I finally caved in and replaced a 15 year old Sony TV with a Panasonic 32″ LCD TV (TX32LXD700) for Christmas. Although the aging Sony still worked fine, it did cycle through Red/Green/Blue and took 5 minutes to fully warm up.

Before taking the plunge, I read various reviews and looked at the televisions on my shortlist in shops. Most stores (understandably) use High Definition (HD) broadcasts or Blu-ray discs to show the digital technology at its best. Cartoons are another popular choice to demonstrate LCD TV’s displaying a very high quality picture.

As the range and number of programs actually broadcast in HD on Virgin Media is currently relatively limited, I explicitly asked to see a conventional TV channel which was enlightening. You could often see pixellation and blurring which was disappointing but not wholly unexpected.

Undoubtedly, the Panasonic had the best picture quality both for standard and HD programs. I could have got a better deal on the previous model (TX32LXD70) but opted for the 700 for the better sound and additional HDMI input (3 in total).

Finally, the time came to actually buy the TV but, unfortunately, I now discovered the model was out of stock at most online retailers and good old fashioned shops. Eventually, I found the TV in stock (1-2 days delivery) at dabs.com for £769 including free delivery (normally £25) so I placed the order and waited.

After placing the order, I received various helpful emails from dabs:

Thank you for the order you placed with dabs.com on 01/12/07 which included an item or items which were out of stock at the time of order.

We’ve just received notice of a lead time change from our supplier which affects the following product(s) included within your order:

Quicklinx : 4HFN
Manufacturer : Panasonic
Product : TX-32LXD700 32″ LCD TV
Old Estimated Delivery : 05/12/2007
New Estimated Delivery : 13/12/2007

Please note that the new estimated delivery date given above is the best possible date we can provide at this time. Rest assured that should this date move forward or backwards, we will keep you fully informed by email.

Strange. The TV wasn’t actually listed as ‘Out of stock’ when I placed the order. Worse, the projected dates kept slipping and slipping (like an IT project) until, tantalisingly, we reached 18 December.

I took the precaution of printing a large picture of the LCD TV on glossy paper and wrapped up the HDMI cable to give to Norma for her Christmas present - ‘This is what you could have won'.

Finally, some good news - dabs took the payment from the credit card which meant the TV was shipping imminently and the expensive package was delivered just in time for Christmas.

I resisted the temptation to open to package to check the contents and hook the TV up and managed to leave it propped up in the hallway until Christmas day.

Connecting the Panasonic to the Virgin V+ box was easy. You just need to buy an HDMI cable (not supplied with the TV) and modify the settings on the V+ box to output a HD signal.

Using the V+ Remote, select ‘Home’ followed by ‘Settings’. Then select ‘Change Display and Audio Settings’. Then select ‘TV Display Format’ and change the value to ‘Hi Def HDMI’. You can experiment with the screen resolution by changing the value of ‘V+ Box HiDef Output’ but I found the optimal setting was ‘1080′.

Currently, Virgin Media only carries one High Definition channel (BBC HD) but the picture quality is simply staggering. We watched ‘Extras' and ‘Robin Hood’ on HD and were able to compare and contrast the picture with conventional BBC1 (as both programs were broadcast simultaneously). The picture is absolutely razor sharp and has a sense of ‘depth'.

Watching conventional channels is a bit of a come-down after HD but my fears that a conventional TV broadcast (albeit upscaled) would actually be inferior to the 15 year old Sony set were unfounded.

Having said that, the picture quality does depend on the program. Fast moving images (like sports) are still prone to pixellation and blurring which is irritating given the amount of football I watch. The good news is that the England friendly international in February should be available on BBC HD so it will be interesting to see how the quality differs.

The V+ box solely uses the HDMI cable to connect to the Panasonic so I connected the DVD player using the Scart cable and the LCD TV has breathed new life into my DVD collection.

There is also a SD card slot for viewing digital photos which now show up every single blemish in full colour 32″ glory and Norman Jnr is delighted as he can also connect the Xbox 360 via a handy HDMI slot on the front panel and again, the picture quality, as he saves the world, destroying zombies with a flame thrower and hand held rocket launcher, is superb.

Overall, I am delighted with the Panasonic LCD TV and I find myself watching wildlife documentaries on BBC HD just to admire the astounding picture quality.