Video file playback
Given that the TX-32LX5B has an Ethernet port, I was hoping it would have some smart TV features. Unfortunately, that's not the case. The Ethernet port is only present so the set conforms to Freeview HD specifications and is, for the most part, redundant. The only thing you seem to be able to use it for is downloading firmware updates.
All is not lost, however, as the USB port and SD card slot can be used for playing back digital media files including photos, videos and music. For images, it only works with JPEGs, but MP3, WMA and AAC tracks are supported for audio. On the video side, it'll play a pretty broad range of formats including DivX, MP4, WMV and MKV. However, it's fussy about individual files, as two of the five MKV files I tried wouldn't play at all. When it does work, playback quality is very good and the fast-forward and rewind controls are reasonably responsive.
Last year, the audio on Panasonic's TVs really stood out from the crowd, as they had beefier, bassier speakers than most of their peers and delivered a more rounded sound. Unfortunately, that skill seems to have deserted the company on its latest low and mid-range LED models. I moaned about the sound quality on its TX-L55ET5B and the TX-L32X5B suffers from similar problems.
The TV has a tendency to sound quite hollow and lifeless, lacking the bass that was such a great feature of previous models. This is bizarre, as Panasonic has widened the chassis out at the bottom to fit in larger drivers. Somehow, that just doesn't seem to have helped. You can improve the audio by adjusting the equaliser settings in the sound menu, but it's impossible to get really full-bodied sound from it, which is a shame.
Thankfully, while the TX-32X5B falls flat in some areas, it largely makes up for it with the quality of its pictures. It's worth bearing in mind that this TV's resolution is limited to 1,366x768 pixels, so it's not Full HD. Also, it's a 50Hz panel, rather than the 100Hz or above that you'll find on most of Panasonic's other LED models.
Personally, I don't think the lower resolution is an issue at this screen size as HD broadcasts from the Freeview HD tuner or movies fed in from Blu-ray discs still look sharp and detailed. It also means the TV's processing has less work to do in upscaling standard-definition pictures. Certainly, normal channels on Freeview look very clean and crisp.
The preset picture settings are strong too, especially the True Cinema and Cinema modes, which give fairly accurate colours. The former is best for daytime viewing, while the darker Cinema mode will suit watching Blu-ray movies at night.
Viewing angles are good, so if a family is crowding around the box, those on the edges aren't left staring at washed-out colours or overly dark pictures as they would with some Sony sets, for example. In general, colours are very warm and rich and black levels aren't bad for a TV in this price bracket.
There are a couple of weaknesses in the TX-L32X5B's picture armoury though. Firstly, on fast-paced stuff like camera pans in footy matches, you'll notice motion blur creeping in. It's not terrible, but there's a big difference between this set and most 100Hz panels that I've seen. Also, the TV has a tendency to crush blacks, which leads to a loss of shadow detail in darker scenes.
For a budget TV, the TX-L32X5B isn't bad, but neither is it a particularly inspiring one. If all you want is a TV to watch soaps and the news on, then it'll certainly do the job, especially as standard-definition broadcasts look very clean.
I felt sound quality could have been better and it's annoying that the programming guide lacks a TV thumbnail window. Also, the absence of smart TV features means you don't get access to BBC iPlayer -- for that you'll have to pay £50 extra for Panasonic's TX-L32E5B. It's also worth checking out the Finlux 32F703 and John Lewis' JL26LED for around the same price.