Panasonic Viera TX-L32E30B
32in, Freeview HD, analogue, 1,920x1,080 resolution, 3D: no, 4x HDMI
While we've been big fans of Panasonic's plasma TVs, we've never been quite so enamoured with the LCD models; having found them to lag behind the competition in both quality and looks. This year, things could be different as Panasonic has completely overhauled its range.
The Viera TX-L32E30B that we have on review here is the first TV from Panasonic that we've seen to use the new IPS Alpha panel. This 32in side-LED backlit TV promises greater contrast ratios, deeper blacks and better motion than previous models, so we were dead keen to try it out. This model is also available in 37in (TX-L37E30B) and 42in (TX-L42E30B) sizes, using the same type of panel, though we can't guarantee that image quality will be identical.
First impressions were very good, and we have to say that it's a fairly attractive TV. With the bezel sliding from black to metallic-grey in the middle, there's enough to make it look stylish without being too overtly in your face. There are no visible buttons on the front, although a dedicated power switch, volume and channel buttons are on the right-hand side.
Jumping straight into our Blu-ray tests we were immediately impressed with the new panel. Firing up Casino Royale, we were struck with the opening black and white scene. For an edge-lit display, there was a truly impressive contrast ratio, with the blacks looking deep and the whites bright and vibrant. There's not quite as much detail in the darkest part of the image as with the top-end plasma TVs or local-dimming LED models, but it's close.
Moving to a colour scene there's plenty of options for configuration depending on how you like your image. With the Cinema or True Cinema preset modes selected, colours become more realistic and scenes have a bit more grit to them. Switch to the Dynamic mode and you get super-vibrant colours and a brightness than almost hurts, giving movies a completely different feel. Ultimately, it's up to you which mode you prefer, but the fact that the TV can cope with both certainly gives options.
As well as improving contrast, the IPS Alpha panel has quoted viewing angles of 178 degrees horizontal and vertical. We found that if we were side on the colours appear slightly faded, but from every reasonable viewing angle in a lounge you'll get perfect colours. It's a 200Hz panel, although backlight scanning (called backlight blinking here) further helps improve movement. Combined with the intelligent frame creation (IFC), which creates extra frames, we found that movement was smooth and natural.
It's one of the best frame creation engines we've seen, even coping well with difficult scenes, such as objects moving behind wire fences. On other TVs we've seen this kind of scene cause motion artefacts. Purists that want to watch their films in the original 24fps will be pleased that IFC can be turned off.
The IPS Alpha panel and LED backlight really come into their own with power consumption. Watching Casino Royale we measured power usage of just 44W, which is hugely impressive and means you should be able to save a chunk off your electricity bill.