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All right, so you are in the market for the best 32-inch TV, and as is the case with most consumer tech, an overwhelming array of choices pommels you from all directions. How do you ensure that you do not sink your money in the wrong hole? This section provides you with all the information you need to make that ultimate wallet-friendly top-end bang-for-buck 32-inch TV buying decision.
The first question you have to ask yourself is if you are certain that your absolute size requirement is 32 inches. To be sure, you have to decide if the TV will be your main TV or a secondary TV. If it is the latter, then you can continue with your 32-inch search. However, if it is the former, you may want to consider slightly higher displays in the 40-inch to 50-inch range.
The easier-to-explain reason is that the price jump between a 32-inch display and the 40-50 inch range display is often not that significant. Such that if you have the space to support a larger display, you should purchase a larger display even if you have to slightly move past your budget. The reason that takes a tad more time to come to grips with is that from an economic point of view, it makes more sense to purchase a larger display if you have the space and can afford it. A TV is not a smartphone you get to replace when your 2-year contract is up. It is a long-term purchase and you’ll appreciate the extra screen estate and some valued perks that go with larger displays.
We all are on one page at this point that you want to make a 32-inch TV purchase. You also want the best buy with terrific picture quality and top-end value. With that said, you should first pay mind to the viewing technology. Virtually all 32-inch TVs you should be interested in are LCD TVs. The real difference in this aspect is the type of backlight used. There are two options—LCDs (which use CCFL) and LED. CCFLs are often the less expensive variants. LEDs on the other hand are slightly more power-efficient and typically can fit into thinner makeups that result in ultra-thin displays.
In terms of resolution, there are two variants to concern yourself with—720p HD and 1080p FHD. To be accurate, 1080p is a better resolution than 720p and is the current popular viewing standard. Thing is, for the 32-inch screen size, 1080p is only marginally better than 720p. We did a comparison test, and could only notice the difference when we placed them side by side or when we viewed the screen from a distance of 5+ feet. When we viewed them separately, all we could tell was that 720p had slightly soft focus, while the 1080p had sharper focus: not enough to make a clear recommendation to choose 1080p over 720p. In our opinion, you stand to gain a much better viewing experience by making a selection based on the richness/accuracy of colors and viewing angles before considering resolution.
- From major manufacturers, with 720p LCD specs: $240 to $270
- Same specs from a lesser-known manufacturer, often Chinese vendors: as low as $185
- 1080p LCD specs: start at $270
- Smart LCD specs (including internet apps): start at $290
You should not fork out extra bucks for this feature. Mainly because TV manufacturers do not offer a true 120Hz panel, unless you provide a huge cash incentive to do so. Needless to say, many manufacturers are not honest about this, rather opting to mask their unwillingness with tricks. Afterwards, they market their panels as 120Hz just to gain an edge on the spec sheet. The common trick used is flashing of the backlight instead of letting it stay on at all times. The value of such kludge trick is not worth the extra bucks they command.
This looks good on paper and a lot better in the ads, but there is a viable alternative. One that you should explore because it is hands-down better than the default smart offering on virtually all 32-inch TVs. The alternative is a $50 Roku streaming box. In any case, 32-inch TVs only sport around two HDMI ports (three is a rare occurrence). Therefore, if you are able to get an in-built smart feature set, you should consider it. If the smart features cost more than you can chew, go for a basic model and purchase a Roku, Amazon Fire, or Apple TV instead (and you can always simplify things with a universal remote).
Manufacturers may sometimes advertise their models to feature a couple of creative, high-quality sound modes that offer high-end audio quality. Most times, these are just gimmicks with very little, if at all, audio quality improvement. In our opinion, you should purchase a sound bar for quality sound, regardless of if you are an audiophile or not, rather than be coerced into purchasing a higher-priced set because of a marketing stunt. The reason is that today TVs are drifting towards having small bezels and becoming much thinner. Therefore, the substantial surface area to guarantee better sound is simply non-existent, which is why a sound bar dedicated to producing quality sound is a better option. In addition, a sound bar offers more versatility as it will play audio from other devices including your smart mobile devices and computer.
In the previous section we discussed the vital qualities you have to pay mind to if you want to buy the best 32-inch TV in the market. We even quipped in our expert recommendations. In this section, the language is more objective. We discuss the top 3 factors to consider when making a 32-inch TV buy, giving you all the tidbits to make contrasting models/choices a lot easier.
Resolution: 720p vs 1080p
The deal with resolution is that it has a concrete influence on the picture quality. The higher the resolution, the sharper/more detailed the picture quality will be. It is that simple. For 32-inch TVs, your best choices are 720p and 1080p. 1080p is the most popular and there are literally a gazillion amount of FHD content available. Both resolutions will display HD content, but in a purely objective sense, 1080p sets offer image quality that is more crisp and detailed and is becoming increasingly important for gaming and movie-watching.
Smart TV Features
This has been around for quite some time now, but it is always a vital option to consider. These days, video-on-demand services like Netflix and Hulu are giving established entertainment services a run for their money. There is more on offer like Facebook, Weather app and the ability to stream media content from diverse Internet sources. In a nutshell, a smart TV is a deeply significant buy.
3D used to be the preserve of high-end TVs with huge screens and eye-popping price tags. Currently, 3D compatibility is fast becoming a mainstream feature and can be found on many 32-inch TVs at affordable price points. 3D redefines the viewing experience and is also an impressive feature to have in a TV set.
1. Samsung UN32J6300 Review
The Samsung UN32J6300 is a 32-inch 1080p HDTV, and the smallest size available for the J6300 series. This is our favorite 32-inch TV in terms of picture quality and enhancements, Smart TV functionality, and a reasonable price tag. The Smart TV experience is very user-friendly, and the TV itself is aesthetically pleasing.
This 32-inch TV has a relatively small black bezel and is supported by a matching black colored, V-shaped stand and sports a brushed silver trim. Overall, the profile is slim and just looks like a premium TV. Four HDMI inputs and three USB 2.0 inputs are available – this is more than appreciated and slightly unusual as a TV of this size generally doesn’t come equipped with four HDMI slots. The standard Samsung smart remote is included, which comes with a full backlight and controls the necessary functions including a smart hub button, various keys for menus and other smart features. You won’t have access to the motion or voice search functionalities that the larger, pricier Samsung TV’s are equipped with, but we don’t see that as a deal breaker.
The UN32J6300 boasts most of the important controls that are needed to adequately tweak and calibrate its picture quality. A variety of audio customization tools are also available, in addition to the video controls. A gamma slider, both a 2- and 10-point white balancer, and CMS (custom color gamut) are available – the typical color, contrast, and backlight intensity controls are also included. We find that TVs with a wide array of controls allow for a more fine-tuned experience which results in an overall better picture than the settings you’ll find pre-programmed from the factory. For our reviews, while we do like to mess with settings a bit, most of our review is based on the default factory settings, as most consumers probably won’t take the time to research and properly calibrate the TV.
The UN32J6300 is an all-around top-performer. Samsung’s “Micro Dimming Pro”, which is utilized in many of its higher-end TVs, results in an excellent contrast ratio – you’ll notice some impressively dark blacks right next to fluorescent highlights. The Samsung UN32J6300 delivers the most bang for your buck – without a doubt, this is the best 32-inch TV on the market.
2. Vizio E32-C1 Review
Next up is the Vizio E32-C1. Before we start, it is important to note that the E32h-C1 and the E32-C1 are different – don’t be fooled by the similar names. The E32h-C1 is inferior to the E32-C1 that we are recommending here. The most notable difference is that the E32h-C1 has a 60Hz “effective refresh rate” at 720p, while the Vizio E32-C1 has a 120Hz “effective refresh rate” at 1080p resolution. Even with the smaller sized 32-inch TV, we find the difference in picture quality from 720p to 1080p is substantial, and so the extra few bucks is worth it.
Unlike most LED TVs in this class, the E32-C1 is equipped with full-array LED backlighting – this is instead of the typical and usually inferior, edge-lit design. The E32-C1 has a noticeably thin framing bezel measuring in at roughly 10mm. The two-pronged inward leaning stand matches the appearance with a basic color of black. The stand supports both ends of the TV, and so the resting surface shouldn’t be much smaller than the TV itself.
While picture quality doesn’t really compete with some of Vizio’s higher-end, more expensive models, it is still the king when it comes to picture quality at 32-inches for the price. Black levels are decent, and colors are vibrant. Better blacks can be found elsewhere, but to the untrained eye the Vizio E32-C1 will be more than enough TV. In the Advanced Picture Settings menu, we found toggling the “Black Detail” option to the high settings resulted in a noticeable improvement in contrast and a better picture than is found straight out of the box.
The Vizio E32-C1 comes Wi-Fi ready and is equipped with the Vizio Internet Apps Plus Smart TV platform. Here you’ll find all of the popular apps like Netflix, VUDU, Hulu Plus, Spotify, Pandora, and even Facebook. Smart TV functionality is great and the Wi-Fi connection is fast enough to stream HD content without any hiccups. Some TVs are unable to stream media very well, but the Vizio E32-C1 does just fine.
For an entry level LED HDTV, the Vizio E32-C1 is a bargain. If you’re on a budget and can do without some of the complex calibration tools than can be found in the more expensive TVs, the E32-C1 is a great choice.