There are plenty of smaller TVs on the market aimed at people who want a second set for the bedroom or living room, or even those who don't want a massive TV in their front room (apparently they do exist).
However, many small-screen sets use ageing technology and older panels and as a result their picture quality tends to be severely compromised.
Panasonic's 24-inch Viera TX-L24E3B promises better pictures than most, so does its image quality justify the price tag of around £330, which is high for a smaller display?
User interface and EPG
This set uses pretty much the same user interface as Panasonic's larger TVs. This has both good and bad points. On the negative side, the menus look quite dated. They lack the snazzy graphics and slick animations that you now get on even cheaper models from Samsung and LG, which both lead the way when it comes to the menu systems on today's TVs.
Instead, when you press the menu button on the TX-L24E3B's remote, you're presented with static dull menus that show white text against a blue and black background. However, what they lose in presentation pizzazz they make up for in simplicity. The layout of the menus is so straightforward that it really is very quick and easy to get to the core settings that you need to tweak.
There's a good range of picture presets on offer, with the True Cinema mode being the most accurate of the bunch. If you want to tweak these presets you can adjust settings such as contrast, brightness, colour and sharpness. There's no facility for tweaking individual colours, although we wouldn't necessarily expect this on a TV of this screen size.
There are limited controls for some of the slightly more advanced picture features, such as the Vivid Colour setting, for adding more oomph to colours. There's also noise reduction, which tries to suppress image noise and flicker, and the resolution enhancer, which attempts to boost the apparent resolution of standard-definition images.
The electronic programme guide (EPG) for the onboard Freeview HD tuner is a let down though. It uses the Guide+ Plus system that reserves some space on the left-hand side of the screen for web-style adverts. The presentation of the EPG is drab too. That said, it does at least display quite a lot of programming data on one screen and the filtering and search features are also good.
We got excited when we took a look around the back of the TV -- nestled between the various AV connections is an Ethernet port. Unfortunately, this turns out to be pretty much redundant and only seems to have been added because it's part of the minimum specification for Freeview HD. Sadly, the set doesn't support any online services, such as the BBC's iPlayer, that you get on Panasonic's higher-end models. It also doesn't allow you to stream media files across a network from a PC.
Another disappointment, especially considering this model's slightly higher asking price, is the absence of a USB port. This is a shame, as even cheaper own-branded TVs from Currys now come with USB ports for media playback. They also usually allow you to record TV shows directly to memory keys via simple video recorder features.
What this set does have, though, is an SD card slot. Panasonic was one of the early backers of SD memory cards, so perhaps it's no surprise that it favours this format. When you plug an SD card into the slot on the side of the TV it automatically starts up the media viewer.
This can also be accessed by pressing the Viera Tools button on the remote. Unfortunately, file support is very limited. The set only allows you to view JPG pictures, listen to music in MP3 or AAC format, and view videos in AVCHD, MP4 or MOV formats. It doesn't support DivX or Xvid files, nor HD MKV files.
The media viewer is quite basic, but it does allow you to create slide shows of your photos with a soundtrack either of the smooth jazz loops built into the set, or an MP3 file of your choosing.
Although the SD Card player will be handy for some to have, especially those with Panasonic camcorders, we can't help wishing that Panasonic had included its Viera Connect Internet TV platform on this TV and also added a USB port with support for more common video formats, especially as the cost of the set is relatively high for the screen size.
Design and connections
The TX-L24E3B is perhaps not a stand-out when it comes to style, but it's a neat-looking set with a pleasing, glossy black finish and a fairly narrow bezel surrounding the screen. As it uses LED edge backlighting, it's slimmer than most. At the edges it measures just 30mm deep, but towards the middle increases to 46mm to house the electronics.
The set's remote is also rather good. It's long and reasonably slender, with large buttons that feel nice and responsive under your finger tips. It feels solidly built too, so it should stand up to being dropped on the odd occasion.
All the TV's connections are mounted on a panel on the rear. There's a full-sized Scart socket, set of component inputs, VGA connector and two HDMI ports. There's also an Ethernet port and both analogue and digital optical audio outputs.
Meanwhile, on the left-hand side, there's another panel containing the SD card slot, CAM slot and a headphone jack. It would have been nice to have had another HDMI port here, but unfortunately you have to make do with just the two connectors on the rear.
As this is an LED screen, the chassis is considerably thinner than most of the other smaller TV's that we get in for review. However, it's not exactly as wafer thin as some larger LED TVs. This is because the limited surface area of the display means that there's a considerable amount of electronics to cram into a small space.
As a result, the TV bulges out towards the middle of the set. However, this has at least given Panasonic more room to play with for the speakers.
Although the TX-L24E3B isn't extremely loud -- you have to push the volume up quite a lot to fill a larger bedroom or kitchen -- it does at least sound far less tinny than many other small LED TVs that we've reviewed. What's more, there's an 8-band graphic equaliser to be found in the audio menu that lets you bump up the bass level.
Once you've tweaked the settings, you'll find that this model really can produce decent audio. Its strong mid-range performance in particular helps dialogue to sound quite crisp and rich for such a small model.
Panasonic has also added a simple surround mode that's switchable between V-audio and V-audio Surround modes, with the latter doing a good job of spreading out the soundstage to make the results seem more expansive.
This model uses LED edge backlighting and a full HD panel, which is still a little unusual to see on a screen of this size. Are all those extra pixels wasted on such a small screen? Definitely not, because this TV looks incredibly rich and detailed when tuned to BBC HD via its Freeview HD tuner, or when displaying movies from Blu-ray discs. Standard-definition pictures were also nicely upscaled to the screen's native resolution.
Using the TV's True Cinema preset, colours looked warm and lush and skin tones had a natural sheen. Contrast performance was also top notch, with darker scenes not descending into the mess of black that we're used to seeing on small screens.
This model doesn't have any of Panasonic's extra motion processing onboard, and there is some smearing during steady camera pans. However, it's far better in this regard than many other small screen models we've seen. Black levels were relatively good too. Although there is some pooling of light around the edges of the display due to the LED edge backlighting, it wasn't all that noticeable during normal viewing conditions.
Overall, the TX-L24E3B is one of the better performing small screen TVs that we've seen. Images have improved contrast and more natural-looking colours than its cheaper rivals. However, given the set's slightly higher price, we think the absence of Panasonic's Viera Connect Internet TV platform is a missed opportunity.