Friday, July 5, 2013

Panasonic Viera TC-L32C3 32" IPS LCD TV - A Disappointment

We needed a compact TV to use for occasional TV/video watching and mostly for listening to news. In a sense, it is going to be used like a radio with pictures as an added benefit.

Originally, I was going to get a full-fledged 42-inch plasma TV and ordered Panasonic TC-P42X3, but it was not available for delivery until a month later, so I canceled it and got the simpler and smaller Panasonic Viera TC-L42C3.

This 32-inch TV was chosen for its relatively compact size and weight (remember the days when 27-inch TVs were commonplace main TV?), low power consumption, available PC (D-Sub) input and prior experience wit Panasonic TVs, including my mom’s 42-inch 720p plasma Panasonic TH-42PX80U and the 50-inch 1080p Panasonic TH-50PZ800U.

My other point of comparison is the Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma TV that I used to have.


The Panasonic Viera TC-L42C3 is a 32-inch LCD HDTV with 720p resolution (sort-of, more on it later). It features 2 HDMI inputs a component and a composite input, a PC (D-Sub, a.k.a. VGA) input, an analog stereo audio input (RCA jacks), an SD card slot for viewing pictures on its side and an antenna jack. It also has an optical digital audio out.

The screen has a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9, 3D Y/C Digital Comb Filter, MPEG noise reduction and a built-in analog/digital HD tuner. It also has a Game Mode, Cinema Mode, Standard, Vivid and Custom modes and features anti-reflective coating to reduce unwanted light reflections.

The TV weighs close to 20 lbs. It has 2 built-in speakers. The TV also features VIERA Link, which allows you operate other compatible Panasonic devices connected to it via HDMI using one remote, at least in theory.

The screen has a 1366x768 resolution and uses IPS technology, resulting in wide (for LCD) viewing angle, fast response time but relatively low contrast ratio.


The TV comes with a stand that requires minimal assembly. Still, you have to use the 8 supplied bolts and I wonder if the process could have been easier. The TV has a generic appearance, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Thus far, I used the TV with off the air programming, as well as with the Philips DVP5990 upconverting DVD player, Insignia NS-WBRDVD Blu-ray Player and Pioneer Elite DV-48AV Universal Upconverting DVD Player feed through the Panasonic SA-XR57 7.1-Channel Digital Receiver. The players were connected to the TV using its HDMI input (through the receiver).

I also briefly tried the TV's component video connections (the image quality was almost as good, but slightly softer).

Unlike some other HDTVs (namely the Hitachi), the switching between channels (as well as menu operations) are rather fast. When switching channels, the sound appears within one second and image within two. The menus appear almost instantaneously. My Hitachi was almost infuriatingly slow in this regard, especially after using my mom’s Panasonic.

The powering on takes about 10 seconds though. I think even the Hitachi took less.

The menus are intuitive and the setup was easy. In fact, after powering on for the first time, the TV offered me to select the menu language and scan for channels. After channel scan, you can select/deselect channels that will be stored or skipped.

The remote control is relatively intuitive with large buttons for primary functions. The buttons are not backlit, but the layout is intuitive and most buttons have great tactile response., with the exception of larger buttons that are a bit too hard to press (they require more effort than should).

The remote control works well even if you point it at the TV from the side, unlike most remotes that require you to be in front of the TV.

My mom's Panasonic has a feature that makes her TV better than the Hitachi: you don't have to enter the entire channel number, e.g. 4-4. If you hit 4 and Select and the TV goes to the first channel that is not unselected while setting the channels up. For some reason this LCD TV from the same company (Panasonic) doesn't. So to get to 4-1, I cannot simply hit 4 and then select. Perhaps for this to work, I would have to select "digital only" in the channel settings, but I have cable that has a lot of analog channels so that wouldn't work either.

Picture Quality

Out of the box, the TV produced somewhat dull picture. It has a Cinema mode, which produced smooth, film-like appearance while using 25% of backlight power. Still, the contrast was unimpressive. I found recommended calibrations online and using the “Custom” picture settings was able to arrive at settings that were reasonable, albeit still lacking in contrast. It required, among other things, to set the backlight to 100% power. Even after the calibration, the image is not better than ok.

To reiterate, the contrast level is lacking. This is one of the “features” of the IPS technology. As a result, the black areas look like very dark grey, although the white areas are pretty bright, at least for our dimly-lit room.

The colors were disappointing as well. They just don’t seem to be very true to life, which probably has to do with lack of contrast. Also, since the panel used in the TV has a computer-like 1366 x 768 resolution, no HDTV resolution can be displayed pixel-per-pixel. Not even 720p (even the TV claims to be 720p). So signal of any resolution needs to be scaled to fit the panel’s native resolution, resulting in overscan and artifacts.

The TV has a good tuner though. And there are other positives as well.

The IPS technology produces low contrast ratio, but at the same time results in very wide viewing angle (Panasonic rates it at 178 degrees), at least horizontally. It also results in fast response time, so even though this TV uses 60 Hz refresh rate, don’t compare it to 60 Hz LCD TVs that use TN panels. This TV has no issues whatsoever with fast motion and will be good for watching sports.

The anti-reflective coating on this TV is average. There are reflections visible if there is a strong source of light, which is a non-issue for us.

The standard-def programming is slightly fuzzy after watching high-def, but it is not something I would be concerned about.

Resolutions: The TV can display material at resolutions of up to 1080p (including 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i). Standard-definition signal looks slightly soft comparing to high-definition signal, but resolution is good overall.

Light SensorThe TV's front panel has a light sensor that allows you (if the CATS setting is enabled in the menu) to have TV compensate for the lighting conditions in the room automatically. It works too well. If you cover the sensor with your hand, the brightness/contrast of the picture change within a couple of seconds. The problem is they change too much. I found that (in Standard mode) during the day the picture was too vivid and in dimmer light in the evening it was too dull-looking. As a result, I am manually switching between Cinema, Standard and Custom (calibrated) with CATS off.


The TV has 2 speakers, which are definitely adequate for watching news or sports, but I would suggest using a dedicated 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup with a good receiver for movies and music shows. But then I would also suggest a better TV.

Power Consumption

Although the TV has a label with an impressive $9 annual power consumption (assuming 5 hours of operation a day), it is only the case if you use the TV in the power-saving factory settings. If you actually set it to recommended calibrated settings (including 100% backlight power level), the power consumption increases, so it can conceivably double. As such, it is probably no better than most other LCD TVs of this size and probably worse than that of TN panels. But it is pretty good nonetheless. And I found that I actually prefer Cinema mode, which only uses 25% backlight power, so the power consumption should be good.

Remote Control

The remote control is sturdy, has an intuitive button layout and doesn’t have to be pointed directly at the TV to work.

Computer Connection
The TV has a VGA input and supports numerous computer resolutions, with the native resolution of 1366x768. The sound has to come through the 2 RCA jacks, so you will need a 3.5 mm to RCA stereo cable.

SD Card
The TV has an SD card slot in its side, but the only thing you can do with the card is look at pictures and even that is painfully slow at larger resolutions. It takes up to 8 seconds to load an image.

Sound Return
If you have a sound system, you can get the sound from the TV to it (e.g. for cable or off-the-air programming) from either its optical digital output (TV’s back panel) or the HDMI 1 jack (the receiver has to be at least of Viera Link version 5).

I bought the L32C3 for $300.

Pros: Price, wide viewing angle, good fast motion, easy to use, good remote control, PC input.
Cons: Low contrast, unnatural colors, useless SD card slot, native resolution that matches no HDTV format.


If you need a secondary TV or simply a TV for watching news, cartoons, sports or playing computer games, this TV will provide good viewing angle, fast response time for smooth motion, decent sound and good remote, all at a reasonable price with low power consumption.

But if you are planning on mostly watching movies, operate the TV in a brightly-lit room or otherwise demand excellent picture quality and contrast, I do not recommend this TV. You will have to spend more money and get a better TV.

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