Panasonic TX-L32X15B television review

3.5 out of 5
£649

For

Smooth moving images, plenty of detail, user-friendly menus

Against

Weak audio, black levels, lack of Full HD detail in still shots, lacklustre Freeview

Do you need Full HD? While LCD and plasmas TVs that boast Full HD 1080p resolution are rapidly becoming mainstream in terms of pricing, Panasonic wants to give you a choice.

In April it’s going to add this 32-inch LCD TV to its vast Viera pantheon, though the official price is only £50 cheaper than its Full HD 1080p version, the Panasonic TX-L32S10B. However, we found it online for just £599.

Unless you have - or plan to get - a Blu-ray player, PS3 or Xbox 360, you probably don’t need Full HD in your living room. All HDTV services (from Sky, Freesat and Virgin) available in the UK are broadcast in 1080i resolution; don’t confuse your "p" and your "i" - 1080i is a simple HD ready resolution that will look no better on a Full HD screen than on a telly such as the rather bulky TX-L32X15B.

Sat on its pedestal stand, the TX-L32X15B doesn’t exactly scream luxury. Its wide screen surround and rather drab design shows nothing has changed since last year’s Vieras, though the TX-L32X15B’s insides are definitely worth a second glance.

Unlike on the TX-L32S10B, this Viera has Panasonic’s very latest picture processing technology inside. Called V-Real 4, it consists of an important invention as far as LCD TVs are concerned: 100Hz Intelligent Frame Creation.

When an image - say, a car or a person - runs across the screen, or when the camera pans quickly, it often causes the LCD screen to judder. It can be quite horrible and headache-inducing, but this TV uses a sensor to monitor all moving frames before they appear, then creates a new frame to insert into the action, smoothing-out the blur.
If it works as it should, that meagre £50 discount on a Full HD model will be far easier to swallow.

And in practice the TX-L32X15B is an excellent performer with very little blurring or smearing. Yes, a Blu-ray disc does lack the ultimate pin-sharp clarity that you’ll get on a Full HD flat TV, but if you live with that here’s a set with all the "other" latest tech. In practice pics from Blu-ray are very precise, and arguably you can see more detail using V-Real 4 on this HD ready set than you can on a Full HD set without any similar technology.

Add blur to Full HD and you’re pretty much back where you started.
We do have a slight worry about whether, in practice, people will actually use 100Hz Intelligent Frame Creation. It’s hidden away in a menu called "other settings" in an area where most won’t find it, or be scared to delve into.

Almost every other aspect of this screen’s pictures is just as impressive using V-Real 4. Contrast isn’t class leading, which does detract from the cinematic feel of movies slightly, though it displays 24p pictures from Blu-ray very smoothly. Colours are not the TX-L32X15B’s strongpoint, but they’re accurate enough and don’t washout much if you watch the screen from a tight angle.

Freeview pictures are decent enough, though there’s plenty of picture noise on show - as on almost every LCD TV we’ve seen. Turn down the sharpness and up the DNR (digital noise reduction) mode and things do improve slightly.

The speakers are nothing special either, though the TX-L32X15B still makes for a respectable choice: it’s marriage of simple HD-ready resolution, 100Hz, a thoroughly likeable - and simple - user system, and a nifty SD Card slot (for digital pics and AVCHD/MPEG2 video files only) makes it ideal for anyone just not interested in Full HD. It looks a touch pricey at this list price, but online discounts are sure to follow.

Verdict

If you want both Full HD and V-Real 4, head up the ranks to Panasonic’s yet-to-be-reviewed G10 range - though it will cost you around £900 for a 32-inch model.

Marrying a simple HD ready resolution with 100Hz tech, a simple user system and a SD Card slot makes this 32-incher ideal for anyone just not interested in Full HD. It seems pricey, but online discounts are sure to follow.