First impressions don't bode particularly well for Panasonic's L32X10B, as the TV's simple black frame design fails to deliver any inspiration whatsoever.

Its connections are more promising, though. Highlights include a solid three HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port and an SD card slot through which you can display digital photos. It's a pity this particular slot can't also play MP3s like the ones on many rivals.

It's also a shame there isn't more to excite us in the TV's menus and specifications. For starters, unlike some of its rivals, the L32X10B is only HD Ready, not full HD. Also, the set's limited video processing includes no sign of Panasonic's Intelligent Frame Creation motion-boosting system, or even 100Hz.

When it comes to user tweaks in the exceptionally simplistic onscreen menus, the only vaguely interesting features are a standard noise reduction system, an Eco mode that adjusts pictures in response to the ambient light levels in your viewing room and an automated Colour Manager.

Performance

So far the L32X10B isn't keeping pace with the competition and its performance isn't quite good enough to rescue the situation.

This is because we have some serious concerns regarding the set's black level response. Any dark scene is clearly affected by the dreaded grey clouding effect, at least to a greater degree than we've witnessed with contenders from Philips and JVC.

What's more, the problem is exaggerated by inconsistencies in the backlight that leave some areas of dark pictures looking slightly brighter than others.

Also of concern is the way the TV's dynamic contrast system causes visible 'jumps' in the overall brightness of the picture as it tries to adjust the TV's backlight in response to the image content.

Colours look slightly less vibrant than on most of our rival screens, and, finally in the negative column, the set's audio is another average effort, thanks to a lack of bass and treble extension, and an overloaded mid-range.

As annoying as its problems are, the L32X10B isn't completely devoid of any picture charms. Despite not being a full HD TV it reproduces HD sources with excellent crispness and detailing.

This sharpness isn't badly affected by motion blur either, considering the lack of a 100Hz engine, while it delivers natural and subtle colour toning despite its slight lack of vibrancy.

Finally, unlike most of the other flatscreens featured in this group, it is possible to comfortably watch the L32X10B from quite a wide angle without its picture quality deteriorating badly.

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