on some 16:9 content, like a nighttime scene from a Season 2 episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead where Shane (John Bernthal) and Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) flee — not altogether successfully — a pack of zombies holed up in a school.

As I anticipated given my earlier measurements, the set’s color rendition was less than accurate. Viewing another scene from Captain America, in which World War II soldiers on their way to Europe line up for physical exams, I saw that the skin tones of the shirtless enlistees looked fairly natural and showed a good range of differentiation. When the action switched to a scene where a flying car is demonstrated at the New York World’s Fair, the faded appearance of the car’s red exterior and the carnations worn by the onstage models was notable, even in a film with a desaturated “period” look.

Okay, all was not perfect with the L42D30’s picture, but there are some plusses you can take away from this review. True to form for an LCD with an IPS panel, its image remained uniform over a very wide viewing arc. That’s to say, pictures retain pretty much the same level of contrast and a similar color balance no matter what seat on the couch you view them from. And its upconversion of standard-definition content like DVD was also very good, with pictures for the most part looking crisp, solid, and clean. The set’s various noise-reduction settings were also effective, with only the Video NR mode introducing any degree of picture softening, and then only when it was applied to standard-def signals.

As with other forms of interpolation processing used by LCD TVs, Panasonic’s Motion Picture Pro 4 introduced an unnatural “video” look to film-based programs when its Strong mode was selected. It succeeded in eliminating judder and boosting motion resolution, however, so if you can deal with those side effects (I can’t), then go for it. A second option, Weak, didn’t provide the same motion-resolution benefit, but neither did it add nearly the same level of artificial smoothing to motion.

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