The Panasonic Viera TX-L32E30B is the step-up model from the entry-level Viera TX-L32E3B that we looked at recently. This 32-inch, 1080p TV adds a number of extras, not least of which is its support for online services and media streaming. You can buy it online for around £550, which is pretty reasonable for an LED model.
Panasonic's TVs have sometimes looked boring, but the company seems to be addressing the issue with its 2011 range. The TX-L32E30B is much more aesthetically pleasing than last year's models, with its sharp, angular lines giving it quite a sophisticated look and the brushed-metal finish on the bezel adding a touch of extra class. It's not quite as drool-worthy as some of LG's latest models, but it's a big improvement.
For a 32-inch model, this TV is well equipped in the connections department, with four HDMI ports, and the usual VGA, component, Scart and composite sockets. Digital media playback is also well catered for, as there's an Ethernet socket, along with two USB ports.
The Ethernet socket allows you to stream music, photo and video files across a network from a PC or network-attached storage drive. This worked for us without any problems. Format support is also good, with DivX, Xvid and HD MKV files all playing back without any problems.
The set's Ethernet port is also used for Panasonic's Viera Connect online service, which improves on the company's older Viera Cast platform by adding more content, as well as an app store. The range of content available isn't too bad, as, along with BBC iPlayer, there's also the Acetrax movie-rental service, YouTube, Eurosport News and apps for Facebook and Twitter.
You can play media files from hard drives connected to one of the two USB ports, with the spare USB port designed to accept the optional Wi-Fi dongle.
If you hook up a hard drive to one of these ports, you can also make use of the TV's PVR-style features, recording shows or pausing live TV. But, as the TV only has a single Freeview HD tuner, you can't record one channel while watching another, as you can on a twin-tuner PVR. Nevertheless, it's a fairly neat feature to have.
Unfortunately, as with other Panasonic models, this set uses the Guide Plus+ electronic programme guide, rather than the standard Freeview HD EPG. The big annoyance with Guide Plus+ is that it displays Web-style adverts, which limits the amount of space available to display programming info. We really wish Panasonic would see sense and move away from Guide Plus+ completely.
Many of the slim LED sets we've had in for review have been pretty poor performers in the audio department, mainly because their thin chassis leave little room for adequate speakers. Panasonic has tried to rectify this.
The rear of the set flares out slightly at the bottom, allowing it to house larger speakers. The results are excellent. This set has much deeper bass and more presence in the mid-range that most other 32-inch LED models that we've seen recently.
Thankfully, the sterling audio quality is matched by impressive image quality. Panasonic has used one of its new 1080p IPS Alpha panels as the building block for this TV. The IPS technology offers wider-than-usual viewing angles, and the colours and contrast remain consistent even if you sit at a pretty extreme angle to the TV. This may come in handy when you've got plenty of family members crowding around the set.
Picture-processing duties are taken care of by Panasonic's V-Real Live engine, along with 200Hz scanning and the Intelligent Frame Creation Pro feature, which help to reduce blur and create smoother motion. Although the Intelligent Frame Creation Pro setting should be used with caution and preferably turned off when watching movies -- it can add a flat, video look to films -- the set handles motion remarkably well.
Standard-definition content, including both DVDs and Freeview broadcasts, looks very impressive. This TV manages to sharpen up the images without making them look overly processed.
Slap on a Blu-ray or switch to BBC HD, and you really get to appreciate just how razor-sharp images can look on this set. The colour palette is also very rich and warm, and black levels are deep, which makes watching a movie a real pleasure.
Overall, the Panasonic Viera TX-L32E30B offers very little to complain about. It delivers clean and sharp pictures with bags of rich colour, both from standard- and high-definition sources, and its audio quality is a cut above that of numerous rivals. Add in decent support for media streaming and online video services, and you've got a great TV.
Edited by Charles Kloet