If you'd rather your TV focused on showing pictures rather than trying to woo you with 3D thingamajiggery and smart TV shenanigans, then the Panasonic TX-L32X5B will appeal. It's a back-to-basics 32-inch TV that eschews fancy extras for an affordable £350 price tag.
It's not completely lacking in bells and whistles, as it does have digital media playback features, LED backlighting and support for Freeview HD. So is it a worthwhile option if you're on a tight budget, or if you don't need all the added extras of today's mid and high-end sets? Let's find out.
User interface and EPG
While other manufacturers have been forging ahead with flashy menu systems and dynamic-looking electronic programme guides (EPG), Panasonic's design team is stuck in neutral. The menus on this model barely differ from those that appeared on last year's TVs. Considering they weren't exactly cutting edge, what you get here now looks very, very dated. The menus lack the neat graphical touches that are the hallmark of current TVs from LG and Samsung.
Nevertheless, they are at least pretty easy to find your way around and most of the entries in the menus are self-explanatory. Picture controls are limited to the usual contrast, brightness, colour and sharpness settings. It lacks the Advanced mode you'll find on Panasonic's higher-end models, but given the TV's target market, I think these will suffice.
The EPG is still one of the poorer ones you'll find on any of the TVs from the big-name manufacturers, but at least Panasonic has got rid of the web-style adverts that used to take up valuable screen space on its older TVs.
Sadly, there's no video thumbnail window and calling up the EPG still cuts off all sound, so you lose track of the programme you're watching -- not a smart move and rather baffling as Panasonic's digital recorders now have thumbnail windows integrated into their programming guides. To its credit, the guide is pretty speedy to navigate around and the large text makes it easy to read from a normal viewing distance.
Design and connections
The front of the TV has the standard-issue glossy black coating, with the bezel around the screen measuring a shade under 3cm thick. At the bottom of the bezel is an angled lip with a graduated silver finish that looks quite attractive. The TV sits on a neat and tidy pedestal stand with a slightly unusual triangular stem. Thanks to the LED backlighting used, the chassis is relatively slim too, measuring around 40mm deep. So all in all, it's quite a compact package for a budget model.
I also like the remote. It's long, slim and feels nicely balanced in your hand. The buttons are large and intelligently placed, so you never have to stretch your thumb too far to get to the ones that control the TV's key features, such as the EPG and media player.
Despite the slimline chassis, the set manages to pack in a pretty decent line-up of ports. The right-hand side houses an HDMI input as well as the USB port and SD card slot. There's also a CAM slot if you want to add a pay-TV service such as Top Up TV. On the rear are another two HDMI ports, along with a full-sized Scart socket, component inputs and a composite video input. There's an Ethernet port too, and Panasonic has equipped the set with an optical audio output, so you can run audio from the Freeview HD tuner to an external amp if you don't have one that supports HDMI.
I would have liked to have seen another HDMI and the rear-mounted AV ports may be a problem if you're fixing the set to a wall, but other than that, the line-up of connections is reasonably good for a TV in this price range.