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Panasonic TC-L32C5 review: Panasonic TC-L32C5

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MSRP: $319.95

The Good The inexpensive Panasonic TC-L32C5 can produce a shade of black that's not as washed-out as some other low-cost TVs. The remote has a fine layout.

The Bad Poor shadow detail and even worse color accuracy hurt this TV's image quality compared with its entry-level peers.

The Bottom Line Shoppers for bargain-basement 32-inch LCD TVs can do better than the Panasonic TC-L32C5.

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4.7 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 5
  • Performance 4
  • Value 5

I don't expect a great picture from a $300 TV, but it can be better than this. Panasonic's TC-L32C5 is the company's least expensive 2012 television, and on paper it looks just like the competition's cheap 32-inchers. In person, however, it's just as disappointing as the company's other, more expensive 2012 LCD and LED televisions, and nowhere near as worth recommending as its plasmas.

The picture is hampered by murky shadows and unnatural color that the meagre controls can do little to improve. Yes, the TC-L32C5 does cost less than some other major-name 32-inch TVs, but it performs worse than almost all of them, making it a questionable value despite the low price.

If you've seen one thick-framed glossy black TV, you've seen them all. If I had to choose on looks alone I'd pick this Panasonic over the Toshiba 32C120U by virtue of the Panny's squared-off stand base and angled and otherwise unaccented bottom strip, but the two look basically the same. Neither can hang with the Samsung EH4000 in terms of style.

Panasonic's remote is a step up from Toshiba's, with better use of spacing, shape, and size to differentiate the keys. I also prefer it to Samsung's packed-in grid, but Samsung's clicker has a trump card nearly unheard-of at this level: full backlighting.

Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Matte Remote Standard
Smart TV No Internet connection No
3D technology N/A 3D glasses included None
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing No
DLNA-compliant No USB Photo/Music

The metaphorical loincloth keeping this stripped-down TV from being completely bare of features is a USB port, allowing the display of JPEG photos and audio files from attached thumbdrives. Otherwise it's got the minimum for a modern HDTV: 720p resolution (1,366x768 pixels), a backlight that employs fluorescent illumination and not LEDs, and a refresh rate of 60Hz.

Picture settings: This entry-level Panasonic won't satisfy discerning picture-tweakers. The ability to adjust all four picture modes beyond the default settings is a nice plus, but on the other hand, it doesn't have the advanced controls found on a few other entry-level sets, like the Toshiba and Samsung mentioned above. The Game mode is just another picture setting with presets for contrast, color, and so on; Panasonic makes no claims that it affects input lag delay (we don't test for such lag).

Connectivity: You get two HDMI ports, one each component- and composite-video, an RGB-style PC input, and a USB port. That's standard for a cheap TV.

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