Panasonic Viera TX-32LXD50 review

So what do Panasonic's non-HD Ready sets have to offer?

Our Verdict

Provided you can stomach the price tag or find the TV discounted, you can be certain of getting a premium performer

We rcently tested and adored Panasonic's new HD Ready Viera,the TX-32LXD500.But Panasonic has set a very deliberate marketing and pricing divide in this range between its HD Ready and non HD Ready sets,so we thought it high time we checked out one of the non HD Ready models.

Costing £500 less than its LXD500 counterpart, aesthetically the 32LXD50 is a chip off the old Viera block.The customary black screen surround and silver,speaker-bearing underbelly looks as attractive as ever. It's a space-saving design,too.

A key difference is the lack of any digital video input.Also regrettably absent is any kind of PC connection, or a front-mounted SD card slot.

Happily the 32LXD50 maintains the 1366 x 768 native resolution of the 500 model - something that could come in handy for viewing analogue high definition fodder.For yes - while the 32LXD50's lack of digital connectivity denies it full, official 'HD Ready' status, it can still play analogue,non-HDCP-protected HD material through provided component video jacks.

The other key feature of the 32LXD50 is its integrated digital TV tuner.And this is happily backed up by support for Freeview's 7-day Electronic Programme Guide,and MPEG noise reduction for reducing the digital decoding artefacts so rife on many Freeview broadcasts.

Performance

In assessing the 32LXD50's performance, it's no great surprise to find it looking as talented as its HD Ready LXD500 counterpart.Colours, for starters, are wonderfully rich, solid and noiseless but also exceptionally natural in tone,even with tricky flesh hues.Black levels are impressive too; not the absolute best we've seen from an LCD TV, perhaps,but dark areas certainly look black enough to leave colours free to shine as well as giving images genuine three-dimensionality.

The image is bright and dynamic, too,and absolutely stuffed with fine detail.During some Wimbledon tennis tournament viewing,it really felt like we could see every blade of grass in the court.During our Wimbledon session,we also noted that the 32LXD50 handles motion well,with minimal smearing,and that edges and contours are immaculately rendered with practically no jaggedness,stressing or ghosting.

Also striking is the 32LXD50's picture versatility.The processing/ scaling engine at the TV's heart is good enough to ensure the model looks equally happy with everything from digital tuner programmes to 1080i high definition.Few flat panel TVs manage to be jacks of all trades quite so successfully as this one.

The speakers under the 32LXD50's screen don't look up to much but looks can be deceptive. They ship sound out far and wide with power to spare, a rounded tone, impressive dynamic range and exceptional clarity.

If we have any issue with the 32LXD50,it's the £1,500 asking price. Other manufacturers out there, notably Hitachi,have 32in LCD screens available that are truly HD Ready for about the same money. But provided you can stomach the price tag or find the TV discounted, you can be certain of getting a premium performer.