The 32SL738's picture quality has its moments, but ultimately feels a bit average by edge LED standards.
It's at its best with bright, colourful footage, as most LCD TVs are. With such footage – animation Blu-rays, studio news footage, chatshows and so on – your eye is treated to some appealingly richly saturated colours, decent, if hardly explosive, levels of sharpness and clarity, notwithstanding a little motion blur with standard-def and a little judder with Blu-rays, thanks to the lack of any 100Hz processing.
The motion issues aren't as continually distracting as they are on many other high-value 32in TVs, though.
Other strong points include a solid degree of subtlety when showing colour blends and tricky tonal shifts, even with skin tones and respectable upscaling of standard-definition that leaves programmes from the Freeview tuner looking at least a little sharper without drawing undue attention to any MPEG noise they might contain.
Anyone averse to overt video processing might enjoy the very natural look to the 32SL738's pictures, though a good image engine might have reduced judder and enhanced sharpness.
From here on in, though, the news is mostly bad. The worst flaw is inconsistent backlighting. The sample used in this test betrayed two obvious patches during dark scenes where the light level on show was notably higher than elsewhere on the screen.
One portion along around a third of the top right edge was really extremely noticeable, to the extent that it suggested a possible fault with this particular sample, but then these sorts of problems have been common with Toshiba's recent edge LED TVs.
Another issue is the 32SL738's black levels. While the set is capable of deep black hues the dynamic backlight is very clumsy and overbearing, reacting slowly to extreme changes in content, then often too strongly.
The result is that you often get distracted, especially during movies, by shifts in overall brightness as the screen tries to figure out how best to adjust its images to the changing content it's showing.
The active backlight problems will likely tempt many people to turn the feature off. Yet if you do, the general black level response takes a discernible hit – unless you're fortunate enough to be able to run the screen in a darkened room, where the picture can still look good with a very reduced brightness/backlight level.
Further issues find the set's backlight consistency problems being exaggerated if you start to move sideways from directly opposite the screen, and some slightly uncomfortable colour balances using the TV's out of the box settings. Reds look rather forced, for instance, and skin tones can look unnatural. The set does provide the colour management tools to address these problems, however.
During even a half-hearted action sequence the 32SL738 sounds woefully underpowered, with no bass at all and a very cramped mid-range that doesn't even have enough breathing room to allow treble details to emerge with any clarity or ease. At times some sound effects and vocals go more or less entirely AWOL, due to the speakers' inability to cope with anything but the most basic audio mix.
The 32SL738 is a very attractive edge LED TV on paper, but its performance is underwhelming and some significant feature compromises have been made.
Ultimately, the 32SL738's £500 tag looks fair, rather than remarkable.