Barebones doesn’t necessarily mean bad. The Samsung PN51E490B4F stands out as our Editors’ Choice budget 3D plasma HDTV for offering a great picture even with 720p maximum resolution, despite few features. Toshiba’s L2200U series of LED-backlit HDTVs follow the PN51E490B4F in thought, only without 3D or any Web connectivity. The sets in this series, like the affordable, energy efficient 32-inch 32L2200U we tested ($379.99 direct), are little more than PC monitors, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if they offered good color reproduction and shadow detail. The picture here is mediocre, at best.
Very plain looking, the 32L2200U features a flat black plastic bezel distinguished only by the Toshiba logo on the bottom and a small power light next to it. A row of buttons sit recessed on the left side of the back of the screen above a single USB port, where most HDTVs have a few HDMI and USB ports. The two HDMI ports, component and VGA video inputs, coaxial audio input, stereo analog and optical audio outputs, and cable connection sit facing straight back on the panel, an inconvenient position for wall mounting. While the 32L2200U is a small screen, two HDMI ports still seems like too few, and even the step-up 40-inch and 50-inch models have just two ports. If you want to connect more than a cable box and a Blu-ray player, you’re going to need to either use a component video connection or find another solution.
The remote is a 6.8-inch flat black slab that tapers on the back. The buttons are large, and flat, but not backlit, though the navigation pad and Volume and Channel buttons are easy to find in the dark.
Don’t expect a lot of features on the 32L2200U. There’s no network connectivity of any kind. If you want to access online services like Netflix or Hulu Plus, you’ll need to get a media hub like an Apple TV or the Roku LT. The screen is 720p resolution, but at 32 inches that isn’t that big a deal. The 40- and 50-inch versions offer 1080p resolution with an identical feature set.
Thanks to Toshiba’s DynaLight backlight adjustments, the 32L2200U can get both very bright and very dark, but its effective contrast ratio is difficult to measure; with the screen mostly dark, objects that should have been bright were also dark in my tests. With DynaLight turned off, this isn’t a problem, but it greatly hurts the black level. We measure HDTV performance with a Konica Minolta CS-200 Chroma Meter, DisplayMate test patterns, and Spectracal’s CalMAN 5 software. The 32L2200U showed a peak brightness of 303.81 cd/m2 (candelas per square meter) regardless of DynaLight settings, and displayed a black level of 0.01 cd/m2 with the feature turned on. With DynaLight turned off, that level jumped to 0.14 cd/m2. The Samsung PN51E490B4F showed mediocre black levels at 0.08 cd/m2, but its performance was consistent and it kept highlights bright while still showing shadow detail, which the 32L2200 couldn’t pull off in my tests. Poor black levels are common fare in budget HDTVs, and are also seen in the LG CS560 series of HDTVs, which includes an affordable 32-inch model for $450. However, both the LG and Samsung HDTVs manage to show some shadow detail and have far more accurate colors than the 32L2200U.
You don’t get many advanced calibration settings, which is a shame because the colors aren’t particularly accurate. After basic brightness and contrast calibration and the color temperature set to Warm, the neutral white of the screen measured perfectly against CIE color measurement standards as shown in the chart below. However, the green channel was extremely warm, and the red channel was slightly oversaturated. The blue channel was nearly spot on.
I watched Avatar and Black Swan on Blu-ray on the set, and was disappointed by the screen’s colors and contrast. In Avatar, the blues of the Na’vi looked clear, but both green foliage and red fire both seemed skewed and flat, lacking the usual depth seen on more accurate HDTVs. Black Swan fared little better, with shadow details appearing washed out; in scenes where bright whites clashed against deep blacks and dark grays, the whites won out and darker objects lost much of their texture. Dark grays also showed significant noise, an unusual problem with the film.
If you want an energy efficient HDTV, the 32L2200U is very tempting. It consumed just 35 watts under normal viewing conditions. The HDTV doesn’t have any energy saving features besides an Automatic Power Off setting (both automatically turning off after a preset time and when there is no signal se vvnt to the HDTV), but at levels that low it doesn’t need any. The 42-inch LED-backlit Sony Bravia KDL-42EX440, by comparison, consumes 57 watts with energy saving features set to Low.
While the price for the 32-inch 32L2200U is very inexpensive $380, it doesn’t fare all that favorably against the same-size LG 32CS560, which is just $70 more. In the end, the 51-inch $690 Samsung PN51E490B4F plasma stands as our Editors’ Choice budget HDTV, offering a higher-quality picture, 3D support with glasses, and an overall better value.
More HDTV Reviews:
|Video Inputs||Component, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||32 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||60Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc