Panasonic Viera TC-L32B6 LED TV Review
Weak performance, no extras
The L32B6 ($279.99) is Panasonic's lowest-tier LCD series for 2013. The 32-inch unit we tested is extremely basic: 720p resolution, 60Hz refresh rate, and no extra features to speak of.
For the price, this series could perform better: Despite testing with highly accurate color, a host of other problems spell this TV's picture quality as wholly average, perhaps even less.
Expect your socks to remain firmly on your feet.
One thing that's pretty common to almost all budget and entry-level TVs is a by-the-book design. The L32B6's appearance might show up under HDTV in Webster's: Black rectangle upon black rectangle with screen. Rinse and repeat.
Due to its Direct LED build, the B6 is not supremely thin, but it's still thinner from edge to edge than that old boxy set in your grandma's basement. This TV looks sort of fancy from a distance, but to the touch is clearly made of cheap plastic. The glossy finish is prone to prints of the finger variety.
Looks aside, the L32B6 is entirely usable—just don't expect high-end connectivity options. Only two HDMI inputs are available, meaning only two high-definition devices can connect at once. There's also a single USB 2.0 port, for personal media playback, and a shared component/composite cluster.
Alongside the B6, you'll find Panasonic's standard remote control. This wee clicker can access menus, change volume and channel, and pull up USB media with a single button. Considering how basic this TV is, you probably won't need it for much else.
Sometimes, saving money comes at a cost.
The standard 2013 HDTV is quite fancy: More than half of the market features internet, 3D, or crazy-straw stands. The L32B6 is not one of those, however—even its software is simplified.
Our 32-inch test unit is equipped with the most basic controls, allowing few changes to its 1366 x 768 picture, and even less tweaking of its two 10-watt speakers. Users will find controls for Back Light, Contrast, Brightness, and Color, as well as a few advanced options for aspect ratio and color temperature.
As for extras, there's really just one—for $280, you aren't getting any bells or whistles. Like most TVs on the market, the B6 allows for playback of images and audio files via USB storage. This is as standard these days as power steering on a car, but it's not nearly as useful.
The B6 delivers ho-hum picture quality.
As far as picture quality goes, the B6 is capable of displaying a decent image—but not without some tweaking first. Out of the box, its black level is set correctly, but not its contrast level—the common "red push" gives whites and grays a very pink tinge, which is highly noticeable throughout the grayscale.
The result, after calibration, is an average picture. Setting its contrast to eliminate the pink tinge caused poor black levels and a somewhat dim peak brightness. On the plus side, it also allowed for accurately saturated color with no banding. Expect things like news, sports, and most TV shows to look okay—we can't recommend this TV to film junkies or serious gamers, though, as it lacks ability to display subtle shadow details and dynamic levels of light.
One of the biggest concerns we have when testing a 720p TV is whether or not it will be capable of displaying a properly-mapped image. These entry-level panels often struggle to map, pixel for pixel, an incoming 720p or 1080p signal—because, in truth, they have a 1366 x 768 resolution. Interested shoppers will be glad to know that the Panasonic B6 doesn't have this problem: Aspect adjustments allow it to properly display the most common TV resolutions.
Another area of disappointment is the B6's motion performance, which is sub-par compared to mid-tier and higher-end TVs. The L32B6 uses a 60Hz processor to handle motion, and its LCD "sample and hold" technique is a little thin for 2013 standards. Expect more intensive content to display blurring, some color trailing, and the occasional touch of artifacting. It's not a wholly ugly result, but we've seen much better.
Truly the bottom of the barrel.
The Panasonic Viera TC-L32B6 may look like a steal on paper—a name-brand 32-inch LCD for under $300? Aw yeah. Yet testing revealed that it's a poor choice for anyone looking for commendable picture quality.
While its $279.99 MSRP is definitely a cheap one within the industry, buyers should keep in mind that better-performing options are available for only a little more money.
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