Not everyone wants a massive TV covering up their entire lounge wall. If you've got a smaller front room, this budget 32-inch LCD from Panasonic is probably a more sensible option than a humungous 52-incher. The Viera TX-32LXD80's resolution stretches only as far as 720p, but it uses an IPS-Alpha panel that gives an extremely wide viewing angle, and you can pick it up online for around £500.
If you're looking for a smaller 32-inch set at a good price, but don't want to compromise on features, Panasonic has you clearly in its sights with the 32LXD80. Sure, 1080p snobs may look down their noses at this set's 1,366x768-pixel resolution, but we think that would be a mistake. While it's true that 1080p panels are becoming the norm for larger screens, there's not a huge difference between the two on smaller sets and that's certainly the case with this Panasonic.
Despite the lower resolution, the output from Sky HD looked wonderfully crisp and clean, both for movies in HD such as The Fugitive and Blood Diamond, and for a bit of Premiership footy action. Panasonic's excellent V-Real 3 picture processing helps the set produce smooth motion and really vivid-looking colours. The TV also supports 24p movie playback from Blu-ray.
Just as importantly, the 32LXD80 does a good job of dealing with standard-definition video, including pictures from its onboard Freeview tuner. Budget TVs often struggle to make SD look good, but this one manages it with aplomb -- there's little of the smearing or blockiness you see on lesser models. Another plus is that the TV uses an IPS-Alpha panel, so colours and contrast remain surprisingly stable, right up to very wide viewing angles. Even if you're got an extremely wide living room, those watching the set won't need to shuffle their chairs towards the centre to get a decent view.
The 32LXD80 isn't lacking when it comes to connectivity either. Around the back you get three HDMI sockets, which is pretty generous for a 32-incher, along with twin Scart sockets, a component input and a D-Sub connector for hooking it up to a PC or laptop. Another neat extra is the SD card slot on the back. You can pop a memory card from your camera into this and view slideshows of your pictures on the screen. It's not essential, but it is a generous addition on a budget set.
This TV's greatest weakness is its audio quality. The small speakers on LCD and plasma TVs are never going to rival the sonic fireworks you get from a surround-sound system. But whereas buyers of larger sets are likely to pair their TV with a home-cinema kit, those looking for a smaller 32-inch model may not have the space for all those additional speakers. As a result, we think speaker quality is more of an issue on smaller TVs. Unfortunately the Panasonic falls down in this area.
The problem is that it really struggles to output low-end bass frequencies, so action sequences in movies that should be bombastic end up sounding pretty weedy. Also, when it's working at higher volumes, dialogue can sometimes start to sound a little indistinct. It doesn't happen all the time, but it's still worrying.
The only other issue we have with this set is its design. Compared to some budget rivals -- and especially Panasonic's own higher-end models -- the styling on this TV is rather flat. Sure, the glossy finish that frames the panel lifts things slightly, but when the TV is off and sitting in the corner of a room it looks rather drab.
The Panasonic Viera TX-32LXD80 is a good budget TV with crisp and clean picture quality, a decent range of inputs and the welcome addition of an SD card for viewing photos from a digital camera. Its styling is a little on the dull side however, and it's let down by its rather flat sound quality. If you can afford a little more for a TV this size, you might prefer the flashy Philips Cineos 32PFL9603D or the more stylish LG 32LG6000.
Edited by Nick Hide