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Panasonic TX-L32ET5 review

TV & AVReviews
8/10
, 17 Jan 2013Reviews
Panasonic TX-L32ET5 review

This 32in set hails from Panasonic’s only range of passive 3D TVs, the ET5 series. This technology enables you and the family to experience 3D at a much lower cost than an active 3D TV, thanks to the cheaper glasses – four pairs of which are supplied in the box.

Aside from 3D it’s a generously specced set, offering 'smart' TV features, DLNA media streaming and a Freeview HD tuner.

Design and features

The TX-L32ET5’s build quality is vastly superior to most budget 32in TVs – certainly those from little-known supermarket brands – and it’s more stylish to boot. The bezel isn’t exactly slim but the alluring bluish/grey colour is a refreshing change from gloss-black, and it’s surrounded by a tasty transparent trim. Being an LED-backlit LCD TV, it’s nice and slim with a rear fashioned from robust aluminium as opposed to plastic.

All of the connections on the back either face sideways or downwards, which is helpful if you want to wall-mount it.

Down the side you’ll find four HDMI inputs, the accepted minimum these days, plus three USB ports and an SD card slot.

The downward-facing sockets include a SCART input, component, composite and PC inputs, optical digital audio output and an Ethernet port.

The TX-L32ET5 is small in size but big on features, which include the Viera Connect Internet portal and the aforementioned DLNA media streaming. These can be accessed either through the Ethernet connection or, more impressively, through the built-in Wi-Fi adapter.

Viera Connect offers such online delights as BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, Skype, BBC News, BBC Sport, Acetrax, AUPEO!, iConcerts, CNBC, Dailymotion, Eurosport, Euronews, SHOUTcast, Facebook, Twitter and more. It’s a decent selection but once again I’d like to see more catch-up TV services like ITV Player and 4OD, as they’re the reason most people use online portals.

There’s a wealth of other apps in the Viera Market, including games, social networking sites, plus stuff for kids and fitness freaks. You’ll even find a shopping section where you can buy accessories like game controllers, Skype communication cameras, 3D glasses and wireless keyboards. This is a nice touch, something not offered by many of Panasonic’s rivals.

You’re not only limited to Viera Connect’s Internet content though, as there’s a built-in web browser too. As per usual, using the remote to browse websites or enter text isn’t ideal (it’s easier with a wireless keyboard) but to be fair it’s not quite as cumbersome as some TVs, thanks to the speed at which it skips between links and loads pages.

The Media Server (accessed through the handy Viera Tools menu) lets you browse networked servers for music, video and photos, as well as streaming programmes from network-ready Panasonic recorders.

It works quickly and files are easy to find thanks to the logical menu layout, but it wouldn’t play my DivX or MKV files over a network, only via USB. It plays AVCHD, AVI, WMV and XviD, as well as MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC and JPEG. Files can also be played back from an SD/SDXC card.

Also on the feature list is a Freeview HD tuner with a week-long EPG, 2D-to-3D conversion and a whole host of image tweaks in the setup menu, including noise reduction, Intelligent Frame Creation (to reduce motion blur), Contrast Automatic Tracking System (auto brightness), Vivid Colour and picture presets (Dynamic, Cinema, True Cinema, Normal and Game). In the advanced picture settings you can adjust white balance and gamma level.

The set also achieves an effective refresh rate of 300Hz using a combination of 100Hz processing and backlight scanning. It’s worth pointing out that the set isn’t equipped with dual-core processing like some of Panasonic’s higher-end sets so there’s none of that multi-tasking malarkey.

Operation

Its menus may lack the style and pizzazz of an LG or Samsung set but I’ve always enjoyed the sheer logic and useability of Panasonic’s GUIs – after all, practicality is more important than presentation.

The main menu uses a row of icons on the left hand side, split into the usual sections (picture, sound, network, timer, setup), with the corresponding submenu to the right. There are no fancy animations or cartoony background graphics – just clear, responsive and easy-to-follow lists.

Other menus, like Viera Tools and the contextual ‘Options’, are equally clear, providing quick access to key functions.

One criticism of the GUI concerns Viera Connect. The apps are split over several screens and not displayed all at once, which feels long-winded when you move through them. However, you can arrange the apps how you like, so at least you can put your favourites on the first page.

Like the other menus, the EPG (shown above) is neatly laid out, making it easy to browse the schedules. The programme grid shows seven channels at a time over a two-hour period, leaving plenty of room inside each ‘block’ for the full programme name. There are shortcuts above and below the grid, allowing you to search by genre or filter the channels. It does, however, feel like the screen space isn’t being used efficiently – there’s room for a synopsis or live TV screen. Also disappointing is that the onscreen Freeview banner only shows now and next information for each channel.

The remote is a classic Panasonic affair, with its customary rubbery buttons, large lettering and logical layout. It’s the sort of remote that lets you navigate menus and perform other basic tasks without looking – always a bonus.

If it doesn’t quite hit the spot then you can use your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet running the free Viera Remote app.

Performance

When watching the Panasonic’s 2D pictures, the thing that immediately jumps out is their richness and density. The small screen is an advantage, but even so its images seem deeper and punchier than many 32in sets we’ve tested.

This wonderful picture solidity is most noticeable when using the Cinema preset, the best of the bunch for movie lovers. It provides a perfect balance of contrast and brightness that makes film material look instantly cinematic (although some may find it a little on the gloomy side for Freeview programmes).

The Dark Knight Rises on Blu-ray really shows off what the set is capable of. The almost constant gloom would pose a problem for many 32in sets but the ET5 tackles the night scenes and murky interiors competently. It’s not quite as assured with blacks as Panasonic’s higher end sets, losing definition in some dark background areas, but it’s still good enough to put many 32in sets to shame.

An aerial shot of Gotham’s skyscrapers is a joy, with well-defined buildings peppered by hundreds of bright, pin-sharp lights in the windows. There’s very little backlight leakage – a patch of glowing light is visible in the lower left corner but it’s not distracting at all – and with the IPS LED panel at play you don’t lose definition from wide viewing angles. Top stuff.

This excellent black depth in turn lays the foundation for the set’s rich, sumptuous colours. Scenes in broad daylight, such as the stunning sequence at the football stadium, are truly dazzling, with the yellows and oranges of the players’ kits sizzling from the screen. Close-ups reveal smooth shading within skin and other subtle tones.

There’s also an abundance of detail in the picture – the ornate surroundings of Wayne Manor will keep you entranced.

Turning to 3D, some readers might wonder if there’s any point watching 3D on a 32in set but I’m happy to report that there is. In fact, the small screen glosses over some of the inherent flaws of the passive system, such as the lower resolution and jaggies – I simply didn’t think about it while watching, and the sort of buyer this set’s aimed at probably won’t either.

That leaves you to enjoy the set’s bright, natural-looking pictures that pull you into the action. What’s more the glasses are comfortable to wear for long periods and don’t dim the picture as much as active shutter glasses.

We’re also impressed by the set’s Freeview performance. Hi-def channels look bold and intricately detailed, while SD channels are bright, punchy and not overburdened with the usual grubbiness associated with Freeview pictures. Again that’s probably because the smaller screen is more forgiving on digital TV nasties but even so these are top-drawer Freeview pictures.

Keep Intelligent Frame Creation at the Low or Mid setting and detail holds steady during fast-moving sports broadcasts, with no obvious motion blur.

Sound

The ET5 sounds surprisingly good. There’s a reasonable amount of bass underpinning Bane’s crunching blows during The Dark Knight Rises’ boisterous fight scenes, while the villain’s eerie voice cuts through with unusual clarity.

There’s a nice balance to the sound and treble is smooth. Rainy scenes sound expansive with the V-Audio Surround mode engaged, outputting the hissing high frequencies crisply. It does strain and crackle slightly at louder volumes with the score’s loud brass notes but by usual LCD TV standards it’s not bad at all.

Verdict

The TX-L32ET5 is an impressive 32in TV. Its passive 3D pictures are suitably immersive, with the smaller screen lessening some of passive 3D’s inherent flaws. 2D movies boast terrific depth and solidity, coupled with blur-free motion, razor-sharp detail and rich colours. Panasonic’s larger, higher-end sets reproduce dark scenes with greater clarity but considering the size and price, the 32ET5 is an impressive performer. There’s also a wealth of features to get your teeth into, while its stylish design is easy on the eye – all of which makes this another TV triumph for Panasonic.

Specifications

Manufacturer and model

Panasonic TX-L32ET5

Screen size (inches)

32

Resolution

1,920 x 1,080

Backlight technology

Edge LED

Picture engine

Smart Viera Engine Pro

Digital tuner

Freeview HD

3D ready

Yes

3D technology

Passive

3D glasses supplied

Yes x 4

2D-to-3D conversion

Yes

Wi-Fi

Yes

Online content

Viera Connect

DLNA streaming

Yes

Smartphone control

Yes

Contrast ratio

Not given

Brightness

Not given

Refresh rate

300Hz backlight scanning

Speaker power

2 x 10W

Energy efficiency class

A

Dimensions (with stand, W x H x D)

764 x 519 x 230 mm

Dimensions (without stand, W x H x D)

764 x 473 x 52mm

HDMI

4

Component

1

Composite

1

SCART

1

Digital audio output

1 (optical)

PC input

1

USB

3

SD card slot

Yes

Ethernet

Yes

CI slot

Yes

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