Like most mainstream brands, Panasonic has made a resolute move into LED backlighting for 2011, bringing LED-lit sets in much lower down its latest range than it did in 2010.
So it is that we find Panasonic’s 32in TX-L32E30B sporting edge LED lighting despite costing just £600 and sitting in the lower half of the brand’s latest Viera TV range. But as regular readers will know, while LED lighting certainly can improve picture quality over CCFL lighting, it’s not an absolute guarantee of better images. So without further ado, let’s get on with finding out exactly what the L32E30B has to offer.
Aesthetically, it’s a definite improvement on previous equivalent Panasonic sets, with a more luxurious finish, a markedly more slender rear, and a subtle but worthwhile ‘designer’ touch in the shape of a smokey grey section in the centre third or so of the bottom edge.
It’s impressively well stocked with connections for its price point too. For as well as a heart-warming four-strong HDMI count, it also has a trio of USB ports (one of which can be used for adding an optional Wi-Fi dongle), an SD card slot, and a LAN port for hardwiring the TV into your home network.
The USBs and SD slot can handle a decent if not exhaustive selection of music, photo and video formats, while the LAN lets you enjoy potential future functionality associated with the L32E30B’s built-in Freeview HD tuner; DLNA connectivity with any compatible networked PC; and access to Panasonic’s new Viera Connect system.
This, as you would expect, is the next generation of the Viera Cast online service found on the past couple of Panasonic TV generations. (In fact, the relevant button on the remote is still labelled Viera Cast!)
But what does the update bring? Potentially a heck of a lot. For a start, it’s now being promoted as an open platform, to encourage the development of more applications. But it will also radically increase the number of online services available, and perhaps most intriguingly, it can expand hardware functionality through an ability to handle such things as health/fitness equipment and game controllers. Naturally, all the new hardware you’ll need will be available via a new on-TV shopping portal, just to make spending your money as easy as possible!
The sort of purchases we’re talking about here will include joysticks, weight scales, heart monitor armbands and even a treadmill!
The whole Viera Connect system is stored on a cloud, making it potentially almost infinitely upgradeable, and as a sign of just how key Viera Connect is in Panasonic’s 2011 strategy, the system will be available on 70 per cent of the brand’s range this year.
Considering how keen Panasonic is to emphasise what a step forward Viera Connect is, though, it’s a little disappointing to find that it’s presented using the same onscreen interface as its predecessor.