Panasonic TX-L32D28BP television review
Part of Panasonic's LED-lit D28 Series, this purple (or silver, or white) set is some package - but it comes at a high price. Although it's only 77mm in depth, it packs in an almost ridiculous line-up of features.
Both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners are inside the TX-L32D28BP, which also builds in wired (or wireless if you buy a Wi-Fi dongle) DLNA networking from a PC or Mac, a souped-up Viera Cast broadband entertainment platform, digital media playback from two USB slots and a SD card, and even the prospect of recording to an external USB hard drive.
That said, the TX-L32D28BP is all about the look. There's an unusual stand design that sees the TV slot into place and sit back slightly, as if on display. It is so well made that the purple frame itself is designed to look as if it's curved, even though it's flat.
"The look" is also achieved with its stunning pictures, though it's a shame Panasonic didn't opt for the superior Full LED system - especially at this price. Helped by dynamic contrast of 2,000,000:1, blacks look impressive, though we've seen more convincing efforts on the brand's latest plasmas. What the TX-L32D28BP does do really well is colour, which is vibrant and nicely subtle, while detail from Blu-ray is awesome in a very clean picture.
The only problem is a slight blur when the action hots-up; standby for one of the TX-L32D28BP's lead features, Intelligent Frame Creation Pro feature, which plonks frames of video where it needs to in an effort to smooth over the smears. It works really well, but it also creates nasty flickers and shakes around moving people - which video tends to feature regularly! It's best left on its lowest setting to avoid simply replacing one annoyance with another.
Pictures from the HD tuners are also superb, with the high-def channels immaculate. That's not the case with standard definition channels though, which are plagued by blocking, softness and noise. The EPG that rules over digital TV is also a touch stiff, with a poor blue/yellow 8-day grid design rammed into a tiny box in the middle of the screen.
Meanwhile, Viera Cast is getting better and better, though aside from Eurosport news, YouTube and Daily Motion videos there's not much to watch. Soon, Skype will be available - buy a webcam and see your desktop-bound buddies on the bigscreen - though for now its icon on the Viera Cast home screen simply bears the "coming soon" message.
The DLNA networking interface is perhaps the biggest improvement Panasonic has made in its approach to digital media. It works quickly and in our test efficiently streamed music and photos in a jiffy, though videos often encounter problems.
It's a similar story with the USB slots - both of them - and the SD card slot, which plays MP3, JPEG and DivX without any problems, though DivX HD files weren't recognised. All of these slots can be found by pressing the "Viera Tools" button on the remote - the resulting pop-up icons are the one part of the user interface that truly impresses.
The same software controls USB recording, though we had a major problem in that our external USB hard drive wasn't recognised as "valid" despite going through the complex formatting and registering procedure. Note the asterisk in the TX-L32D28BP's manual stating that "some USB HDD may not be registered".
Sound quality, meanwhile, is decidedly average; if you're after a 32-inch super-slim screen, it's best to realise that it's impossible to find one with a decent sound system. It means getting the wallet out for a home cinema or a soundbar - and the TX-L32D28BP's already premium price will preclude that for most.
The high price is worth paying if you're after a particularly special-looking flatscreen TV, though there's a few rough edges to the TX-L32D28BP's user interface. And while picture quality is generally excellent, it's a TV that should be fed Blu-ray and HDTV only - this isn't the all-rounder it should be at this price.