Panasonic TX-L32E6B review

Pros

  • Multi-screen user interface
  • Impressive picture quality
  • Classy looks

Cons

  • Needs more catch-up TV
  • Weedy sound quality
  • Plasticky build

The TX-L32E6B is the first of Panasonic’s 2013 TVs we have our hands on, giving us a chance to check out the new features and the revamped interface – the big talking point of this year’s range.

This 32in LED set comes from the entry-level E6 series, and is also available in 39in, 42in and 50in screen sizes. The stripped back spec means no 3D support, but you still get a decent range of features including built-in Wi-Fi and smart TV content – making it a tempting proposition for small living rooms or bedrooms.

Design and features

The TX-L32E6B is a remarkably attractive TV despite its entry-level status. The silver bezel surrounding is remarkably narrow and gives the set a fresh modern appearance.

Below the screen is a transparent plastic ridge that complements the silver nicely – it houses a small LED and discreet Panasonic logo. The screen sits on a rectangular silver stand that doesn’t allow the screen to swivel.

Go hands-on and you’ll begin to see where corners have been cut - the bezel and outer trim are plasticky, likewise the stand, but in its favour the set’s metal back-end is solid.

There’s a modest array of connections on the back, including three HDMI inputs, one of which supports ARC. They’re joined by SCART, component and composite inputs and an optical digital audio output.

There’s built-in Wi-Fi, but if you prefer a wired connection you’ll find an Ethernet port on the back. A common interface slot, RF aerial input and two USBs for media playback complete the line-up.

The set’s stand-out feature is the redesigned My Home Screen interface – more on that under the 'Operation' sub-heading. But integral to that is Viera Connect, Panasonic’s Internet content portal. It offers a wide range of apps, covering everything from on-demand movies and catch-up TV to games and social networking.

Quantity-wise, the selection looks pretty good, taking in big-name apps like BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport, YouTube, Dailymotion, Netflix and Eurosport, plus Facebook, Twitter and Skype (which requires Panasonic’s TY-CC20W camera - about £90). Delve into the Viera Market and you’ll unearth tons more, all of which can be downloaded onto the main apps page.

But quality-wise, it’s still disappointing not to see ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 here, all of which are found on Samsung’s latest sets – catch-up TV apps like these are the real reason people buy into Smart TV.

There’s also a web browser and a Social Networking TV widget that places Twitter and Facebook updates in a bar to the side of the picture.

When connected to a network you can control the TV using the Viera Remote2 smartphone app (which boasts a wealth of cool tricks) and stream media from DLNA servers.

Format support includes AVI, XviD, WMV, MP4 and AVCHD, plus MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, WAV and JPEG. It wouldn’t play MKV or DivX over a network, but did from USB memory devices. Unlike sets further up the range, you can’t record Freeview onto USB hard drives.

The set also features a built-in Freeview HD tuner with a seven-day EPG and an IPS LED panel with 100Hz Backlight Blinking to smooth motion and reduce blur.

Operation

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When you first turn on the TV, you’re greeted by Panasonic’s brand new user interface, which blends live Freeview pictures with Internet content in a series of highly attractive menus. It provides a more personalised experience than previous Panasonic TVs, enabling you to create your own home screen and choose what content is displayed.

There’s a series of default screens, each with a different theme – TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen and Info Screen. All of them incorporate picture-in-picture, playing live TV as you explore.

Hit the Home button a couple times and the 'Home Screen Selection' menu allows you to scroll through and choose the one you want.

The TV Home Screen places a scaled-down EPG to the right of the picture, with programme descriptions. The Lifestyle Screen uses a similar layout, except there’s a calendar, clock and AccuWeather.com widget on the right, while the Info Screen places internet bookmarks on the right.

All of the screens have shortcuts to apps and functions along the bottom, but these aren’t set in stone – you can change them to whatever you want.

It might sound complex, but it’s not. The layout for each screen is clear and friendly, with snazzy graphics and slick navigation. Along the top of each screen is a series of colour-coded options – Search, Messages, Tutorial and Settings.

Viera Connect has also been refreshed. It’s a busy-looking menu, crammed with apps and links to the set’s myriad functions, but it’s miles better than the multi-page menu on previous models.

The main bulk of the screen is taken up with icons for downloaded apps, above which are shortcuts to Media Server, Media Player, Web Browser, Main Menu, TV Guide and live TV. Across the top are a couple of ads (boo) and a link to Viera Market where you can download apps or shop for peripherals like Skype cameras and LAN dongles.

Other menus, like the EPG and setup screen, are the same as last year and prove easy to navigate thanks to their straightforward designs and crisp, engaging graphics. Some of them are basic – the grey/yellow media lists in particular – but generally they look great. It also handles like a dream, with smooth menu transitions and fast-moving cursors.

Panasonic’s remote design aims for maximum simplicity. The buttons are large with huge lettering, while the natural layout enables you to navigate without looking at it.

Performance

Picture quality on this small screen is never going to have the same gob-smacking impact as a 55incher, but it’s a very capable performer for an entry-level set – particularly when it comes to high definition material.

Blu-ray pictures are crisp and punchy thanks to the set’s assured detail reproduction. With Drive on Blu-ray, it renders the dusty, sun-drenched LA backdrops with remarkable stability, and easily reveals the patterns and imperfections of human skin during facial close-ups.

This sharpness ensures a truly captivating watch. There’s subtlety and nuance from corner to corner, giving everything a lovely sense of depth. Bright outdoor scenes look wonderfully glossy.

Black levels are impressive too, making dark scenes look solid and filmic. As Ryan Gosling cruises LA at night, the black sky and shadowy alleyways are satisfyingly deep, with practically no backlight bleed to reduce their depth. You never lose sight of the driver’s face and other shadow detail, while bright neon lights forcefully punch into the darkness.

A night-time aerial shot of the cityscape near the start of the movie looks equally stunning – crisp dots of light from skyscraper windows contrast sharply with the inky black of the surrounding shadows.

What’s more, colours are consistently natural and vibrant, plus there are no significant issues with movement – the 100Hz Backlight Blinking comfortably keeps artefacts at bay, even with tricky stuff like football matches. There’s a little blur but nothing that spoiled my enjoyment.

There are plenty of picture tweaks to play with in the setup menu if something doesn’t quite hit the spot, including detailed colour tweaks and a range of presets.

Freeview HD pictures are also terrific, blessed with crisp detail and a life-like colour palette. SD channels also scrub up nicely, although inevitably there’s a drop in clarity and more noise creeps into the picture.

All in all, the Panasonic TX-L32E6B’s pictures are fabulous, and if Panasonic can do this on an affordable set, we can only imagine how much better its larger, pricier sets look.

Sound

Here’s the Achilles' heel. The L32E6 sounds unusually quiet, lacking the power and dynamism to excite. When watching movies, I had to crank it up really high just to hear dialogue and quiet movie scenes, but when I did, midrange and high frequencies started to distort. Needless to say, action scenes are a damp squib too, lacking bass and punch where it counts. Things improve when you activate the surround mode, offering a slightly fuller volume, but it’s still underwhelming. Our advice? Get yourself a soundbar pronto…

Verdict

The TX-L32E6BB is a thoroughly impressive 32in TV, largely thanks to the brilliant new menu system that affords an unusual level of personalisation. Picture quality is superb, Smart TV is cleverly integrated and DLNA streaming works smoothly – plus the set’s striking looks are a bonus for the money. That said, we still think Viera Connect needs more catch-up TV and its sound quality is poor. But if those things don’t bother you, the TX-L32E6BB will be money well spent.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Panasonic TX-L32E6BB

Screen size (inches)

32

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Display tech

LCD IPS

Backlight technology

LED

Digital tuner

Freeview HD

3D ready

No

3D technology

N/A

3D glasses supplied

N/A

2D-to-3D conversion

No

Wi-Fi

Yes, built-in

Online content

Viera Connect

DLNA streaming

Yes

Smartphone control

Yes

Contrast ratio

Not given

Brightness

Not given

Refresh rate

100Hz Backlight Blinking

Speaker power

20W (2 x 10W)

Energy efficiency class

A

Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)

724 x 489 x 207mm

Dimensions (w/o stand, W x H x D)

724 x 434 x 53mm

HDMI

3

Component

1

Composite

1

SCART

1

Digital audio output

1 (optical)

PC input

No

USB

2

SD card slot

No

Ethernet

Yes

CI slot

Yes