There was a time when 32- and 37-inch TVs were the most sought-after. With a massive reduction in TV prices and people wanting larger and larger screens, those days are over. Call us spoilt, but we consider 42 inches to be the smallest TV we'd ever plonk in our lounge these days. The normal rules of society are lost on us geeks, so you might prefer a smaller telly -- and Panasonic thinks it might have a TV relevant to your interests.
The Viera TX-L32D25 is an LED-illuminated, 32-inch LCD TV. It costs around £900 or so, at the time we put key to Web page. That's quite the pricey 32-inch telly, especially when you consider you can get one of last year's Sony Bravia TVs for less than £400. That's not fair on the Panasonic, as it has many more features, but we can't help but think people looking to save money will see 32 inches and assume these smaller TVs are much of a muchness.
A style of its own
The L32D25 looks unconventional to say the least. The back of the TV is finished in a standard silver, as is the remote. But the front of the TV is a total departure -- a deep brown colour that no doubt sounds unappealing, but trust us, it looks much better. In fact, we really like how this TV looks. It's certainly encouraging to see the usually conservative Panasonic depart from its normal, boring, piano-black design.
This TV is also extremely thin and light, which makes it ideal for wall-mounting, if you're a little short of space, or simply want something compact for a study or bedroom. The LED backlight means the TV is thinner than most of Panasonic's previous generation of LCD TVs. It all adds to the super styling, which we're really rather sold on.
It doesn't get much attention any more, but the viewing angle of your TV will seriously affect the picture quality, especially if you have an unusually shaped lounge, and can't sit directly in front of your TV. The Panasonic features an IPS Alpha panel, which is designed for wider than average viewing angles.
Everybody needs good Neighbours
Sound performance was varied on the material we tested. On Neighbours, we could hear every word quite clearly, but when we switched over to Deal or No Deal, we found the audio rather more muddled. It was never dreadful though, and a TV of this size is unlikely to be used as the centrepiece of a home-cinema system. External speakers of some kind will always add a great deal to the experience of watching TV, however small it is.
The L32D25 features Panasonic's trademark dual satellite and terrestrial tuners. Freeview HD and freesat have been covered in detail by us before, so we won't go into the nitty-gritty of them again. But it's great to see Panasonic fitting both tuners to its TVs across such a large swathe of its range. You'll get BBC HD, ITV1 HD and 4HD at no extra cost, which makes this an ideal candidate for the upcoming World Cup, which will be broadcast in HD.
The picture quality of Freeview HD and standard Freeview will obviously vary greatly. BBC HD can look stunning on this TV, however, with some of the preview loop clips really jumping out of the screen at you. Other shots lack this depth, but still have a decent amount of detail. HD demo material that will blow you away includes Lark Rise to Candleford and the most recent incarnation of Doctor Who, which is shot on high-end, cinema-grade cameras, and looks divine.
The small size of this TV, and its ability to accept 1080p video, means that Blu-ray looks as sharp as a razor, and there is plenty of detail in movies on the HD format. The TV is slightly too small to really make HD movies come alive, but the decent picture will keep gamers in particular happy. This TV is exceptionally well suited as a second TV, or perhaps for a teenager looking to get a first bedroom TV. Any teenager with aspirations of buying one of these will need to be seriously well-off to afford one, of course. That'd be quite some paper round.
We tested Casino Royale with the screen, and we're very impressed by the picture quality. The grain found on the Blu-ray is left intact, giving a picture that's as the director intended. Colour is bright and vivid, without being too overwhelming. While Freeview pictures sometimes lack detail in brightly coloured items, the same isn't so true for HD, giving a much more pleasant viewing experience.
Internet video ahoy
Panasonic includes its VieraCast Web service too, which means you can plug in an Ethernet cable and watch video clips from sites including YouTube and DailyMotion. There's also Picasa, which can be used to enjoy your photo slideshows -- or inflict them on your relatives.
The most exciting thing about VieraCast is its potential to provide video from services such as iPlayer and LoveFilm. At the time of writing, neither service is available, nor have either been announced as being on the way. We hope this changes, because they're the perfect fit for a modern TV like this.
One extra offered by this TV, but not up and running as we tested it, is Skype calling. We've seen this demoed a couple of times now, and it's rather good -- especially for families keeping in touch with people all over the world. All you need is an optional USB camera from the Skype online store, and you can chat live to people anywhere.
Features like this are superb additions to TVs, and bring the magic of video conferencing to the home. Just imagine -- you can have access to the same technology as Jack Bauer does in 24. The president of the United States is unlike to want to Skype with you, but even so, you can dream.
There's nothing here to hate. The price is at best high and at worst absurd. We do think it earns its crust though, by having far more features than most of its competitors. LED backlighting, Freeview and freesat HD, and VieraCast are all premium additions that don't come cheap. If you don't need them, by all means look elsewhere, and save yourself some cash.
Overall, it's a yes from us for the Panasonic Viera TX-L32D25. It's not perfect, and we'd rather have a larger plasma, but for second rooms or bedrooms, it's a terrific little TV.
Edited by Nick Hide