Panasonic TX-L32E6B £549.99
7th Aug 2013 | 14:24
Slim, fast and fat with features second-room connected TV
It may be the watchword for all television buyers, but smart TV doesn't always find its way down to the 32-inch size. Panasonic's E6 Series is largely a big screen collection combining smart TV and Freeview HD, so to find the same suite of features on the Panasonic TX-L32E6B is a great start.
The key reasons to buy this are three-fold; Viera smart TV, all-round picture prowess, and a lush design.
Let's start with the latter, which certainly makes the Panasonic TX-L32E6B stand out against the competition. The design is called Super Narrow Bezel, and it's just that - a barely-there 6mm (0.2-inch) bezel surrounds the panel on three sides, with the bottom extending to about 11mm (0.4 inches).
Underneath that there's a transparent plastic lip that curves in at the edges, which holds a floating white Panasonic logo at its centre. It's a great look, and the Panasonic TX-L32E6B seems ripe for mounting on a bedroom wall, too, with standard VESA holes on its rear.
Our only concern is that the Panasonic TX-L32E6B's build quality isn't what it could be. It may look like it's built from metal at first glance, but it's actually plastic.
Picture quality isn't exactly reference level, but the Panasonic TX-L32E6B does have all-round skills, with innate smoothness thanks to the native 100Hz LED-backlit LCD panel. We also love its provision of Cinema and True Cinema picture presets that instantly create a cinematic look that's primed for watching movies on a whim, and without the fuss of changing the picture parameters.
With 32-inch TVs now costing very little, what's with the Panasonic TX-L32E6B's premium price of £549.99 (around US$845 / AU$945)? Smart TV, that's what. And though some TV buyers aren't interested - particularly those with a Sky Now TV Box or Virgin Media TiVo set-top box - Panasonic has done a pretty good job of developing its apps.
The core apps everyone is after, such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and YouTube, are all here, plus a host of others.
There are other tempting morsels, too, such as a second screen app that enables you to indulge in some novel two-way exchanges of photos, music and videos between a tablet / smartphone / laptop and the Panasonic TX-L32E6B. That feature - called Swipe & Share 2.0 - also has a web browser embedded within an app that can push websites on to the Panasonic TX-L32E6B's screen.
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Also inside the Panasonic TX-L32E6B is a Freeview HD tuner, two 10W speakers and a trio of HDMI inputs.
The Panasonic TX-L32E6B is the Japanese manufacturer's smallest smart Viera TV by a long way, though it does sell a trio of non app-packed TVs, including the Full HD panel-toting Panasonic TX-L32EM6B (£299), HD-ready Panasonic TX-L32XM6B (£399.99) and HD-ready Panasonic TX-L32B6B (£399.99).
Those wanting to remain in the key E6 Series can go bigger, with Panasonic also selling the 39-inch Panasonic TX-L39E6B (£749.99), the high-ranking 42-inch Panasonic TX-L42E6B (£899.99) and 50-inch Panasonic TX-L50E6B (£1,122.99). There are also white coloured variants in the range.
We genuinely like what Panasonic has done to its smart TV platform in 2013. It all centres on My Home Screen, which is pretty fluid. Various screens - TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen and Info Screen - can be tweaked in terms of design and app content, with shortcuts, links and live TV windows all up for grabs.
Designing them isn't difficult, though we do wonder if anyone will actually create 'Dad's screen' and 'Daughter's Screen'. Is that kind of micro-customisation really needed? Probably not, but it's a very flexible system nonetheless.
All screens have a a live TV thumbnail, which is crucial, as well as detailed and nuanced graphics.
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Apps and widgets can be added to any screen you like, but there is a dedicated page. Along the top are links to the Panasonic TX-L32E6B's widgets - Media Player, Media Server, Viera Link, Web Browser, Main Menu, TV Guide and Live TV - while a two-page grid of apps sits below that far better than the Viera Connect of old.
The app page is certainly influenced by Samsung's Smart Hub. We've got few complaints about the kind of apps on here, though most are info-based rather than video hubs.
The second page is pretty poor, giving icons for widgets such as World Clock, Dates, Calendar and Notes, though if you try to launch any of them you receive a curt reply that says: 'The APP is intended for Home screen usage and must be launched from it'. So customisation is obligatory? That's not very smart at all.
The Freeview HD EPG is still one of Panasonic's problem areas - it's just so drab and spreadsheet-like - but at least it now has a live TV thumbnail, albeit a postage stamp-sized screen hidden away in the corner.
However, it's likely you'll never use it, because My Home Screen contains a scrollable roster of TV channels on the right-hand side that is perfect for seeing what else is on.
If you do need more information on schedules, there is an excellent Rovi TV Listings app available, which could easily be pinned to your Home page.
Incidentally, other apps on the Panasonic TX-L32E6B include BBC News, BBC iPlayer, Eurosport Player (subscriptions needed), YouTube, BBC Sport, iConcerts, Skype, Netflix, Euronews, Dailymotion, EuroSport, CNBC Real-Time, PlayJam Games, SHOUTcast Radio, Aupeo, Chess Challenge, Rovi TV Listings, Social Networking, Facebook and Twitter.
That's not a bad haul, but it's not as good as Samsung's provision of ITV Player, 4OD and Demand 5 - and where's Lovefilm?
On the rear of the set are three HDMI inputs alongside an optical digital audio output, a wired Ethernet LAN port, a set of component video inputs and associated phonos, Scart, and an RF aerial plug to fuel the Freeview HD tuner.
Down the side is a Common Interface slot and two USB slots, one of which can be used to hook up an HDD drive, though recordings from Freeview can't be made. Also on the side - which is nicely recessed to avoid cables poking out - is a headphones jack.
Picture tech choices are limited, but oh so flexible. There is an Adaptive Backlight Control that responds to ambient light to lower the panel's brightness, as well as some excellent preset picture settings, the most important of which are Cinema and True Cinema.
There's also a Custom setting that can be assigned to individual inputs for those willing to delve into the Advanced Settings menu. Inside this is a comprehensive colour management system, a 10-point gamma control and both two-point and 10-point white balance controls.
Picture, sound and value
The Panasonic TX-L32E6B puts on quite some performance, with its pictures' colour, detail and upscaling all impressing us.
All LED-backlit TVs arrive to us in scorch-yer-eyes-out mode, but at least the Panasonic TX-L32E6B makes light work of calibration by providing two excellent picture presets; Cinema and True Cinema, adding a custom mode, too.
It's True Cinema that impressed us during our test Blu-ray disc Life of Pi, largely with its convincing black levels, scintillating colour (truly spot-on natural-looking tones), awesome Full HD detail and a smoothness to fast-moving scenes.
There is the odd blur to some sequences, and the sinking of the ship in the dingy Pacific night does reveal a slight bluish tone if you watch it in a blackout (as well as some evidence of slight LED leakage at the edges), but we're being picky by pointing these out; the Panasonic TX-L32E6B is an excellent performer with HD movies.
The TV's probably best watched with some ambient light on nearby, which constitutes normal viewing conditions in most living rooms.
Those same strengths apply to Freeview HD channels, too, with Blood Diamond on ITV 1 HD displaying tremendous close-up detail and more of that ballistic colour, both of which really open up sequences in the forests, with plenty of brightness on show.
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The Panasonic TX-L32E6B proves a decent upscaler of standard definition-sourced content, too. We did notice some jagged edges around some of the characters in Neighbours, but it was limited, just like our occasional spotting of digital blocking.
Otherwise, the Panasonic TX-L32E6B upscales standard definition fare well, with everything from YouTube videos to DVDs receiving a noise-free treatment that's very involving.
Considering that the Panasonic TX-L32E6B can have music streamed to it from smartphones, tablets and computers, it doesn't do a great job with them. Tunes are detailed, though biased towards the high frequency side, and bass levels can be nudged, but there's little mid-range to plug the gap.
It's actually all fine for daily digital TV duties and the odd movie, though dialogue in the latter can get lost. There are two cures to this issue.
The first is to use the Surround mode, which drags out some background detail and slightly lifts dialogue.
The second is to cut your losses and invest in a dedicated soundbar or similar, to make sure you get the best sound possible.
The Panasonic TX-L32E6B is judged about right, price-wise. With a full price of £549.99 (around US$845 / AU$945) it is expensive for such a small TV - especially these days - though there are few other smarter choices in the 32-inch category.
If you're after a top-end smart TV for your bedroom, then the Panasonic TX-L32E6B has only a few Samsung and LG sets to compete with.
Neither rival brand has as good an app as Viera Remote 2 - especially its Swipe & Share 2.0 features - and it's also hard to beat the Panasonic TX-L32E6B's slender bezel and reliable, versatile picture quality.
Put simply, the Panasonic TX-L32E6B gives you a lot for your money.
The Panasonic TX-L32E6B is one of the easiest TVs to set up and operate, though there are plenty of options for those who want to customise the whole experience.
Unlike most apps for TVs, Panasonic's free Viera Remote 2 app - available for Android or iOS smartphones and tablets - also includes two-way file swaps. Yes, it has a virtual remote screen, gesture control, an app launcher and even a gamepad option for app-based games on Viera Connect, but what most impresses is Swipe & Share 2.0.
Uniquely this is a two-way relationship, so that once the app has found the Panasonic TX-L32E6B sitting on the same home network (wired or Wi-Fi), photos, music and video on your phone or tablet can be selected and played on the TV.
File types are limited to MP3, JPEG and MOV videos, but it works well enough with music and home-produced fare, too. Slideshows and music are the most polished, though video is stable, albeit after about a 10-second wait.
Swipe & Share 2.0 works in reverse, too, enabling you to watch anything on your smartphone or tablet from devices physically attached to the Panasonic TX-L32E6B.
For this review we attached a USB flash drive packed full of digital media to one of the Panasonic TX-L32E6B's two USB slots, and managed to fetch MPEG and MP4-based videos, music and photos.
Of course, this feature would be more handy if the Panasonic TX-L32E6B indulged in making recordings from its Freeview HD tuner to an external HDD. It doesn't do this, but its big sisters do (and in MPEG format). It's impressive nonetheless.
Another dimension to Swipe & Share 2.0 is its use as a web browser that can push web pages to the TV (and thereby circumvent the messy cursor-led controls and awkward text entry of the hard-button remote). It's great for occasionally sharing a website with everything else in the room.
What Viera Remote 2 doesn't have - at least, not when it's used on the Panasonic TX-L32E6B - is second screen skills. There's only one Freeview HD tuner in this TV, so there's no chance that you'll be able to watch other TV channels fed to a phone.
Nor is it possible to engage 'clone' TV channel viewing. Despite that, Viera Remote 2 is probably the most advanced app we've yet seen, especially for a small TV.
Elsewhere, the Panasonic TX-L32E6B handles digital media reasonably well. In our tests from both a docked USB flash drive and from a networked PC we managed to play WAV, MP3, M4A, FLAC and WMA music files.
And while the music plays it's possible to use the Viera Remote 2 app to switch off the TV screen.
The television also managed to play AVI, MKV HD, AVC HD, MPEG-4 and WMV video files.
However, all of these features are only made usable by some fast processing. Menu screens swipe and transit, fold and disappear in milliseconds, while the hard-button remote - complete with large buttons - makes the Panasonic TX-L32E6B one of the easiest TVs to use.
Great pictures, great design and awesome usability - what's not to like about the Panasonic TX-L32E6B, one of the smartest-looking and smartest-acting 32-inch TVs around?
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There are few TVs that look this good, work this quickly, or that have such a likeable smart TV interface. My Home Screen offers a level of customisation that other brands - even Samsung - don't offer, while the choice of apps covers all the major services.
Viera Remote 2 and its Swipe & Share 2.0 features truly impress, though it's the all-round picture prowess on the Panasonic TX-L32E6B that will prove to be the most useful.
Sound is not a highlight on the Panasonic TX-L32E6B, coming out weak. We missed Lovefilm on its app roster too; the Smart Viera user interface might be as slick as any we've yet met, but it does need more UK-centric catch-up TV apps. BBC iPlayer alone is no longer enough.
A fast-working, dependable and great-looking Edge LED TV with a smart TV user interface as impressive as any we've seen, the Panasonic TX-L32E6B is one of the smartest choices for a bedroom or second room that's currently around.
Picture quality isn't quite as impressive as on bigger iterations, such as the Panasonic TX-L42E6B, but it's mighty fine nonetheless, handling all sources with enough care.
The icing on the cake is the free Viera Remote 2 app for smartphones and tablets, and in particular its Swipe & Share 2.0 feature that trade files back-and-forth between mobile devices and the TV. Now that's pretty advanced for a bedroom TV.
If you don't mind the step down from Full HD to an HD-ready resolution, the Samsung UE32F4500 (£310) might be worth a look. Inside is a Freeview HD tuner and Samsung's catch-up TV app-laden Smart Hub. A higher-end version of that is the Samsung UE32F6400 (£470).
Other models to look out for that compare to this Panasonic include the LG 32LN575V (£389) with Full HD and LG Smart World, the Sony KDL-32W654A (£469) with Full HD and Sony internet TV and the Sony KDL-32R423A (£349), which is HD-ready.
Sony is also still selling its KDL-32HX753 (£450) from its 2012 crop of Bravia TVs, which is one of the few 3D TVs available at this size.