The Panasonic TX-32LX500A is the company's top-of-the-line 32-inch model from the new Viera LCD TV stable. Compared to its predecessor, the TX32-LX1A, the latest Viera screen now comes with a higher 1366x768-pixel resolution, an all-digital HDMI connectivity and a onboard MPEG-4 video recorder/player.Hardware upgrades aside, Panasonic has also enhanced the software in the original Viera and implemented up-to-date technologies such as advanced AI, 3D-colour management and sub-pixel control in an effort to improve image quality.
The TX-32LX500A inherited the familiar trademark Viera styling, dressed in a matt black and silver with a narrow strip of speaker grille lining the sides of the LCD panel. Void of buttons, a blue-lighted SD slot fronts the chassis while hidden under a spring-loaded flap cover are the various screen controls, a headphone jack and a PCMCIA card slot. A matching screwed-on swivel pedestal provides a firm and stable mount for the 22.5kg TV.
Size-wise, the Viera has a modest 141mm depth. The lower half of the frame arches out to accommodate a recessed compartment for cable management. This provides sufficient clearance for a cover to conceal the messy cables and to minimise dust built-up.
The elderly folks will rejoice on the unique design employed on the revamped remote control unit. Gone are the tiny buttons and replacing them are generously spaced and clearly labeled large-squarish buttons. Ergonomic shaped contours provide a firm and comfortable grip for the rather bulky remote.
The new Viera has retained the original user interface for the user menu. We found it easy to use and intuitive, making setup a snap. Settings are aplenty with a comprehensive set of A/V parameters for in-depth adjustments. Our only gripe is the edgy software which shuts down the menu after a short 10sec of inactivity.
The 32-inch HD-ready TX-32LX500A sports a high resolution 1366 x 768 pixels WXGA LCD panel with improved 800:1 contrast ratio and paired with the latest HDMI terminal. Features inherited from original Viera series include the PCMCIA and SD card slots.
Like its predecessors, the TX-32LX500A is capable of displaying high-resolution JPEG photos via the built-in card slots. Up to nine different types of memory cards including the popular miniSD and CompactFlash media are supported using optional adapters. Photos taken from our 5-megapixel camera came out sharp and clear with minimum lag during previews and loadings.
A new MPEG-4 video recording/playback feature allows up to 21 hours worth of TV program to be recorded onto a 1GB SD memory card. While the recorded quality is commendable, we can't help but frown at the low 320 x 240 pixels resolution employed. The recordings showed up in a small box barely filling a quarter of the big screen.
As part of Panasonic digital network solution, video recordings made from its DVRs and D-Snap camcorders can also be shared and played back on the SD slot-equipped Viera LCD and plasma TVs.
The TX-32LX500A is a dream come true for videophiles. Not only does it come with a HDMI input which carries both digital audio and video signals, there is also a PC/Macintosh-compatible VGA as well as a set of component-video inputs. These are on top of the myriad of S-Video and composite inputs found in the front and rear panels. It is worth noting that A/V cables are not included in the package but cheap stock cables is a mismatch for such a premium product.
The Panasonic blew away its peers with outstanding picture qualities. It went through our video benchmarks easily, achieving near perfect scores for grayscale tracking (black and white levels), image convergence and geometry. We did observe mild colour decoder error but that can be easily rectified using custom Red-Green-Blue settings.
Test patterns aside, the Viera put on an excellent show with our reference movie clips. Images were clean and sharp with no obvious jaggies. The NASA Montage from Digital Video Essentials had a distinctively 3D-look which added depth to the faithfully rendered footage.
Although Panasonic did not specify the response time of the LCD panel, we had no ghosting problems during our tests. Dash, our little hero in The Incredibles, stayed sharp and defined as he raced across the lake dodging bullets from the pursuing guards.
We had a go with the TV connected to a laptop at 1024 x 768 resolution. Text came out sharp and was visibly sharp when viewed from a distance. We then fired up Battlefield 2 and had a great time "fragging" the enemies which were easily spotted with the large screen.
The Viera did an equally good job with standard-resolution TV programs although the picture quality was nowhere close to those from DVDs or PC. The bottleneck here lies in the broadcast quality which leaves much to be desired till the day high-definition transmission becomes standard.