Panasonic TC-32LX20 LCD HDTV 
Home Theater Flat Panel HDTVs LCD HDTVs
Written by Bryan Southard   
Monday, 01 November 2004

There was a time in many of our youths that the concept of a television hanging on the wall like a picture was about as distant as civilian space travel. Although space tourism is still a few years away (though now in sight, thanks to recent advances by Richard Branson’s enterprises), flat televisions are here today and are living up to their long-awaited expectations. Initially, these flat televisions were immensely expensive and were surrounded by concerns about reliability and longevity. Today, they’re in every AV retail store and are becoming affordable to the average consumer. There is still much debate over which technology is best (LCD vs. plasma), but both come with the ability to hang on your wall, thus freeing up ultra-valuable floor space and adding endless options for integrating AV into your living spaces.

The Panasonic TC-32LX20 is a HD-compatible, 32-inch LCD-based flatscreen display that boasts skinny five-and one-half-inch thickness and retails for $3,499, a price that’s suddenly within reach of the masses.

The Panasonic TC-32LX20 is a 32-inch diagonal, 16:9 widescreen HD television that’s capable of displaying 1280 x 768 lines of resolution. It measures 39.4 inches wide, 22 inches in height and a shade over five inches in overall thickness. With its dense 60-pound stature and significant price tag, I would nearly always recommend that it be professionally installed.

The TC-32LX20 will display 480p, 720p and 1080i signals. At 500:1 contrast ratio, it’s not going to compete with a 220-pound, 25-inch-deep Sony XBR CRT tube in overall black levels, yet it is in line with all LCD and plasma-based displays. Its overall viewing angle is 170 degrees, meaning that it can be viewed from virtually everywhere in your room, a stark contrast to many rear projection sets that have a degraded picture as soon as you wander from center position. It has internal progressive scan electronics, so you can run games and everything else through an improved, doubled signal. This will come as a benefit to those who have enjoyed the upgraded pictures from their DVD players with progressive scan outputs but have had no way to double their remaining inputs. For those who don’t plan to add an AV system to complement their flat display, the TC-32LX20 has a four-speaker attached audio system that will produce surround audio.

The TC-32LX20 hosts the standard I/O connections, including two composite video inputs, two s-video inputs, two component video inputs, and even a headphone jack for those late-night movies or music from your satellite or digital cable system. Best of all, it employs a HDMI-HDCP connection, so you can run a single cable for your digital video and audio, thus eliminating the need for a cable run the size of your forearm. The TC-32LX20 comes with a learning remote that fits nicely into the hand and is fairly intuitive with regards to button positions.

Television, HDTV and Movies
“Bruce Almighty” (Universal Studios Home Video) was one of last year’s brighter comedies and a great movie for video evaluation, with combinations of dark and light scenes. In Chapter Four, as Bruce (Jim Carrey) prepares for his news scene at Niagara Falls, I watched as the water fell at a distance. The detail in the white water was quite clear and void of distracting artifacts. Colors in Bruce’s umbrella-hat were deep and rich, and very satisfying. The picture had considerable depth and detail when supplied with a 480p feed.

Chapter Eight provided a much more challenging scenario with the white suit of God (Morgan Freeman) against his dark skin. The skin tones were good but could look a bit washed out when compared to their depiction via CRT tubes. The overall contrast in the scene was on par for LCD displays I have seen, yet was short of a theatrical standard. When I later compared this scene to my high-contrast eight-inch CRT projection system, I found the TC-32LX20’s black levels were respectably good but sometimes tended to make scenes look abnormally bright. In direct comparison to the Sharp Aquos set, they displayed similar contrast, with the overall edge going to the Sharp. This is not a knock directed specifically toward the Panasonic as much as it is an indication of what to expect from LCD displays in general.

  I loaded up “Legally Blonde” (MGM Home Entertainment). I like this pressing for its deep rich color schemes and over the top costumes. In Chapter Five when Elle (Reese Witherspoon) explains to her father that she plans to attend Harvard, the detail in the water surrounding her silhouette was very good and provided a true three-dimensional image. Edges were clean and there was little video noise. In Chapter Eight, Elle’s pink hat and colorful pink and blue shirt was clear and detailed, with very good skin tones. The Panasonic TC-32LX20 provided an enjoyable picture, one that would be the envy of most who viewed it. Throughout this movie, I was taken by the TC-32LX20’s ability to control fast motion and to reproduce vibrant colors. I walked around the room to test the TC-32LX20 from side viewing angles and there was little to no degradation as I wandered from center position. This is particularly important for those who plan to place the display in a room with many viewing positions away from the center. This test knocks out nearly all rear-projected sets.

I next changed to an HDTV feed from a DirecTV tuner. The 720p native resolution feeds looked fantastic. When I stepped beyond a few feet, the images were perfect and even diagonal motion was clear. Images were notably sharp and details were very good. I next tuned into ESPN’s Sunday Night Football. Details in the helmets, including the light refection from the overhead stadium lights, were perfectly formed and accurate. Colors were again well reproduced. The high resolutions made the images, even when in motion, appear as though I was looking through a glass window. As the cameras pan out, there is some blur and lack of detail, primarily due to the amount of pixels available for a smaller images, yet the Panasonic TC-32LX20 was a solid player for HD broadcasts. Faces in the crowd were detailed enough to recognize your co-worker who may have called in sick earlier that day to play hooky at a game. NTSC television feeds were adequate. While watching my local news, images were far from crisp, yet were very good for this inferior broadcast standard. I then set the sidebars for black when viewing 4:3 feeds. The lack of contrast became very evident, yet I can be easily satisfied with its picture while I wait for my local news station to buck up big time for local news in HD.

The Downside
The TC-32LX20 comes with an attached speaker system and internal amplification and surround signal processing. The comparably sized and priced Sharp Aquos LCD has detachable speakers. The edge goes to the Sharp, as its detachable speakers make for a sleeker and more streamlined installation in applications where you plan to have an upgraded external surround system.

The TC-32LX20 has a reported 500:1 contrast ratio, amongst the lowest contrast of any display of any kind I have encountered. This will make your black features appear less than the darkest black. In a comparison between the TC-32LX20 Sharp Aquos LC-32G4U at a reported 800:1, the Sharp’s improved contrast was noticeably better. However, it must also be stated that even the Sharp’s 800:1 contrast failed to make black information much more than a darker shade of gray.

As you walk through your local TV retailer, there are many flat displays to choose from. You will also notice that the quality of their pictures are improving. Do the LCDs offer better quality and better value than plasmas? That is for you to decide. When you look at comparable resolutions, the LCDs are often more expensive, yet they look better to me and are more reliable than plasmas. They don’t have the same issues of degradation over time and phosphor burn-in. However, plasma displays are available in much larger sizes. As I compare the Panasonic TC-32LX20 to the Sharps and Sonys, I found the Panasonic had an equally good picture with varied features. The right display for you is the one that best fits your needs. The Panasonic TC-32LX20 would not be my first choice in LCDs, but whether it is yours is for your eyes and wallets to decide. One thing is sure: it is very cool and has a fantastic picture.
Manufacturer Panasonic
Model TC-32LX20 LCD HDTV
Reviewer Bryan Southard
Diagonal Screen Size 28 to 36-inches

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