Well, I’ve finally taken the HD plunge, via a new Panasonic LCD panel (only link I could find, but the NZ version doesn’t have an integrated digital tuner).
This thing is pretty damn sexy. 26 inches is pretty small by TV standards these days, but it is more than adequate for our small lounge. The contrast is fantastic. After looking at some of the cheaper model LCDs, I was disappointed by the greyness of the blacks they could produce, especially when you look at the vertical black letterbox bars when playing 4:3 content. I had actually given up on finding an LCD screen with decent contrast within my budget before I stumbled across a shop-soiled version of the Panasonic TX-26LX500A. It had some sticker-glue residue on the bezel (which was easily removed) and no box. No problems for me at a NZ$500 discount!
I hadn’t actually researched Panasonic LCDs, and went on the specifications (including HDMI input and 800:1 contrast ratio) when buying this one. In retrospect I’m pleasantly surprised by the reviews that the Panasonic has been picking up. People have been quite happy with it since its introduction in late 2005, often only preferring the exquisite (and expensive) Sony Bravia panels over the Panasonic.
I don’t have any truly HD content to really push the thing along yet, with the best so far being progressive-scan output from my modded XBox (vanilla, not 360). Even good old PAL60 progressive looks gorgeous on this thing, with the menu text from XBox Media Center absolutely crystal clear. I’m very happy.
The one downside of an LCD panel in New Zealand is that it only highlights the crappiness of out monopoly Pay-per-View provider, SkyTV. The compress the buggery out of most channels, and the set top box only provides composite or S-video output. The LCD is such nice quality that it seems to highlight the compression artifacts, especially when watching a fast-moving game of rugby or World Cup football. On my particular STB (a Pace version), the S-video output seems broken, with the menu and program guide almost unreadable when connected via S-video (it should be clearer than via composite). Time to call the technician I guess.