Another surprise for the Panasonic TX-L32X5B’s money is that it uses edge LED lighting rather than an old-school single-source CCFL illumination system. This really does show just how much LED lighting has now taken over the LCD world.
Heading into the Panasonic L32X5B’s rather drab menus, it’s not exactly shocking to find precious few interesting features to muck around with. There’s a ‘Vivid Colour’ colour booster, a multi-level noise reduction system, a handful of picture presets, and that’s about it really. Amusingly, heading into an Advanced Settings menu reveals just one further feature: the option to turn off overscanning. Quite why Panasonic should bother with a sub-menu containing just one feature rather than simply including that feature directly in the main menu is anyone’s guess.
While not having many picture adjustments is obviously acceptable on a very cheap TV, there is one absent feature that we really did miss: a backlight adjustment. Pretty much every other TV brand includes one of these on even its cheapest TVs, and it’s actually become our single most-used picture tweak.
Fears of a pictorial disaster on the Panasonic TX-L32X5B thankfully prove largely unfounded. Right away, for instance, we were impressed by the apparent contrast and dynamism of its images. Brightness output seems high by budget TV standards, yet it’s also controlled, in that very bright parts of pictures don’t ‘flare out’.
Colours are richly saturated and vibrant, and it’s immediately obvious that they’ve been calibrated to suit video rather than PCs, avoiding the overcooked look you tend to have to wrestle with on budget TVs. HD sources look reasonably sharp and detailed too, albeit not as emphatically so as on Panasonic’s higher-level LCD TVs (which isn’t surprising, really, given that the L32X5B only has a 1366 x 768p native resolution rather than a full HD one).
Finally, and most surprising of all, relatively straightforward material such as a Sky News feed seems to benefit from a quite good contrast range. This is surprising for two reasons. First, an inability to produce a convincing black colour is customarily one of the biggest weaknesses of the budget TV world. Second, not being able to produce convincing black levels is actually the key weakness of Panasonic’s high-end WT50 range and Panasonic TX-L47DT50 models. So it would be ironic to say the least if the humble Panasonic TX-L32X5B delivers the black level goods.