The remote is a total redesign for 2005 and looks and feels much more like a consumer remote than with previous models. We suspect that Panasonic has realized that this line is selling very well into the consumer market, and it probably made a conscious decision to improve the ergonomics of the remote. Custom installers and end users alike will welcome the direct access to inputs from the remote, which make input switching and programming much easier. The Panasonic TH-37PHD8UK has a native resolution of 1,024x720, which will provide a sharper picture with HDTV and computer sources than EDTVs such as its less-expensive brother, the Panasonic TH-37PWD8UK (more info). That native resolution isn't high enough to display every pixel of the lowest-resolution HDTV format, 720p, but you'll need to step up to 50 inches before you'll see a plasma with enough pixels for that. LCD flat-panels routinely have higher resolutions at this size, but we haven't seen any LCDs that perform as well as this plasma in other areas (see Performance).
In a further attempt to make this line more consumer-friendly, Panasonic has added dual-tuner PIP (picture-in-picture), POP (picture-outside-picture), and a video-over-PC mode that allows you to watch video while using the panel as a computer monitor. Aspect-ratio controls include four choices for standard-def, but the TH-37PHD8UK won't allow you to change aspect ratios with HDTV sources. The plasma also has a 4X Zoom mode that splits the screen into zones and allows you to magnify the images as much as 400 percent. That's about it as far as convenience features go.
The plasma does incorporate more useful picture-enhancing options than most of its competition. To help eliminate motion artifacts from film-based sources, 2:3 pull-down in the video processing is on tap. You can choose from three color-temperature presets and a three global picture presets, and each of the three picture presets are fully adjustable and independent for each input--effectively offering three independent input memories for each source. A plethora of advanced video adjustments are also on board, including four gamma settings and complete custom color-temperature controls. Finally, the Panasonic TH-37PHD8UK presents a range of screensaver options for preventing and removing image retention (a.k.a. burn-in), including a scrolling white bar on a timer, an inverse color setting, and a mode that moves the entire image slightly over time.
Unlike its consumer line, represented by models such as the TH-37PX50U, Panasonic's industrial plasmas don't have any kind of built-in tuner--HD or otherwise--so you'll have to use an external tuner such as a cable or satellite box. This is no big omission in our book since most people considering a plasma have enough money for cable and satellite. Other missing features include the aforementioned speakers--you'll need to buy the optional speakers or use an external sound system--and the stand, which most consumer models include for free.
The panel includes one each of every important analog video input but doesn't have as many inputs as a typical consumer plasma or any digital inputs. The good news is you can add input boards of different types to customize the panel to your viewing needs. The Panasonic TH-37PHD8UK can support a maximum of three inputs: one VGA-style computer input and two interchangeable slots that can support optional input boards. The panel ships with both slots filled, one with a five BNC connection that can be configured for either RGBHV or component-video (to connect RCA-style component-video cables, you'll need to get inexpensive BNC-to-RCA adapters), the other with an S-Video and composite-video input along with stereo audio. Note that the 42- and 50-inch versions, models TH-42PHD8UK and TH-50PHD8UK respectively, each have three slots.
To install a DVI or HDMI input, for example, you'd simply purchase the board (about $150 for either one) and replace either of the two existing boards. The limited number of inputs is the TH-37PHD8UK's greatest flaw, and power users will definitely want to mate it with a component-video- or even HDMI-switching device, such as an A/V receiver. The Panasonic TH-37PHD8UK is a stellar performer with only one real exception. Black-level performance on this panel is first-rate, except for the fact that if floats blacks a little from dark to bright scenes, which is something we'd like to see Panasonic improve. In other words, the brightness of its "black" fluctuates depending on whether other areas of the screen become brighter. This flaw contributed to its Poor score in DC restoration in the geek box.
With that said, the contrast ratio, due to the set's deep color of black, is indeed as good as it gets among plasmas, especially after a proper setup. That doesn't mean you should believe the spec sheet's ludicrous claim of a 4,000:1 contrast ratio, but it is quite good. Blacks are rich and inky once they're set correctly. Scenes in outer space from the awesome DVD transfer of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back looked as dark as night on this panel.
The Panasonic TH-37PHD8UK's color decoding is quite good, without even a trace of red push, and green is decoded reasonably well also. The main improvement we were able to detect over last year's 7UY models is better gamma. With gamma at the new 2.2 setting, we got a flatter, more accurate grayscale, and that's always a welcome sight in a plasma. Combined with decent color decoding and reasonably accurate primary colors, it makes the color reproduction of the new 8UK series from Panasonic the most accurate and realistic of any plasma panels currently on the market.
The ability to do a separate grayscale calibration for all inputs means you can get dead-on color accuracy for all the inputs and sources being fed into the set. The video processing is also clean, and the all-important 2:3 pull-down circuitry is on board here for the elimination of motion artifacts from film-based material such as prime-time TV.
HDTV material looked pretty good on this panel from a Time Warner Cable feed in New York City. Even though it can't fully resolve 720p HDTV signals due to its 1,024x720 resolution, when fed the additional resolution from HD sources the Panasonic TH-37PHD8UK really sings. Colors were eye popping, and images look quite crisp and snappy with HDTV sources.
|Before color temp (20/80)||5,400/6,000K||Average|
|After color temp (20/80)||6,475/6,550K||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 639K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 58K||Good|
|DC restoration||No stable pattern||Poor|
|2:3 pull-down, 24fps||Yes||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Yes||Good|