Tuesday 22 December 2009

Panasonic Viera TX-P37X10B 37" Plasma TV

I've been very sceptical about flat screen TVs.

Whilst I've wholeheartedly embraced flat screen computer monitors, I've never yet seen a flat screen TV that I think compares (in SD viewing) with a traditional CRT TV.

However, our 28" JVC widescreen was obviously coming to the end of its useful life and a business trip to the US persuaded me of the virtues of HD TVs (with the right quality signal), so I started looking around.

I returned a few times to the Panasonic TX-P37X10B, because of the high refresh rate and plasma virtures, but it wasn't until I saw one alongside LCD TVs in a local Panasonic shop that I was sold.

One TV in the shop stood out as sharper, clearer and more realistic in colours and it was the only Plasma TV in the shop.

I don't have HD (I don't, and probably won't for some while, have a Blu-ray player or an HD TV receiver), so SD quality (especially for sports like Motor Racing and Skiing) was very important to me.

We get most of our TV via Virgin Media cable and the picture quality, viewed from across the room, is very good. Up close it's not as a good as the CRT, but it's still much better than any LCD flat screen I've seen.

DVDs look pretty good too and watching Blade Runner on the BBC recently highlighted the richness of the picture - I watched half on my Sharp LCD TV and half on the Panasonic and the richness and contrast of the Panasonic was so much better than the Sharp as to be beyond compare really.

There is no ghosting on sports broadcasts (I watched a repeat of the Goodwood Revival coverage I had seen previously on my JVC TV and it looked amazing!) and general programmes and films look equally good.

The TV itself is pretty good looking too, with a nice gloss black surround (I almost got the slightly cheaper matt black one, but I glad I didn't) and the sound's ok (I think sound wise the JVC was better).

The feature that lets you view images from a SD card is rather good and photos look excellent - A neat way to show your friends and family your latest photos.

There are plenty of options for connecting DVD/Bluray/AV receivers and games consoles (even PCs) to the TV, but so far I've just used the SCART connections.

Amazon list the inputs as :

CI (Common Interface) yes
VIERA Image Viewer yes (JPEG playback)
HDMI Input 3 (1 side, 2 rear) [ver. 1.3 with x.v.Colour]
Composite Video Input AV3: RCA phono type x 1 (side)
S-Video Input AV3: Mini DIN 4-pin (side)
Audio Input (for Video) AV3: RCA phono type connectors (L, R) (1 set, side)
Component Video Input RCA phono type x 3 [Y, PB, PR] (rear)
PC Input Mini D-sub 15-pin x 1 (rear)
Audio Input (for HDMI, PC, Component) RCA phono type connectors (L, R) x 2 sets (rear x 1 set, side x 1 set)
21-Pin Input/Output AV1: AV In/Out, RGB In, Q-Link (rear) / AV2: AV In/Out, S-Video In, RGB In,
Q-Link (rear)

So, is there any reason I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend this TV?

Well, partly because of the sound quality, partly because I can't really comment on the HD quality and partly because I still don't believe that flat screens are a match for the old CRT TVs for SD viewing.

I purchased my TV from Richer Sounds (the ever helpful Guildford branch), who matched the best online price and provide a 5 year guarantee on all their items for 10% of the price (much cheaper than anyone else!).

Overall, I'm very pleased with this TV and don't think, for SD viewing anyway, that I could've got a better quality picture in a flat screen TV.

Friday 18 December 2009


Of absolutely no interest to anyone really, but we got snow in the south of England today - A rare occurrence.

I went to Belgium yesterday, supposedly for a meeting in Antwerp, but got no further than the Autoroute between Brussels and Antwerp as we were halted by snow (A RWD BMW 1 series and snow are not a great mix, but my RX8 is no better, so is sitting on the drive today!).

Today, I awoke to this:

Lovely! :)

Friday 4 December 2009

Call of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 (PC)

I bought Call of Duty 4 : Modern Warfare a couple of years ago and was, frankly, blown away by the outstanding graphics (even on a fairly low end PC), exciting and involving narrative and intense gameplay.

I've been through the game a few times, although my few forays online have resulted in intense frustration as I was repeated killed without even having a clue where the opposition was.

I was, therefore, looking forward to Modern Warfare 2. The trailers looked good (more of the same, but MORE somehow), but the initial release price put me off (COD4 still sells for more than I paid for it - Around £15) and I imagined it would be some months before I got hold of a copy.

A chance offer of a big discount (£25 off!) changed that and I soon had COD : MW2 on my PC and was ready to go.

The PC version of the game installs Steam which forces regular updates and downloads - I could do without this personally. Some say this also means that you cannot resell the game if you tire of it, a big negative in my view (especially at the high initial purchase price) if true.

Although very much the same kind of experience there are actually a number of things I don't enjoy as much about MW2 as I did MW.

First off the colours sometimes seems a bit too vibrant on my PC (see the photo in the boat for a good example).

The washed out colourations of COD4 were different and lent the game a different feeling, but the new games is too bright for my eyes at times. This might be an issue with my oldish graphics card, but it was a negative (albeit a small one).

On the positive side, the graphics are still grand, detailed and wonderful (more on that later, though) and the performance is still outstanding even on my AMD2 PC - this is no gaming Monster PC - except on the ultimate detail settings (and you don't NEED that to enjoy the richness of the games graphics, although it does reward you if you have a high end PC and graphics card).

Secondly the game seems more manic than COD4. There's still a narrative of sorts, but it feels less convincing and coherent and the action is unrelently 'press-on', which means all too often that you can't take in the rich and amazing vistas on offer - You are rarely rewarded (except with a lot of blood spatter) for stepping back and considering the situation and the lean option has been removed, which means cover is strictly on or off and often stepping out from cover will get you killed instantly.

The game also seems rather easy compared to the original. On the Regular setting I often found levels where I really struggled in the original game (I'm not a gaming hotshot!), but I found no such challenges in MW2. Some list the Favella level and the Burger Bar level as challenging, but aside from a few brief delays (especially in the Favella) I encountered little to stop my progress through the levels and the time it takes to play through all the levels in the game seems much less than to play COD4:MW. It took me around 10 hours to complete the game (over a couple of weeks, but I've heard people claim to complete it in 6 hours).

Some of the levels seem to be almost lifted directly from TV programmes or films (Generation Kill - see image below - or Red Dawn viewers will spot the obvious influences), whereas the original game seemed, on the whole, more, well, original...

The controversial "Terrorist training" level is a bit distasteful, but you don't have to shoot civilians (I didn't, but most people I know did!) to get through to the point where the security forces engage you. That said, if shooting people in a computer game is really going to upset you, you're unlikely to buy MW2 and it does come with a prominent 18 rating (in the UK at least) and you can choose to simply skip the whole level at any point during or before it.

Finally, the end of the game is a little disappointing - the speed boat chase is out of character (a bit like a rubbish first person driving game on a console) and the final scenes involve little or no skill or control and the denoument is really just a, frankly, silly rehash of the original game's ending.

That said, the end does leave the narrative suitably open-ended, if a little obviously erring towards a "Soldier of Fortune" kind of plotline.

Overall, Call Of Duty : Modern Warfare 2 is more of the same, but somehow less...

If you have COD4:MW then you'll probably enjoy MW2, but if you only buy one of the COD : MW games make it the original and save yourself a few quid.

Handy for Bracknell

I was recently sent details of this flat, 'local' to Bracknell.

Interesting to see that it's a few miles outside the town centre...