Panasonic TX-L55ET60B 3D LED Television Review
We get our first look at Panasonic's 2013 3D LED TV Range.
Styling and Design
We were a little surprised to see another reboot to Panasonic’s remote control design, following the first major change in form for a number of years with 2012’s iteration. It’s actually more a case of Back to the Future for Panasonic as the new form shares more in common with the older generations’. We much prefer the matte black material chosen this time around which saves the daily removal of greasy fingerprints and the plastic feels a tad softer and more tactile too. New buttons for Home and Apps have been added toward the top where the Internet and Viera Tools button once resided; which is fair reflection of the direction Panasonic are taking with integrating their smart features, apps and sundry interface this year.
Connectivity options are provided by 3 HDMI inputs, running down the side and just 11cm from the edge of the bezel. Also on the side facing connections panel are 2 USB ports, a headphone jack, a S/PDIF digital audio out and a SD Card slot. Running across the bottom and downward facing there’s a LAN port; an aerial terminal; component and composite video inputs; a connection for the RGB Scart adapter and L/R stereo audio jacks. This year sees the back of a D-SUB VGA PC connection for Panasonics so it’s HDMI only from here on in, which may upset some.
There’s not a great deal that can be said of the polarised glasses supplied in the box. There are a couple of pairs thrown in; being of the polarised variety, they’re very light and perhaps our only criticism is that they are equipped with quite small lenses which – we’d imagine – might prove difficult to fit over prescription glasses. The lenses, themselves, are remarkably tint-free with, if anything, a very light grey coating seeming to have been applied. This bodes well for 3D viewing later but they definitely could have been more generously sized.
Moving in to the Menus ‘proper’ and the basic look of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) is familiar from last year’s ranges with a two-tone blue and gold colour scheme and sharp, easy to read text in white. The Menus are split in to six submenus, Picture, Sound, Network, Timer, Set and a new Help section which, amongst other things, includes an ‘eHELP’ interactive menu, which like similar iManuals we’ve seen from other manufacturers, provides excellent assistance to more novice users, although we’d imagine the user-friendly nature of most of the menus shouldn’t require much in the way of explanation.
More conventional calibration controls in the form of two and ten point white balance controls, pre-set gammavalues, as well as 10 point adjustments and a 3 point CMS for detailed adjustment of the primary colours.
On the front page of Picture options are more prosaic choices for Contrast, Brightness, Sharpness and Colour and – new for this year – a dedicated Backlight slider. Also ringing the changes is a new selection of Warm2 as a Colour Temp in addition to Cool 1 & 2, Warm1 and Normal. We’ll have to investigate the merits of each later in the review but Warm2 looks favourite in terms of out-of-box accuracy by eye but it’s close between that and Warm1, at least in the True Cinema Mode. The front page of picture options is also where one will find the ‘local dimming’, Adaptive Backlight Control with settings of Min, Max and Off; again, we’ll evaluate these further in.
There are a number of 3D settings available. Users can manually alter the ‘strength’ of the 2D>3D conversion mode (Min/Mid/Max) but it is only selectable once enabled in the next option down, 3D Adjustment. Just below the 3D Adjustment option you can select to alter the Picture Sequence if you feel, and we quote the manual, ‘that the sense of depth is unusual’. There’s an Edge Smoother option too that we’ll check out later on and the 3D Detection can be set to Off, On or On Advance. The Off setting speaks for itself where On detects particular 3D signals (Frame Sequential, SBS etc) and displays them automatically and On Advance detects all 3D signals and shows them without any notification or user intervention necessary. Finally there’s the choice of being able to swap the left and right frames of the 3D image over for those feeling any discomfort.
Out of Box PerformanceRegular readers will know that factory set, default home modes are typically possessed of far too much blue energy in the greyscale and whilst Panasonic often aren’t quite as guilty, they still like to pull the trick of whites appearing more dazzling, in a washing detergent style. There is an industry standard for white known as D65 that defines both a colour temperature and xy co-ordinates on the CIE chart, which is in the middle of the triangle on the graph below to the right. We can also see from the charts on that side that although the primary colours are well positioned in terms of hue and saturation, the secondary colours are being adversely affected by the excess of blue in the greyscale. It’s not the worst out of box image we’ve encountered but it’s certainly washed out and fairly unappealing.
Just for fun we decided to put the True Cinema and Custom modes in to a calibration-off. The end results were near identical but we were just able to bring in Custom to the nth degree that bit more and, as we can see from the RGB Balance chart above, the balance of the three channels was perfectly distributed throughout the range. There was a slight kink in gamma response near white that was outside of the 10pt gamma controls’ reach but its actual real world effects were nigh on unnoticeable, and the greyscale distribution definitely bettered that we saw with the True Cinema calibration where it was difficult to manage high end blue.
Picture ProcessingPanasonic promised improvements to their video processing and they’ve mostly delivered. The ET60 proved an extremely competent scaler of standard definition signals with clear and crisp reproduction of even the finer details (where present), without any rough-around-the-edges ringing. For those that still have a large DVD collection but no upscaling player, the good news continues as the ET60 has no problems in identifying progressively shot film material sent in an interlaced signal, meaning as clean a representation of your old movies as you could reasonably hope for. The only slight let-down was the quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50 which did show more jaggedness than we’re accustomed to when displaying dedicated test patterns although, to be fair, with real world testing, we could barely see an issue. The deinterlacing tests perform slightly differently with each processor we see so it could just be a bit of an anomaly. As we would hope for a TV emerging in 2013, the Panasonic TX-L55ET50B had no issues with frame skipping or any other unexpected unpleasantness with Blu-ray disc based material.
Contrast and Black Levels
The Panasonic TX-L55ET60B certainly has some things going for it when it comes to video games, primarily its size – you can’t beat a nice big screen for gaming and that goes double for games produced in 3D, a task which the ET60 performs very well. Input latency is almost the definition of average and using our pioneering test equipment we took a lowest measure of around 48 milliseconds lag. The Game mode most assuredly needs engaging from the options menu and used in combination with the Custom Viewing Mode it gives the lowest latency. The games mode doesn’t particularly handle motion brilliantly, however, and some ghosting might be apparent if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 102.2w
- Calibrated – Custom Mode: 65.5w
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 101.7w
Picture Quality - 2D
It’s sometimes the case that we feel LED/LCD pictures can look over-digitised, especially with movies where the analogue look is key but the ET60 rarely conveyed such an appearance and although it manages to cleanly reproduce every last nuance of detail from high definition sources; it never felt forced, if you take the point.
There are some things the ET60 doesn’t do quite so well and there’s some decisions to be made in setup that have quite dramatic effect on the pictures it can produce. We discussed the merits of the Active Backlight Control on the test results page and, for the reasons given there, we think it best to keep it conservative so contrast performance never really rises much above the level of adequate, although an excellent filter and resistance against reflections means it gives the impression of possessing very good black levels until the lights come down. Detailing within the darker shades isn’t particularly strong either, with a certain milkiness to shadows and a general lack of definition.
One thing we’d certainly say when comparing the IPS panels of LG and Panasonic is that motion handling is best executed by the Japanese technology. There’s always the option of having the IFC option assist but it can’t always mask the occasional instances of ghosting, which was mainly seen with high paced sporting action. We wouldn’t recommend IFC in any of its guises for film content, however, as the soap effect is immediately apparent, even on the minimum setting. During testing we did uncover a bug where coming out of IFC at Max in to a lower setting or Off would send the ET60 in to a stuttering frenzy that required a reboot. We couldn’t recreate the problem but it’s another good reason to avoid setting it that high.
For the most part, the screen consistency of the ET60B was very creditable indeed and viewing angles quite generous. We could just make out that the far left hand side of the screen was marginally paler than the rest but that was in a much darkened room on an all-black screen. In day to day viewing, there was very little in the way of light uniformity problems to spoil the party. Colours held up well from off-centre but, typical of the technology, black levels don’t maintain the same levels of punch out of the sweet spot.
The Panasonic ET60 delivered a rewarding viewing experience overall. In terms of colour reproduction, it’s simply excellent and it’s pleasing to see the added bit of contrast the new panels bring married to Panasonic’s generally excellent processing and driving methods. We certainly wouldn’t complain if blacks could be given a further native boost and if they managed to improve the general motion handling but the ET60 is a very good all-round performer, ideal for a living room that sees a bit more light than our viewing environment.
Picture Quality – 3D
Moving on. It’s probably fair to class the ET60 as more of a side-step than a backwards one, 3D-wise. It’s inarguable that it provides a brighter image than any active shutter tech TV out there and, equally uncontestable, that it will flicker less. The ET60 is certainly capable as providing as much pop as any other 3D display and the lack of crosstalk makes the whole experience truly engaging and enveloping and that we managed to sit through the entire presentation of Dredd, which frankly looks better in 3D than 2D, without the need for a headache-break is probably testament enough to the ET60’s 3D charms.
The downside of the new panel is that there’s definitely more blur. We routinely use recorded footage of the BBC HD Wimbledon 3D coverage as both a test for side-by-side performance at 50Hz as well as the fact it’s a crosstalk torture test with the rapid movement and white marking lines of the court and we could see that the ET60 was having some problems transitioning out of white. Clearly the panel response performance isn’t quite what it used to be but it rarely detracted from the overriding sense of involvement and the ET60 is a 3D display to be reckoned with.
- Superb colour accuracy
- Excellent scaling and general handling of standard definition
- Flawless Blu-ray playback
- My Home Screen is a very good idea
- We like the new/old remote
- Tons of smart features
- Gorgeous looking
- Filter is highly effective in ambient light
- Motion handling could be smoother
- Black levels and contrast could still use a further boost
- Some smearing of white with 3D content
Panasonic TX-L55ET60B 3D LED Television Review
If every television we see in 2013 can match the Panasonic ET60 in the looks department, our eyes are in for a treat this year as it’s a stunner in the flesh. We don’t usually take to metallic effect surrounds but the bezel of the ET60 is so sleek it’s barely noticeable and the complimenting base-stand that is of a more subtle, matte finish is equally beautiful with its slightly sloped form. It’s a winner for the design department of Panasonic and we also like the reimagined remote control that pays homage to the past whilst providing a gateway to the future through the new buttons that access Panasonic’s new – and slick – smart ecosystem.
Heading up said platform is Panasonic’s new My Home Screen concept that is simple and, more importantly, genuinely useful if your viewing habits aren’t restricted to traditional delivery methods. For instance, you may wish of the option to jump straight in to your Netflix account or check your Twitter when first switching on and, thanks to the customisable nature of My Home Screen, you can do just that, and much more besides. Panasonic’s new Viera Remote App 2 is excellent although the Android version, at least, is having a few random crashes that we’re sure will be addressed. Panasonic is obviously recognising that your tablet or smartphone is a much better fit for controlling most of the smart functionalities; and rightly so.
The new menus present in the 2013 range through up a few surprises, not least of which was the appearance of a Custom Viewing Mode which had the same full suite of calibration controls only afforded otherwise of True Cinema. What’s more, after disabling some of the more outlandish new ‘enhancement’ options present in the Picture Menus, Custom more than gave True Cinema a run for its money in terms of accuracy. A full calibration of both modes resulted in an almost dead heat with the Custom mode just shading it with its fully saturated colour palette - and it truly did tune up a treat.
Panasonic’s general processing and driving of the new panels proved very effective, for the most part, and this allied with the supremely accurate colours a calibrated ET60B is capable of meant that images were, at times, simply sublime in their appearance, packed with detail and brimming with realism. The weaker points, as expected, are a sometimes blurred representation of motion and not exactly stellar native black levels. The contrast performance is highly impressive in a reasonably bright room, though, and those looking for a big screen that’s a very capable all-rounder in those circumstances could do much worse than audition a Panasonic ET60B.
The 3D spectacle is equally as engaging, with a vivid, totally flicker-free and enveloping experience awaiting those that make use of the facility. The new panel does have the downside of not having as fast a response as the outgoing iteration so motion is not as fluid and there’s some problems when transitioning from white but it rarely hampered the general sense of enjoyment and immersion.
The sideways move in panel technology hasn’t proved a painful one for the Panasonic ET60, in fact in a number of key factors it’s an improvement over the outgoing series. It’s a beautiful, smart and very capable performer that positively merits an AVForums Recommended Award.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
2D Picture Quality7
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money6
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Display LED Backlight Type Edge Display Format 1080p Full HD Screen Size 55 In Resolution 1920 x 1080 Pixels 1080p24 Support Yes 3D Technology Passive Refresh Rate 600 Hz Aspect Ratio 16:9 Viewing Angle 178 degrees Image Enhancement Engine Intelligent Frame Creation
3D Accessories Passive Glasses
Smart TV Yes
Speakers Stereo with Subwoofer Speaker Output 18 Watts Supported Sound Formats DSP Sound Features
Energy Efficiency Class A++ Release Year 2013 Warranty Yes
HDMI Type HDMI with ARC
HDMI Inputs 3 Scart Connections 1 Component Inputs 1 Composite Inputs 1 VGA Inputs 1 Ethernet Port Yes Wi-Fi Built-in
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