Panasonic Viera TX-L32G20B review
Compared to Panasonic's 32in LED TV, the TX-L32D28BP, the plainer TX-L32G20B is comparatively inexpensive. However, £780 is still a heck of a lot of cash for a 32in LCD TV.
Unlike the D28, the G20 doesn't have an LED backlight - it has traditional fluorescent tubes. It's a little chunkier at 90mm deep and not nearly as attractive, being clad in plain-looking black plastic. However, internally, the two are virtually identical.
They both have Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, plus a pair of USB ports for connecting an optional webcam for Skype video calls, a WiFi dongle for Viera Cast services, a USB keyboard for entering text or a hard disk for recording programmes.
Recording programmes (including the HD channels) is a useful bonus feature as it means you don't need to splash out on an expensive Freeview or Freesat HD PVR to go with your new TV. It also means you can pause and rewind live TV, another huge bonus if you're used to this luxury with standard definition TV.
Naturally, there are limitations of what you can do with the hard disk. Although you can schedule programmes to record even if the TV is put into standby mode, the G20 won't record a Freeview show if you're watching a Freesat channel and vice versa. If you're serious about recording shows and want rock-solid stability, a dedicated PVR will serve you better.
An SD card slot and USB port are set into the side of the TV. These allow you to plug in a card, flash drive or hard disk and view JPEG slide shows, listen to MP3s and watch videos in a number of formats including AVCHD and DivX HD, but not MKV. DLNA support means you can also stream these formats from a compatible server on your local network.
The media interface (Viera Image Viewer) is reasonably good - at least as easy to navigate as a decent media streamer - and we were happy with the TV's responsiveness when showing photos and rewinding or fast-forwarding videos.
What's not so impressive is the lack of new content in Viera Cast. Apart from the introduction of Skype and Daily Motion there's little of interest and Panasonic's portal is rapidly falling behind the likes of Sony, which now has iPlayer, Demand Five and LoveFilm streaming. However, don't forget that you can still access iPlayer thanks to the Freesat tuner. Although the content is streamed via your Broadband connection, you'll still need a satellite dish hooked up in order to browse and watch iPlayer programmes.
Fortunately, Panasonic has opted for the better-quality IPS type of LCD panel for the G20. This means viewing angles are excellent, and colours remain true even if you're sitting at the most obtuse angle. There are several viewing modes, from Dynamic with its vivid colours, to True Cinema, which removes as much video processing as possible to display the colours as the movie director intended. A game mode also does away with processing to eliminate any delay and increase responsiveness.
Motion is good, too, thanks to Intelligent Frame Creation Pro which adds extra frames to the incoming video signal. The only time it slipped up was the occasional flicker or shimmer as it struggled with complex textures such as foliage. There are various settings, from Off to Max, so you can select your preferred level for the particular video input.
Contrast is fairly good, although in our tests, we weren't able to see as much detail in shadows as we'd have liked. In scenes such as our test sequence of a night sky with bright stars, the whites weren't quite as sparkling as with Panasonic's plasma models, and blacks weren't as deep.
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