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(Pocket-lint) - It’s gotta be LED, right? Unless you’re the vain type and only after the slimmest screens around, the trend to LED-backlit LCD TVs is one to be avoided if this 32-incher is anything to go by. Part of Panasonic’s X20 Series, the TX-L32X20 trades all-new LED backlighting for a distinctly out of favour CCFL-lit panel. It’s a feature that sees this set “balloon” to over 8cm in depth, but if you can live with that it also manages to out-perform a lot of its LED-clad rivals.

It does so largely because it uses an IPS Alpha panel, for several years considered the solution to the age-old problems of tight viewing angles and LCD TV technology’s inability to reproduce contrast-heavy images. It’s been overtaken somewhat by LED backlighting of late, but purely on contrast and the width of the viewing angle, the difference between a budget LED model and the TX-L32X20 is minimal.

Something else that might put you off the TX-L32X20 is its lack of Full HD resolution, though its HD Ready status does guarantee a much cleaner, clearer picture from standard definition sources, such as images from its integrated Freeview tuner.

Which brings us on to another of the TX-L32X20’s cost-cutting exercises: there’s no Freeview HD tuner inside, meaning the likes of BBC One HD, ITV 1 HD and BBC HD will have to be pumped in from a separate set-top box. We’re convinced that a DVB-T2 tuner will quickly become standard issue in the flatscreen TV market, but for now it’s nice not to have to pay for it; Freesat, Sky or Virgin Media users will save themselves a few quid.

What the TX-L32X20 does have, in common with almost every Panasonic TV we’ve ever seen, is a SD card slot (which plays AVC HD files from camcorders, as well as JPEG photos), while the company’s V-Real 5 suite of picture optimising circuitry is also welcome - though it’s not the very latest version. 

One small drawback is the provision of just two HDMI inputs on the set’s rear panel, which could cause anyone with a games console, HDTV box and Blu-ray player some problems. There’s a third HDMI input on a side panel to lessen the blow, beside a Common Interface slot for subs TV viewing cards.

The GuidePlus+ interface used on Panasonic TVs isn’t exactly a joy to use, with rudimentary “interactive” adverts anything but.

What the TX-L32X20 does have in spades is image quality. So rare at this low price, this 32-inch LCD TV presents HD pictures that are solid, precisely detailed and stuffed with contrast for rich blacks and more power to bright colours. An excellent set of expanded preset picture modes helps create a cinematic picture whatever the source, with standard definition channels from Freeview also coming up trumps.

A wide viewing angle sees contrasty areas of the image remain, while fast moving sequences don’t cause much blue or resolution loss.

Sound quality is acceptable, with V-Audio dealing reasonably well with movie soundtracks, though V-Audio Surround causes too much separation.

To recap

There’s no Freeview HD tuner, Full HD resolution or LED backlighting, but all that is reflected in the astonishingly low price. Don’t follow the crowd and head for suped-up LCD instead of LED, and you’ll discover the best picture-per-pound performance around on this versatile set. It you can live with core features and standard definition Freeview only, there are few better around

Writing by Jason Denwood.