The worst color accuracy we've seen in the entry-level class combines with murky shadow detail to render the TC-L32C5 one of the least palatable TVs we've tested this year. I did find one or two nice things while watching it, namely OK black levels and uniformity, but those can't overcome its deficits.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
|Comparison models (details)|
|Samsung UN32EH4000||32-inch LED|
|Sony KDL-32BX330||32-inch LCD|
|LG 32CS460||32-inch LCD|
|Toshiba 32C120U||32-inch LCD|
|TCL L40FHDP60||40-inch LCD|
|Samsung LN46D630||46-inch LCD|
|Panasonic TC-P65VT50 (reference)||65-inch plasma|
Black level: At first glance, in a dark scene, like when the bad guys camp out under Katniss' tree in chapter 11 of "The Hunger Games," you might think the TC-L32C5 delivered decent black levels compared with the others in our lineup. The deepest shadows among the trees and the letterbox bars, for example, looked darker than the Sony's and close enough to the LG's and even the Samsung EH4000's for government work -- although the Samsung D630's, Toshiba 32C120U's, and TCL L40FHDP60's were a good bit deeper.
A second glance, however, reveals terrible shadow detail. The slightly brighter areas among the trees, the shaded parts of Katniss' face, and the leaves on the forest floor were all subsumed in murk, victims of the TV's too-dark gamma near black. The only remedy is increasing the brightness control (from my calibrated 47 to about 60) but that makes the image look even worse; black levels wash out badly and the too-red lower grayscale (see next section) kicks in with a vengeance.
Color accuracy: As poorly as the TC-L32C5 fared in the shadows, it was worse at maintaining accurate color. In the most accurate color-temperature setting the darker areas of the picture were tinged a garish red, turning Katniss' brown locks auburn and the shadows around her eyes and chin way too flushed as she berates Gale (5:08). The green leaves of the forest looked too bluish, and even the black of the letterbox bars, tinged blue-red, looked less accurate than on any of the other TVs in our lineup. Oversaturation was also an issue, but it wasn't as noticeable as the L32C5's other color woes.
Video processing: Like the other 32-inch sets in my lineup the Panasonic failed to properly handle 1080p/24 material -- not surprising since it's a 60Hz TV. Instead the flyover of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend" chugged along haltingly without the film-correct smoothness of, for example, the D630. Also as you'd expect from a 60Hz TV, according to test patterns the Panasonic failed to deliver much in the motion-resolution department, although as usual I found blurring difficult to detect in program material.
Uniformity: From off-angle the Panasonic was among the worst in our lineup, losing black-level fidelity from either side more quickly than most of the others (notably the LG and the TCL). I did appreciate the lack of blotchy, brighter areas on the screen, however; the set maintained its brightness consistency well from edge to edge.
Bright lighting: The Panasonic's screen finish is as matte as any of its 32-inch brethren, so it diffused and dimmed reflections well. Its lighter black levels were a liability, however, and unlike Samsung's, Panasonic's screen finish doesn't help in this department, making for a middling overall bright-room image.
|Geek box: Test||Result||Score|
|Black luminance (0%)||0.0278||Poor|
|Near-black x/y (5%)||0.2648/0.1951||Poor|
|Dark gray x/y (20%)||0.3435/0.299||Poor|
|Bright gray x/y (70%)||0.3104/0.3235||Poor|
|Before avg. color temp.||6657||Average|
|After avg. color temp.||6602||Good|
|Red lum. error (de94_L)||3.009||Poor|
|Green lum. error (de94_L)||1.3266||Good|
|Blue lum. error (de94_L)||2.6009||Average|
|Cyan hue x/y||0.2042/0.3238||Poor|
|Magenta hue x/y||0.3399/0.1615||Poor|
|Yellow hue x/y||0.4063/0.4821||Poor|
|1080p/24 Cadence (IAL)||Fail||Poor|
|1080i Deinterlacing (film)||Pass||Good|
|Motion resolution (max)||300||Poor|
|Motion resolution (dejudder off)||300||Poor|