FOR Good contrast; decent definition; easy to use AGAINST Blacks could go deeper; limited connectivity
Here at What Hi-fi? we’ve become accustomed to testing the latest Ultra HD 4K TVS, so the arrival of an old-fashioned HD Ready TV with 32in screen comes as a bit of a shock to the system. With the £500 TX40DX600B, Panasonic has shown it can combine a 4K picture with an affordable price tag, but it’s heartening to discover the company seems to put just as much effort into its basic, smaller screens.
Panasonic’s TX32DS500B doesn’t impress on paper: it’s a 32in screen, has an HD Ready resolution (it will accept 1080p videos, but won’t display them natively) and costs just £300. But it’s a surprisingly likeable, easy-to-use TV with a compelling picture. It even has Netflix and all the catch-up TV apps.
Dark shadowy corners
But first, let’s get the biggest issue with the Panasonic out of the way: the blacks don’t go deep and aren’t subtle enough. That is a problem when you’re watching a TV show or Blu-ray film with a lot of dark scenes – The Dark Knight Rises, for instance – as you lose a lot of detail and don’t get that exciting, punchy contrast.
The lapels of dark suits, the finer detail in strands of hair, textures of metal or wood – they all tend to blend into the background in dark or shadowy corners. Bright colours, such as the yellow prison jumpsuits in Guardians Of The Galaxy, don’t get the chance to pop as much without solid blacks surrounding them.
Things improve in brighter or daylight scenes, where the contrast is a lot more balanced and shows off the screen’s talents. Objects look a lot more solid outdoors, and you can see just how nicely balanced the colour palette is.
We would normally brace ourselves for a dip in quality when watching standard definition on a Full HD or 4K screen, but the HD Ready resolution works in the 32DS500B’S favour: the picture remains clear and stable, with plenty of detail when watching Masterchef on BBC iplayer or Friends repeats on non-hd channels.
Rival Sony KDL32WD603 (also £300) is more discerning, and has a better grasp on its contrast – its blacks go satisfyingly deep while also displaying plenty of shadow detail.
The Panasonic sounds good (which could be down to its chunky build), unlike the tinny sound we encounter from slim flatscreens. Decent weight and no hint of sharpness means it’s comfortable to listen to for long periods. Dialogue is heard above sound effects, and we don’t find ourselves immediately thinking about hooking up a soundbar.
Unlike the TVS higher up Panasonic’s 2016 range, the TX32DS500B doesn’t come with the colourful Firefox OS interface we’re so fond of. Instead, it has My Home Screen – multiple screens you can customise to a specific theme or person in the household.
It might not be as elegant and slick as Firefox, but it’s handy for having your favourite apps and programme guide within easy reach. Along with Netflix and Amazon video apps, you get all of UK’S catch-up TV apps (BBC iplayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and Demand 5), something that its Sony and LG rivals don’t have. The built-in wi-fi works fine for iplayer streams, but we’d use the wired ethernet port for the most stable connection.
Connectivity is rather sparse on the TX32DS500B: two HDMI inputs and one USB port – not enough if you want to keep your Blu-ray player, Sky box and games console plugged in at all times.
A couple of analogue inputs, a digital optical output for adding a soundbar (if you wish) and the Freeview HD tuner are the only other connections.
The set itself is light but never feels flimsy. The build quality is decent, and a simple but stable stand that’s easy to screw in makes the Panasonic a fine choice if you’re after a smaller TV for your bedroom or kitchen.
All of which means, then, that you get a fair amount for your £300.
The TX32DS500B’S rival, the Sony KDL32WD603, offers a subtler, more natural and exciting picture, but if you can live with the not-so-deep-or-subtle blacks that the Panasonic offers, this TV’S likable picture and impressively useful interface make it well worth considering as your second-room set.
You get a lot for £300 with this Panasonic 32in TV. It’s a likeable picture, even if blacks could go a bit deeper