Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: Panasonic TX-32AS500

Review: Panasonic TX-32AS500

Review: Panasonic TX-32AS500


Is this 32-inch HD-ready TV worth the upgrade? With a list price of £399 but spotted online for £309 already, this brand new effort looks almost identical to Panasonic's TX-32A400, which also includes a Freeview HD tuner.

However, there are big differences between the TX-32AS500 and the lower-ranking TX-32A400. Aesthetically they're similar and both have the super-slim 7mm bezel, but the 727x465x67mm TX-32AS500 has a cut-out desktop stand and a much larger remote.

The biggest difference, however, is the operating system. The TX-32AS500 uses Panasonic's latest and greatest smart TV platform, My Home Screen. This combines apps wi th a uniquely flexible architecture that puts everything you're ever going to want within easy reach.


At the heart of this HD-ready screen is an IPS panel, which tends to widen viewing angles and deepen black levels, at least to a basic extent.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

Behind it are plenty of ins and outs, though the TX-32AS500's provision of just two HDMI slots will be a slight worry for those with a Sky/Virgin set-top box, a games console and a Blu-ray player. The two HDMIs on the rear of the TV are accompanied by a full RGB scart, a s et of component video inputs, left/right stereo phonos, an RF aerial feed to fuel the built-in Freeview HD tuner, and a digital optical audio for taking sound to an AV amplifier. There's also an Ethernet LAN slot nearby, though the TX-32AS500 also comes with Wi-Fi. A side-panel adds a headphones jack, a USB slot and a Common Interface slot.

My Home Screen

While some brands offer TVs that include a taster of smart TV, Panasonic goes straight for the jugular with a fully featured set of apps and smart stuff that represents almost the brand's pinnacle (minus Freetime).

Panasonic TX-32AS500

It all revolves around the excepti onally versatile My Home Screen user interface, which is the only smart TV platform around that's fully customisable.

Accessed by a double-tap of the remote's home button is a carousel of alternative My Home Screens â€" TV home screen (which has a a scrollable TV channel list along the right-hand side as well as shortcuts to My Home Cloud and the media player), lifestyle screen (which adds a number of utility features such as notes, a clock and shortcuts to a few apps), and info screen (which prioritises bookmarks to up to four web pages).

All of these layouts can be customised and set-up in minutes, and easily accessed later, as well as being pushed to full-screen TV simply by moving to the live TV window and pressing the OK button.


Panasonic's choice of apps isn't as comprehensive as on other platforms. A dedicated apps button on the remote control leads to a grid of icons that includes Netflix, BBC iPlayer, BBC News, BBC Sport, YouTube, Wua, Meteonews TV.

A second screen reveals further shortcuts to Eurosport Player, CNBC Real-Time, Aupeo radio, Skype, Euronews, Facebook, Twitter and

Under a banner of unwanted adverts on the apps page are shortcuts to Panasonic's apps market, its shopping pages, media player (content on a USB stick), media server (networked laptops, computers and NAS drives) and a web browser.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

That same page also includes a string of shortcuts along the bottom to screen mirroring (from Android phones), photo frame, calendar, event timer, video message, cloud note and notes, which is probably three unneeded utility features too many.

Also consider

Else where in the AS500 series is the 24-inch TX-24AS500, which also boasts a HD-ready screen. However, the 42-inch TX-42AS500 and 50-inch TX-50AS500 are both built around Full HD IPS panels. The real alternative to the TX-32AS500 from within Panasonic's stable is the 32-inch TX-32A400, though it possesses a less capable panel that's prone to some motion blurring, and lacks both apps and My Home Screen.

Picture quality

As expected, the strengths of this Panasonic telly revolve around colour and contrast. There are some picture presets supplied; both dynamic and normal contain over-saturated colours and feature some unwanted artefacting, with true cinema's colours much too warm. I settled on the cinema setting and, using it as a base, took the edge off both the backlight and the brightness to create a thoroughly decent image.

Despite i ts use of a Full HD resolution panel, the detail apparent during Belgium vs Russia on Match of the Day Live on BBC One HD isn't all that impressive. The 1080i signal on this 720p panel ought to look more detailed than it does; instead we're left with a rather soft-looking image. That is, until I discovered the noise reduction and MPEG noise reduction options in the picture menus, both of which need to be switched off.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

Though various strengths are available, all seems to hamper ultimate clarity when watching HD channels from the Freeview HD tuner. Swap to Ice Giants on BBC Two HD and I did notice a modicum of judder during vertical camera pans, as well as a touch of motion blur, though neither are serious issues.

The clear highlight on the TX-32AS500 is c ontrast, with bold and well-saturated colours and good black levels, though the set doesn't help itself. The IPS panel is of decent quality, but contrast is at its best when both the contrast control setting (in advanced settings) and the ambient sensor (which dims the brightness slightly) are disengaged. The adaptive backlight control appeared to make little difference whether on or off.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

Standard definition channels, meanwhile, are upscaled reasonably well. During Ice Giants in lower-res on BBC Two the softer image is mostly watchable, but during fast-moving scenes the judder and blur are more noticeable, as are ill-defined edges and mosquito noise that fizzes around the edges of anything that moves. Those noise reduction options don't help.

A spin of 12 Years A Slav e on Blu-ray confirms the TX-32AS500's position as a fairly basic TV that's strengths are contrast and colour; it's a convincing and very clean image, but there's a lack of ultimate crispness. That, however, needn't be a criticism. For the growing number that now watches a diet mainly of HD TV, the TX-32AS500 is a reasonably accomplished performer.

Usability, sound and value


After updating the TX-32AS500 from software version 3.037 to 3.054 and running through a tour of My Home Screen, I was set. Actually, not quite, that tour misses out on one of the TX-32AS500's few innovations compared to 2013's crop of Vieras â€" My Home Cloud.

My Home Cloud actually turned out to be a simple, if new, element of My Home Screen; a basic four-way split between screen market, apps market, shopping, and family & friends (a cloud-based text message service that you'll doubtless never use).

Panasonic TX-32AS500

So what of My Home Screen? Overall I love it, largely because it makes accessing favourite apps so speedy, though it can feel a bit cluttered. Luckily, most of the side-line attractions â€" such as a the chance to buy 3D glasses, gamepads and Skype-cameras direct from Panasonic as well as the screen market store for themes and backgrounds â€" are hidden, as are the plethora of apps. Any of them can be brought to the main My Home Screen very easily, though in truth there's little of interest in the apps market, which is badly in need of key apps like Amazon Instant, ITV Player, 4OD and Demand Five.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

Best of all, any navigation of My Home Screen is accompanied by a live TV thumbnail of varying sizes, which shows some recognition on Panasonic's part of how and when smart TV apps are used. The electronic programme guide is fixed to the remote's central guide button, presenting seven channels and two hours of schedules, but unlike cheaper Panasonic TVs this one includes a live TV thumbnail too, complete with sound.

Digital media

Engage the media player and the TX-32AS500 shows its versatility. Although it's necessary to first tell the TX-32AS500 whether you're looking for photos, videos or music, it then hunts down and collates all relevant files from anything attached to its USB slot.

I managed to play MKV, AVI, AVC HD, MPEG-2, MP4, WMV and WMV HD files, and though a moving thumbnail is produced whenever you hover the cursor over a file, there's no stationary image. Though it could read a collection of 4K-resolution MP4 files, the soft ware didn't support the resolution. As well as MP3 and M4A files, the TX-32AS500 supports FLAC, WAV and WMA music, and JPEG photo, for which it does produce permanent thumbnails.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

Swipe & share via the new Remote 2 app is impressive, too; files on anything attached to the TX-32AS500 can be streamed to a phone, though it's limited to MP4 files, JPEG photos, and MP3, M4A and WAV music files.


The 5W speakers inside the TX-32AS500 aren't up to much, but do at least manage to deliver both dialogue-heavy programmes and music to a basic level.

Panasonic TX-32AS500

However, while the commentary track during South Korea vs Algeria on ITV 1 HD is clearest on the speech mode, the standard setting gives the overall soundstage a touch more realism. While the surround option is nothing of the sort and is wholly misnamed, it does at least draw out some of the crowd noise to the flanks to create a more realistic sound.


Though a TV like this that's unable to treat standard definition sources to any upscaling might not suit all viewers (especially those with large DVD collections), the mushrooming number of HD channels on Freeview HD helps lessen that blow. Besides, what other 32-inch TVs costing this little include such an advanced smart TV platform as My Home Screen?


It doesn't offer perfect pictures and nor does it have all the apps you ever dreamed of, but the TX-32AS500 has enough of both to make it a strong candidate for second rooms in HD homes.

We liked

Colour and contrast, in particular, are a delight, though it's the TX-32AS500's My Home Screen smart TV interface that will attract many. For the first time ever a smart TV's web browser impresses, with web bookmarks allowed on the My Home Screen's info screen, and text entry possible via the excellent Remote 2 app.

The swipe and share feature lends some digital media-savvy features, and though it doesn't quite cover the full gamut of file format we'd like, there's no argument about the TX-32AS500's general savviness with files. Its USB slot supports virtually every file you could think of, while swipe & share via the Remote 2 app is fun, especially for photos.

We disliked

Standard definition TV channels and DVDs look soft and noisy, and there's little in the way of upscaling or noise reduction to help. That will trouble anyone who regularly watches minority TV channels on Freeview. Audio, too, is a low point.

Final verdict

If contrast and colour is the TX-32AS500's big shout, that only applies to HD fare. However, impressive a Blu-ray disc or a HD TV channel is, the TX-32AS500 has no time for standard definition video, which is very soft and crammed with motion artefacts. But while this LED telly has trouble filling the pixels in its HD-ready panel when there's no HD source at hand, its easy to use and feature-packed My Home Screen user interface adds a uniquely customisable smart TV dimension.

A great app that allows file swaps between a smartphone and the TX-32AS500 is topped-off by a comprehensive handling of digital video, music and photos. It's not perfect, but there's no arguing about the TX-32AS500's status as a good value option for HD fanatics. With Freeview HD channels currently mushrooming, the TX-32AS500 is well positioned for mass market adoption.

Also co nsider

There are relatively few HD-ready TVs that feature any kind of smart TV antics, though it's always worth looking at Samsung TVs. The Samsung UE32H4510AK is worth inspection, while those after something for a bedroom should also inspect both the Toshiba 32DL933B, which has an integrated DVD player, and the Finlux 32F8030-T, which has some smart TV apps.

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