With Pioneer now out of the market, Panasonic is arguably the king of the plasma screen. Luckily, Panasonic understands that not everyone wants a monumental telly, so it also produces a broad range of LCD displays. The 32-inch Viera TX-L32G20B, priced at around £650, sits in the middle of Panasonic's current line-up of LCD screens, packing plenty of features.
Touch on the portly side
Like most of Panasonic's mid-range TVs, the TX-L32G20B isn't exactly what you'd call a 'looker'. At 86mm deep, it's quite thick. To make matters worse, Panasonic has lumped it with a bulbous, glossy black surround. The design is given a slight facelift by the bluish tinge that runs across the bottom of the frame, but even this doesn't add much in the way of wow-factor.
The company certainly hasn't skimped on the set's range of connections. Around the back, there are three HDMI ports, with another conveniently side-mounted for connecting camcorders and games consoles. There are two Scart ports along with a set of component inputs, a VGA port and an optical-digital output, so you can feed the audio from the on-board tuners to a surround-sound system. Conveniently, the set has both a Freeview HD and freesat HD tuner, which means you should be able to watch high-definition broadcasts no matter where you live in the UK.
It's no slouch when it comes to digital media, either. There's an SD card slot on the side, two USB ports and an Ethernet socket for hooking the TV up to your broadband connection (there's an optional USB Wi-Fi dongle available if you prefer to go wireless). The USB ports can also be used to record video to a select range of hard drives, but none of the drives we tried were compatible.
Colour my world
The TX-L32G20B totes a 1080p IPS Alpha panel, which benefits from a wider viewing angle than many other LCD screens. This is certainly noticeable if you're sitting off-centre of the screen -- the colours and contrast remain steady rather than washing out or appearing overly dark, as they do on sets with poorer viewing angles. In fact, the set delivers impressively rich colours no matter what angle you view it from.
We're getting used to seeing colours this vibrant on LED TVs, but they're not as common on sets that use traditional CCFL backlighting. Panasonic’s 'Intelligent Frame Creation Pro' and '24p Smooth Film' motion-processing features work well, helping to significantly reduce judder and keep fast motion relatively smooth, although a slight amount of blur does creep in here and there.
Paint it black
While it masters colours beautifully, the set isn't nearly as impressive when it comes to black levels. Darker scenes tend to have a greyish hue to them. This effect is evident even in the set's 'True Cinema' mode, which reduces brightness to deliver more contrastive, filmic pictures. Nevertheless, the backlight is refreshingly consistent, eliminating any blotchiness in darker scenes. The TV's upscaling is excellent and makes even heavily compressed channels like More4 on Freeview look acceptable.
When it comes to audio, the TX-L32G20B's extra girth seems to have played to its advantage. By flat-panel standards, it delivers pretty beefy sound. It still lacks a little low-rend rumble, but it's better in this department than many other 32-inchers we've tested. Its dialogue has great clarity and presence, and it's fairly loud too, with easily enough volume to fill a mid-sized living room.
The Panasonic Viera TX-L32G20B is a fine set that delivers rich, natural colours and has the benefit of twin HD tuners. Even so, we think its current price of £650 is too steep. It's a high price to pay for a 32-inch TV when you can get a 42-inch set with similar specs for much the same outlay. Still, if size does matter and you don't want to go bigger than 32 inches, the TX-L32G20B is a good option.
Edited by Emma Bayly