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Panasonic TC-32A400U LED TV Review

In the entry-level television race, Panasonic lags behind.

$249.99 32 in.

No one expects an entry-level TV to perform similarly to a model that's two or three times its price, but they're still products that everyone manages to buy at some point. Generally speaking, if the consumers' expectations are met and the price is right, everyone goes home happy.

The best way to judge a TV like the Panasonic TC-32A400U (MSRP $249.99) is to see how it stacks up against its peers. That said, and despite its attractive price point, the TC-32A400U doesn't hold up against the competition. The picture quality is poor, it lacks smart features, and for about the same amount of money there are much better options on the market.

The Looks

It's so plain you might forget it's there.

Aesthetically, the TC-32A400U is about as basic as televisions come. Black trim, a black bezel, and a black stand constitute the TV’s frame, and a beefy plastic panel weighs the ensemble down even more. This design scheme won't be earning style points anytime soon, but that's no surprise, given this TV's entry-level status.

The user interface is also lacking in the beauty department, but thankfully, excels on a purely utilitarian level. Navigation is a piece of cake. Likewise, all of the TV's ports are conveniently located and easy to find. On the back left side, you'll find 2 HDMI ports, AV component ports, a digital audio out, and a USB port.

As for the remote control, it's the essence of basic, but it gets the job done.


The Picture

The little Panasonic that couldn't

Being an entry-level TV, we knew that the Panasonic TC-32A400U wouldn't exactly be wowing us in the performance department. That said, we were hoping for results that were at least somewhat comparable to its peers.

Right from the start of the race the TC-32A400U tripped over some hurdles. During our performance tests I noticed that certain shades of gray appeared peach-tinted, and as a result, images with shadows or characters with gray clothing or hair didn't appear true to life. Our black level tests revealed what was obvious from the moment we switched on the panel: The TC-32A400U doesn't correctly display low-light content, which hampers the overall contrast against bright, vivid highlights. Worse, since a TV's black levels are tantamount to great image quality, areas of shadow look anything but deep or authentic on the TC-32A400U.

Sports fans will immediately notice issues with the way this TV displays motion. While assessing the television's motion performance, I noted that flickering candle flames, billowing smoke, and swaying trees seemed to hop from frame-to-frame in a jerky, staccato fashion.

As far as color performance goes, the TC-32A400U again misses the mark. Even if you were to calibrate the settings as carefully as I did, the colors remain skewed. It might be adequate for basic cable in a kitchen or secondary guest room, but this TV isn't properly suited for Blu-Rays. There are simply too many unsalvageable color issues that will leave Gandalf the Grey looking like Gandalf the Peach.

Sports fans will immediately notice issues with the way this TV displays motion.

One of the problems that plagues TVs comparable to the TC-32A400U is a trace amount of LED light that manages to sneak into the sides or corners of the panel. Thankfully, the TC-32A400U does not run into this issue, and in fact, the distinct lack of light and shadow in the black bars above and below the picture is one of the TV’s only graces. Another surprising attribute is the TC-32A400U’s ability to communicate an image consistently regardless of a person’s viewing angle. Viewers will be able to sit further from the center than usual without noticing a distinct drop-off in picture quality.

Comparable Products

Before you buy the Panasonic TC-32A400U, take a look at these other televisions.

The Verdict

Look elsewhere.

There's almost no reason to invest in a Panasonic TC-32A400U, even when one factors in the affordability. It simply does not perform as well as other televisions in the same price and performance range. Even if you're just looking for a secondary TV for a guest room or kitchen, there are other models that vastly outperform the 32A400U in almost every category—some of them, such as Vizio's E480i-B2, even include smart features.

Between the questionable picture quality and the lack of features, there is no justifiable reason to purchase a Panasonic TC-32A400U in 2014.

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