Insignia NS-32D311NA15 32-inch TV Review: Emergency Use Only

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Insignia is Best Buy's exclusive and low-budget house brand. That doesn't have to mean low quality, and I found a few redeeming aspects of this set. Still, it was the worst-performing set I tested, and its main appeal is found only in its low price tag.

Who's it for:  No one.

Design: Basic Black

(Click images to enlarge.)

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide)

The NS-32D311NA15 has a modestly thicker bezel than the competition and is generic in appearance (though I could've done without the oversized logo front and center), with a sturdy-enough rectangular base. A row of control buttons along the bottom right of the bezel is nice for when the remote goes missing. The placement of a pair of HDMI ports (as well as analog video and digital, and analog audio) facing to the side improves upon other sets. Many of those have the HDMI ports either pointed straight back, limiting how close to a wall the TV can be placed, or placed in a recessed area, which requires kinking the cable. Rare for a TV nowadays, the NS-32D311NA15 also has a VGA port for analog video from a computer, as well as any accompanying analog audio input.

Ease of Use: No Frills, or Fuss

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide)

Insignia's interface was the ugliest I've seen in this category — a purely functional, visually cramped menu system reminiscent of old computer monitor menus, with a too-small font. Still, it's easy enough to make adjustments, and since setup is plug and play, most users won't be hassled. It's also Roku ready, which means its remote is able to control a Roku Streaming Stick — the original, MHL version for $70. (Of course you can also use the new $50 Streaming Stick; you'll just have to use Roku's remote instead of the TV's.)

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Remote Control: Simple and Convenient

Credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide

(Image credit: Jeremy Lips / Tom's Guide)

It isn't pretty or flashy, but the NS-32D311NA15's remote bested most of the options from pricier sets for sheer usefulness. Buttons are arrayed comfortably, with large fonts. All the fluff that never gets used has been excised, leaving only the most-useful and most-used options, including dedicated audio- and picture-mode buttons.

Image Quality: A Struggle for Consistency

Anyone who has browsed Best Buy's HDTV aisles is probably familiar with Insignia, the big box store's house brand. Having never tested one, I was hopeful the price and performance combination might end up revealing a dark horse for this entry-level race. It turns out my optimism was unfounded. To get those extreme price cuts, it seems Insignia had to cut too many corners. (For details on our evaluation methodology, please see How We Test TVs.

Color: Red in the face

The NS-32D311NA15 has its moments when everything clicks, for instance, some of the early spacewalk scenes in the film Gravity, when the backdrop is a deep black. There's fairly good shadow detail and contrast as George Clooney and Sandra Bullock investigate the cockpit of their fallen comrades. (Note: I preferred the Game picture mode for that movie.) But when things are back on terra firma, the images are wildly out of whack, with sand appearing red and grass a too-blue green. Even set to warm-biased Movie mode (which our lab tests found to be closest to accurate), the color temperature (overall color cast) runs far too blue. Our equipment measured the temperatures at 7,256 Kelvin (anything over 6,500 K is blue territory).

Trying to find a preset that would register white skin accurately without turning it a burnt umber or orange proved impossible. Instead, faces take on a sort of matte, vintage, colorized look that's unnatural; in the Blu-ray of Skyfall, M had a pinkish face with a blue tinge, and Bond shifted between shades of orange and tan. Again, our instrument tests support that finding, with what should be a saturated magenta actually registering red, and a saturated red being nonexistent. The TV's saturated blue, however, is literally off the chart — outside the color gamut (range) that HDTV signals use.

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The test results in the Standard, out-of-the-box results were a shocker, with almost every color shade we tested way off the mark. What should be magenta comes out deep purple; cyans, and even "white" come out blue. Deep blues drift even farther out of the HDTV color gamut, and green does, as well. 

Detail: Lousy viewing angles

The NS-32D311NA15 instantly distinguished itself (in a bad sense) with unforgivably narrow viewing angles, both side to side and vertically. Even after slightly adjusting my seating position, the screen would have dramatic color and contrast shifts. Unless you're seated in a sweet spot directly in front of the screen, you'll be watching a different video than anyone with a good view.

The set's 720p resolution becomes obvious, in the painful sense, whenever graphics or text are on screen, especially during sports and gaming, with dramatic stairstepping of angled lines.

 Motion: Blurring and stuttering

When playing Blu-rays of Skyfall and Gravity, the NS-32D311NA15's inability to keep up with fast motion was instantly detectable. As Bond cascades down a series of waterfalls, the rush of water is an indistinct, blurry mess. And the camera pans in Gravity — which, granted, challenged most of the sets I've tested — became a veritable stop-motion film as items chugged across the screen.

The good news was that upscaled DVDs were pretty OK, which is to say, smoother and less pixelated than with many of the 1080p sets I tested. However, it was certainly a drastic leap down from HD content. With some calibration, it would be perfectly serviceable for less-picky viewers who have deep DVD collections.

Audio Quality: Weak and Indistinct

Audio was low (no surprise, with only a pair of 5-watt speakers) and somewhat muddy. Popping into Theater mode only made ambient sound flat and music too tinny and bright, though with fuller bass. My favorite preset was Music mode, but overall this set lacked any of the surround effects and separation that many competing sets could produce.

Bottom Line

For some people who aren't fussy about color and contrast, this set may be good enough for the price. Still, I suggest the Sharp LC-32LE451U, which produces a far better picture and audio experience for just a few bucks more. Better yet, bump that up a hundie, and you'd take home my top pick, the 1080p Vizio M322i-B1.