Panasonic may be best known for its superb plasma TVs, but it's also knocked out plenty of impressive LCD sets too. The 32-inch, 1080p Panasonic Viera TX-L32S20B LCD TV has arrived with a Freeview HD tuner just in the time for the World Cup. But, at £650, it's expensive compared to many 32-inch models from other manufacturers. Does its performance justify its price?
No ocular feast
The TX-L32S20B sits near the middle of Panasonic's current LCD line-up. As with many of the company's mid-range models, its design isn't exactly eye-catching. Panasonic has added a slightly textured finish to the bezel, but it looks rather plasticky. The design is made less dull by a pleasant-looking bluish flash across the bottom of the frame.
The TX-L32S20B has a pretty standard array of ports for a 32-inch model. There are two HDMI sockets on the rear, plus an additional one on the side, letting you easily hook up camcorders and other portable devices.
The rear is also home to a component input, as well as two Scart sockets, a VGA connection and a composite video port. There's a USB socket too, but this can only be used to view photos or play a limited range of video file formats from digital cameras. It can't be used to play DivX or MKV files from a portable hard drive, for example. Sadly, although the set has an Ethernet port, unlike higher-end Panasonic models, there's no support for the Viera Cast Internet service or media streaming across a network.
With the World Cup right around the corner, the Freeview HD tuner is a welcome feature -- so far, it allows you to pick up BBC HD, ITV1 HD and 4HD. The set-up process is no different than with a standard Freeview model, as the TV automatically finds the HD channels during its standard channel scan.
Like most Panasonic TVs, the TX-L32S20B uses the Guide Plus+ electronic programme guide, rather than the standard Freeview one. It doesn't look massively different to the normal Freeview EPG, but it does display Web-style adverts in a box on the left-hand side of the screen, which is annoying. Nevertheless, the EPG is easy to navigate via the excellent remote control -- even if the colour scheme and graphics look dull.
Real live flesh
When it comes to picture quality, the TX-L32S20B isn't found wanting. For an LCD TV, it produces surprisingly deep blacks, and colours are beautifully vibrant, while flesh tones look impressively natural. The set is at its best when working with high-definition material such as Blu-ray movies or Freeview HD content.
The TX-L32S20B also deals superbly well with standard-definition content like DVDs and normal Freeview channels. Its picture-processing engine manages to add extra sharpness, while keeping artefacts like jagginess and MPEG mosquito noise to a minimum.
Smaller flat-screen TVs never really excel when it comes to sound quality, as the limited space in the chassis means there's only room for tiny speakers. But the speakers in this set are below-par even by the usual standards. They're fine for watching daytime TV, but they haven't got enough low-end punch to do justice to action movies. The action sequences in X-Men Origins: Wolverine sounded quite weedy even with the bass cranked all the way up.
The Panasonic Viera TX-L32S20B is a good mid-range TV, and its Freeview HD tuner will be a big attraction for football fans now that the World Cup is almost upon us. It's expensive for the range of features on offer, though, and, if you can live without the Freeview HD tuner, you'll get better value from the likes of the Philips 32PFL7404H/12 or Sony Bravia KDL-32V5810.
Edited by Charles Kloet