Panasonic Viera TX-L32S20B - Picture Performance

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We might as well use the Resolution Enhancer as a starting point for the main testing phase of this review, by saying that it works pretty well. Switching it to its Mid setting adds a small but welcome degree of extra sharpness to the picture, helping the set avoid the rather soft and mushy look seen with some rival lowish-end 32in TVs. We personally would recommend avoiding the Max setting for the feature, though, as this starts to make the picture look gritty and can emphasise source noise, especially with lower-quality digital broadcasts.


Also helping the L32S20B produce a reasonably likeable standard def picture are its colours, which don’t lose as much vibrancy or tonal accuracy in the shift down from HD as they can with some rival sets.


We’re certainly not suggesting that the L32S20B’s standard definition pictures are anything truly special. We’ve seen sets that reproduce digital broadcasts that look sharper and more dynamic. There’s evidence of motion blur at times, too, despite the 100Hz engine. But the set is still better with standard definition than we might have expected for its money.


Turning to high definition sources lets us get a slightly firmer grip on exactly where the L32S20B sits in the great scheme of LCD things. And it’s not all good news, sadly.


Our biggest problem is a familiar one with Panasonic LCD TVs: a pretty uninspiring black level response. After the impressive black level efforts of a number of the TVs we’ve tested recently, we were struck right away during dark shots – or especially, shots containing a mix of light and dark – by how relatively grey and cloudy dark parts of the picture look. This is even using the provided Cinema preset, designed expressly to boost contrast performance in a darkened room environment.


The L32S20B’s inability to render a really convincing black colour has the predictable secondary effect of leaving the darkest parts of the picture looking empty of the subtle detailing that would help give them a sense of depth.


Given its black level issues, the L32S20B’s colours are actually rather good. Panasonic has made them punchy enough to drive cleanly through the slight lack of contrast, and they can look potent and dynamic, especially when a scene is predominantly bright.


Tones are generally believable and engaging, except for the odd occasion when the TV’s attempts to handle a dark scene suddenly leave colours looking a little washed out – or wan, in the case of skin tones. Personally we found the Cinema preset caused things to look a little washed out too, so while we’d generally recommend this as the best mode to use, don’t be afraid to tweak its colour saturation settings from their starting point.