Panasonic has scored big critical and commercial CRT successes over recent years with its so-called Tau TV designs and Quintrix Flat tubes - so it's nice to find both features cropping up on Panasonic's latest entry-level 32in model.
Unfortunately, though, the TX- 32PM2 looks every inch an entry level set. There's a tiny touch of drama in the way the flat screen stands proud of the main cabinet, but the light silver, rather plasticky finish is distinctly run of the mill.
Connectivity fails to inspire, too. The rear panel carries just two Scarts, a stereo audio output and the RF jack, while the front AV jacks comprises just the usual S-Video/ composite video/stereo audio/ headphone jack culprits.
Given that the 32PM2 costs almost as much as Toshiba's 32YT56 IDTV, it's a shame the Panny doesn't carry a digital tuner. Perhaps they've has made up for this by making the 32PM2's pictures 100Hz? Er, no. They're resolutely 50Hz only.
Other features aren't widespread. There's standard noise reduction, tilt correction for geomagnetic-related distortions, an 'Ambience' mode for widening the sound - and that's pretty much it beyond the bog-standard stuff.
Can its performance raise the 32PM2's game? Not really. Overall pictures only continue the slightly average theme.
Give us some skin
Naturally some of the factors that have made Quintrix tubes such a hit are present. The colour tone, for instance, is superbly natural, especially when it comes to the portrayal of skin. Black levels also go deeper than those of many 32in CRTs for this money, and contain decent greyscaling too.This helps ensure that images possess plenty of depth, even during dark scenes.
It's also nice to see little colour bleed, and a general dearth of grain, dot crawl or moiring over fine details - particularly while viewing digital receiver boxes connected via the RGB Scart. Finally, the screen's geometry is very good by CRT standards, even during 4:3 viewing.
The biggest problem with the 32PM2 is the softness of its pictures. There just isn't the same texture or sharpness seen with some other TVs.
Colours aren't especially vibrant either.Their tone is good, but they lack the in-your-face vitality witnessed elsewhere.This, combined with the slight softness, can rob the picture of some of the depth created by the good black levels.
Finally, bright parts of the picture can suffer with the tell-tale 50Hz flicker - though we wouldn't really say this is any worse than we'd expect to see with almost any 32in 50Hz TV.
The 32PM2's sound is much like its pictures - OK, but nothing special. Dialogue is kept nice and clear, and trebles generally avoid sounding harsh. But bass lines sound cramped and boxy, the soundstage isn't particularly wide, and the mid-range - dialogue excepted - sounds muddy when the going gets tough.
We can't help being disappointed by the 32PM2. It's perfectly adequate by the standards of a £550 32in TV but this isn't a phrase we'd associate with the usually more accomplished Panasonic name. John Archer