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Panasonic TX-32A400 (A400) TV Review

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Budget in all respects

by Mark Hodgkinson Jul 25, 2014

  • Home AV review

    3
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    Panasonic TX-32A400 (A400) TV Review
    SRP: £279.99

    What is the Panasonic TX-32A400?

    In some ways the Panasonic TX-32A400B is quite an unusual specimen to undergo an AVForums Review.

    We usually see from the top of the range down to the mid-tier but rarely do we get sent what can now be considered a no frills TV. It’s not what you would call a Smart television, there’s no 3D and, most assuredly, it’s not a 4K set. In fact, it’s not even a Full HD TV and carries a resolution of 720p which makes it an even rarer beast amongst review samples. Looking down the spec list on the Panasonic website, it’s notable there are more blank spaces in the checkbox than Yeses when the usual headline features are noted.
    On the flip side, there are an awful lot of people who buy tellies like this and the fact the 32-inch market is teeming with competition underlines that fact. At the time of writing, the MSRP of the 32A400 is around £250 which sounds about right but it will still have to perform well to justify it, such is the competiveness here. There are also 39, 42 and 50-inch versions of this TV but they are Full HD, so might show some different panel characteristics. Let’s see how this entry level TV behaves…

    Design & Connections

    The most notable thing about the construction of the A400 is that the base stand fits directly on to the chassis of the TV. This makes construction very straightforward but we have to admit to emptying out the box, in search of the ‘missing’ fixings. Considering the price-point, the all black plastic approach is understandable but that does mean the A400 does have something of a budget feel about it, although the very narrow bezel is contemporary and reasonably stylish.

    We trust Panasonic knows its markets so the two provided HDMI inputs should be sufficient. There are also legacy Scart, Component and Composite video connections along with audio outs for digital optical and headphones. Naturally there is a Freeview HD capable aerial terminal, too, plus a CAM slot and a USB port on the side for media file playback.
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Design & Connections
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Design & Connections

    The remote is basic but well-constructed and functions perfectly. There are no real smart features to cater for, aside from the Media Player button, so you get buttons that are generously sized and easy to locate. The majority of the most frequently used buttons are also sensibly located near the centre of the handset. OK, it’s a boring remote but it does work.

    Menus

    Considering the higher-end Panasonic’s we’ve seen this year, the menus of the A400 seem strangely barren. You do get what are likely to be fairly accurate viewing modes in Cinema and True Cinema but there are no fine calibration controls, whatsoever, so we’ll have to hope one of them is reasonably accurate out-of-the-box. As well as the Picture Menu there are other submenus for Sound, Network, Timer and Setup, all of which are easy enough to follow.
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Menus
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Menus


    There's a USB Media player but no other Smart TV features to speak of

    Features

    It’s not quite a case of ‘move along, nothing to see,’ but nearly. You get a media player which is accessible via USB and it has a reasonably solid set of file types supported. For photos there is just jpeg support but its more generous with video and will playback most AVI, MKV, WMV, MP4 and FLV files you have. If for any reason you would want to playback music through the A400 you have choices of MP3, AAC (m4a), LPCM (.wav) and FLAC to play with. Note, we would only recommend this course of action if you have an external audio system hooked up to the TV because the built-in speakers are unspeakerably terrible. Sorry, we have to get our amusement somehow.
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Features
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Features


    Calibration

    Calibration Performance

    When your kids are complaining about picture quality, you know you’ve got issues - “Daddy, it’s too dark and murky and it looks all wrong.” Very astute and nearly bang on the money as far as the True Cinema mode is concerned. We can see from the RGB balance chart, bottom left, that while the balance of red, green and blue in the greyscale is not too horrific, the gamma response is all over the place. The target is the yellow line; anything below it is too bright and above too dark so the details near black and up to 30% grey are going to be obscured whilst anything after that, except 40% grey, is too bright and blown out. The Cinema mode performed more or less just the same and we eventually came to Normal with a Warm Colour Temp as the best compromise but as we can see from the graphs in the bottom right photo, there was very little to choose between them but the average delta Errors were slightly lower with the chosen combination.
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Calibration
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Calibration

    Coming to the colours, and at first glance it doesn’t look all that bad. At full saturation levels, once we’d pegged back the luminance with the colour control, most delta Errors were below 5 – where above 3 is noticeable – but looking at the bigger picture in the chart below right, we can see that the primary colours (red, green and blue) are missing their targets by quite a long way in some cases. The result of that is, “it looks all wrong.”
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Calibration
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Calibration

    Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity

    Well it doesn’t get a great deal better here but at least the screen was reasonably uniform on dark screens with just a little bit of clouding in the top-right and bottom-left corners of the screen. The actual black levels were weak, however, and from an alternate black/white chequerboard pattern we recorded an average level of 0.167cd/m2, which is about five times less dark (brighter) than some of the competition are likely to register. The upshot of that is that it makes the contrast ratio quite poor, which came in at just under 620:1. Not a TV for watching in low light conditions where the weak black levels will be highlighted even more.
    Panasonic TX-32A400B Calibration


    Weak black levels and poor colours don't help

    Video Processing

    Considering the 720p resolution, the 32A400 actually handled Blu-rays quite well and it was only up very (too) close you could see any evidence of soft edges or scaling artefacts but there was a very faint flicker to 1080p24 that might annoy sone. Video deinterlacing was also more than adequate so broadcast TV didn’t unduly lose fine details or have jagged straight lines but the A400 couldn’t get a solid lock on the 2:2 film cadence, so if you’re not using an upscaling DVD player, you may notice some instances of moire.

    Gaming Performance


    Whilst the inclusion of a Game option among the Viewng Modes is a welcome sight, it’s a largely unnecessary addition and is probably only there so it can be heralded as a feature. With or without its engagement, input lag was around the 30millisecond mark, which is nice and responsive, as far as we are concerned, and a welcomed positive note to this section. As is the next part, which shows just how eco-friendly the 32A400 is…

    Energy Consumption

    Standby: 0W

    The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:

    Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 34W
    Calibrated – Normal Mode: 37W

    Panasonic TX-32A400B Video Review


    Panasonic TX-32A400B Picture Quality

    Despite what some may think, it’s no fun writing a negative review. They upset companies and sometimes individuals and we definitely take no pleasure in that, but such is the nature of the assignment when you get a poor sample. All the factors as to why it’s not a great watch are mentioned above but to recap, it’s a television weak in contrast, black levels and colour accuracy. The topsy-turvy gamma response leads to images that are almost completely wrong in tone so they can look too dark and murky, one moment, then blown out and soft as fine details are masked, the next. Or, worst case, you get a mixture of the two.

    Looking for some positives, viewing angles are good and the A400 can reach a decent level of screen brightness so it’s well suited to brighter rooms, in fact it’s probably only suited to such an environment. If Panasonic could do something about the gamma response, that would go a long way in to making the A400 a much more watchable proposition but our experiences indicate that can only be done in low level firmware so any existing TVs out there are likely to behave similarly. Hopefully Panasonic will note our findings and do something at the factory to make things better.

    Conclusion

    6
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Decent viewing angles
    • Good media file support via USB
    • Easy to construct
    • Low input lag

    Cons

    • Weak blacks
    • Inaccurate colours
    • Poor tonal balance
    • Flicker with 24p
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Panasonic TX-32A400 (A400) TV Review

    The Panasonic 32A400B is a TV with no pretensions of being smart and packs no fancy headlining features. It’s an entry level television proposition with a sub £300 price tag but at least the design is sleek and contemporary, if a little plastic in construction. You get a couple of HDMI ports and all the legacy video connections as well as Freeview HD compatibility and a USB port for media file playback. The A400 supports most of the common video formats and a decent array of music files, although you wouldn’t really want to listen to your tunes through the in-built speakers as they are awful.

    Unfortunately, the A400 fares no better in the video department than it does the audio. There’s not really a picture mode and colour temperature combination that gets anywhere near correct and the tonal imbalance isn’t helped by the lack of contrast, as native black levels are relatively week. On the plus side, input lag for gamers is low, screen uniformity is reasonable and viewing angles are reasonably wide but even at around £250, there are better choices for your money.


    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

    6

    Screen Uniformity

    7

    Colour Accuracy

    5

    Greyscale Accuracy

    6

    Video Processing

    6

    2D Picture Quality

    5

    Sound Quality

    4

    Smart Features

    5

    Build Quality

    6

    Ease Of Use

    8

    Value for Money

    6

    Verdict

    6

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