If there’s one word that sums up Panasonic’s 2012 so far, it’s "pragmatic". For the Japanese brand has not only given LCD technology as much weight in its latest range as plasma, it has also set aside its previous stridently-voiced distaste for passive 3D and launched no less than five passive sets of its own.
The smallest of these passive sets, the 32in Panasonic L32ET5, is the subject of our attentions today. And this immediately presents us with a potential problem.
The thing is, as we’ve argued before - such as in our recent review of the Sony 32HX753 - we just don’t really "get" 3D on a screen as small as 32in. For us, 3D only really becomes effective when it’s big enough to fill as much of our field of view as possible. And even in a small living room 32in is unlikely to be enough to remotely dominate anyone’s line of sight.
That said, we’re willing to cut passive 3D 32in sets like the Panasonic L32ET5 more slack than we are active ones. For starters, the TV’s passive nature means that it ships with no less than four pairs of glasses included as standard, whereas all but the most high end sets in Panasonic’s active 3D range come with no glasses included at all.
This matters because it immediately makes the L32ET5’s 3D approach a better financial fit for the sort of relatively casual user likely to be buying a 32in TV, since they don't to cough up potentially hundreds of pounds extra for optional active 3D glasses.
Anyone seeking to watch 3D on a 32in TV is also unlikely to be bothered much, meanwhile, by the passive format’s slightly less detailed images versus active ones. And finally, having four pairs of 3D glasses included from the off syncs rather nicely with the set’s potential as a second-room gaming TV, allowing groups of friends to play 3D games together without any further expenditure required.
The passive format also fits well with smaller screen sizes because it tends to make 3D images to look brighter than the active 3D format does, and brightness is almost always an issue with relatively small-screen TVs. Furthermore, passive 3D tends to support wider horizontal viewing angles and is easier to watch in bright light (due to its freedom from flicker), features that again chime perfectly with the relatively casual way in which a 32in TV is likely to be used.
The LG connection
Having defended the Panasonic L32ET5’s 3D abilities, though (without yet getting into its actual 3D performance), their passive nature does mean that Panasonic has had to use LG-sourced panels at the L32ET5’s heart, rather than panels it has produced itself.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; LG has produced some likable TVs of its own already this year. However, LG-sourced panels generally lead to one aggravating flaw that you don’t get with Panasonic’s totally home-grown models, namely input lag figures of around 100ms. Unexpectedly, though, the L32ET5 somehow bucks this annoying trend by delivering a vastly more acceptable input lag figure of just 38ms.