A couple of weeks back we looked at Panasonic’s entry level 42in LCD model, the L42E3B, and were frankly less than impressed, finding it neither good enough nor cheap enough to be a remotely compelling buy.
So it’s fair to say that hopes weren’t high as we started unboxing the L42E3B’s smaller brother, the L32E3B. Surely the same problems that plagued the L42E3B would also afflict the smaller model?
Obviously, it looks the same (except for being smaller!). In other words, it’s impressively slender round the back thanks to its edge LED lighting, and features a reasonably attractive fascia that combines gloss black with a little ‘layer’ of grey along the lower side of the bottom edge. The bezel is quite narrow too. All in all, it’s not a bad looking 32in TV at all, despite not having the finish quality of the step-up E30 series.
Connectivity is just about adequate for the sub-£500 32in market, with highlights comprising three HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port, and a LAN port. However, there are brands out there that also offer at least one USB port for the L32E3B’s money and it quickly becomes apparent that the LAN port is only there because the set’s in-built Freeview HD tuner demands it. It doesn’t offer access to either Panasonic’s Viera Connect online service or files stored on networked PCs.
Before we get too hung up on extra stuff the L32E3B might ideally have offered for its money, though, it’s worth remembering that it is driven by edge LED technology rather than the CCFL system usually favoured at the L32E3B’s sort of price level. This in itself has the potential to deliver significant performance benefits - especially as the L32E3B is built around one of Panasonic’s IPS Alpha panel designs.
This latter fact is actually particularly notable, as the L42E3B was NOT built using an IPS Alpha panel. This is a fairly extreme example of the sort of panel-sourcing quirks that quite often exist at different sizes within the same flat TV range - and it’s just one of the reasons (along with differing response times and, especially, backlight uniformity) why we try where we can to test different sizes of the same series.
The fact that the L32E3B has an IPS Alpha panel shows that it should support wider-angle viewing than the L42E3B, and deliver a richer colour response. Plus it shows that it’s rolled off Panasonic’s latest production lines, and so could also benefit from better response times.