Panasonic TX-L55DT65 (DT65) TV Review
One of Panasonic's top drawer LED TVs gets the AVForums treatment
What is the Panasonic TX-L55DT65?The TX-L55DT65B sits toward the apex of Panasonic’s LED TV offerings in 2013, just a rung below the WT65B which sports a built-in camera and more rapid backlight scanning to justify its premier status. Elsewhere, the DT65 matches its stable mate – spec for spec – and comes in a wider variety of sizes to entice the public. As well as the 55-inch model under scrutiny here, there’s also the TX-L60DT65B, TX-L47DT65B and TX-L42DT65B to choose from, where the first digits in the product number indicate the screen size. With a change in panel, more features than your Sunday paper and a whole new interface to explore we best get down to business.
Styling and ConnectionsThe Panasonic DT65 is a remarkably coordinated package. From the micro-thin bezel surrounding the glossy black screen, to the brushed metal swivelling base-stand and included duet of controllers, it’s all decked out in a thematic silver look. In all honesty, we’re not especially keen on the DT65’s bezel, the material chosen is mirror-like and will distract on those sunny days (UK readers needn’t worry) but the overall look is undeniably contemporary, especially the ‘V-Stand’ which secures the chassis to the base but it’s equally as reflective as the bezel. In fact, all things considered, we slightly prefer the cosmetics of the ET60 which sits lower down the pecking order. Of course, you really need to go and see one for yourself and we’re certain the DT65’s looks will find favour in many quarters.
As stated above, the DT65 comes with two remote controls – one standard and another that’s rather smart. When we say ‘standard’ the DT65’s conventional remote is hewn of extremely shiny plastic so it should be easy to locate around the living room. Besides the flashy colour scheme, the remote is of a very familiar layout but includes new prominent buttons for Home and Apps, which will give you some indication on how Panasonic wants you to go about the DT65’s use; with an emphasis on personalisation and ease of operations. The new Touch Pad controller is very similar to last years, which we liked, but now includes a ‘trigger’ to the rear, so we like it even more. It’s actually a very good design choice, making the Touch Pad much easier to use one-handed; whereas previously you were required to enter in to a spot of thumb gymnastics to keep the experience smooth when wanting to verify a selection. That’s a long way of saying it acts as an Enter/OK button and does so very well. As the name would suggest, the Smart controller has a touchpad that allows for some rudimentary TV controls, such as volume or channel selection but it really comes in to its own when used to scroll the internet functions and apps. New for 2013 is a built-in microphone offering its own command interface which we’ll take a look at in our dedicated Smart Viera platform review once we’ve finished testing the DT65 but, all in all, the new Touch Pad is very good.
There’s not too much that can be said of the polarised glasses supplied in the box. There are four pairs with the DT65 and being of the polarised variety, they’re very light. Our only real quibble 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.Connectivity options are provided by 3 HDMI inputs, running down the side and less than 11cm from the edge of the bezel. Also on the side facing connections panel are 3 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; two satellite antennae inputs (for dual tuner recording), a single DTV aerial terminal – internally it’s dual for Freeview HD recording ; adapter inputs for component and composite video inputs; a connection for the RGB Scart adapter and L/R stereo audio jacks. The DT65 can also hook up to Bluetooth enabled devices to stream audio. 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.
Menus and FeaturesAfter first tuning and setting up the DT65, new owners will be greeted by Panasonic’s new Home Screen which comes with 4 default views – Full Screen TV, TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen & Info Screen – with a further option to create customised screens as one sees fit.
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.
The Picture menu, however, has been expanded considerably and even seasoned users will need to find time for some acclimatisation. Starting at the top and the first thing some will notice is the inclusion of a new Viewing Mode, Custom, to accompany the existing Dynamic, Normal, Cinema and True Cinema options. A further delve in to the Setup menu will allow for 2 further Viewing Modes – Professional 1 and Professional 2 – which contain a very full suite of calibration controls including two and ten point White Balance controls, pre-set Gamma values, as well as 10 point adjustments and a full 6 point, 3D Colour Management System (CMS) for detailed calibration of both the primary and secondary colours.
There are also some new for 2013 options including 'Adaptive Gamma Control’, ‘Black Expander’ and ‘Clear White Effect’. Also in the DT65 we have Ambient Sensor, Noise Reduction, MPEG Noise Reduction, Caption Smoother, MPEG Remaster, Resolution Remaster, Brilliance Enhancer and Intelligent Frame Creation - Panasonic’s motion interpolating system. A further submenu named ‘Option Settings’ allows for switching on of the Game Mode, a 1080p pixel direct mode and the engaging of the Film Cadence Mode, all of which will be tested later on. Here is also where you’ll find the setting for HDMI RGB Range, which unless you’re hooking up a PC, will be best set at Normal range but it’s good to see that it’s assignable per input. Finally, should you so wish, the HDMI inputs can be set to be expecting Graphics or Photos with some automatic picture adjustments then applied, but unless this a professional requirement, we’d advise leaving at the default Auto Setting.On the front page of Picture options are more usual 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-the-box accuracy. 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, whereas 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.
Basic SetupAs it transpires, the out-of-the-box performance in the DT65’s most accurate picture modes produced near identical results and as they feature the same extensive calibration controls we had the choice between using Custom or either of the Professional pre-sets. Having used some basic patterns to set Backlight, Contrast and Brightness we were presented with the following results:
The charts on the left describe the greyscale response, which is a vitally important component of the image as any lack of neutrality here will taint the colour signal, with which it works in tandem. There’s a slight tendency for the D65 to being too much green in to the mix; when performing a full calibration we’d aim to have the bars on the bottom left chart below 3, on the x axis, and most are hovering between 3 and 5 so, as an out of box mode, it’s actually performing very well with just a very faint green cast apparent with on-screen content. Bear in mind we’ve seen TVs with delta errors averaging well above 10 in their most ‘accurate’ modes. The CIE chart on the right shows how the colours are matching the Rec.709 standard and, again, the DT65 was really impressive with just a fairly significant under-saturation of red and a tendency for the colours to be a touch dim of any real concern. With the controls available, we should be able to produce excellent results.
Calibrated ResultsPanasonic’s new Viera Remote App 2 allows full access to the necessary adjustments and has the great benefit of not calling up the user interface which is an annoying trait of the Panasonic’s on two fronts: a) the menus time out too quickly and you’re often left measuring them and b) even their presence at the bottom of the screen affect measurements, albeit only slightly. We are going somewhere with this – we found the Viera Remote App 2 only works in conjunction with the Custom Mode so that’s what we used both for convenience (mostly) and, well, just for the novelty value. The app mostly works really well but it’s definitely one for circa 10-inch tablets (we tried with an iPad 4 and Nexus 7) as otherwise it’s a touch fiddly to move some of the sliders. With that mini-review within a review done, on to the results.
As we can see from the charts above, we had attained effective perfection with the DT65 in both greyscale and gamut with minimal effort expended. The multi-saturation point graph below shows the D65’s less saturated colours are also performing very well although red is over-saturating in the mid-range. After watching some real world footage we ended up dialling back the red for a better overall balance but Delta E’s, overall, remained under the visibly perceptible level. Three is the magic number.
Contrast, Black Levels and Screen UniformityOne of the first things we did with the DT65 was to turn the Backlight down. Even in its more accurate modes, this TV is defaulted to delivering mega-bright images, which impacts negatively on the black levels. We set the 55DT65 to achieve a peak white output of around 120 cd/m2, which gave a full-screen black reading of 0.11cd/m2, which is OK, if not great. A more revealing measurement is derived using mixed content and, using an ANSI Checkerboard pattern the DT65 produced averaged black levels of 0.1 cd/m2 against an average peak white of 102 cd/m2 giving an ANSI contrast ratio just shy of 1000:1 which, again, is respectable if not earth-shattering.The Checkerboard pattern also gives us a good indication of the light distribution on a particular panel; it’s more than a little often we’re left bemoaning uniformity issues with LED lit LCD TVs but the DT65 is generally very good in this regard with an almost total absence of clouding or corner bleed but you will notice from the picture above that it is a fair bit brighter in the middle of the screen that is at either side. This is fairly typical of the technology and actually rarely becomes noticeable with real world content, largely because our eyes are naturally drawn in to the centre of the screen although it becomes more noticeable when scenes are very dark. The only other uniformity issue that ever showed up was a very mild dirty screen effect when action panned over paler colours. Again, its occurrence was not commonplace and so fleeting as to barely raise a tut of dismay.
Video ProcessingPanasonic’s video processing continues to improve year on year and the DT65 fair flew through most of our usual barrage of testing. It proved an excellent 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 DT65 had no issues 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. Video deinterlacing was also impressive with few jagged edges showing up our rotating bar patterns. As we would hope from a (near) flagship TV – actually we expect it of all HDTVs now - the Panasonic TX-L55D65B had no issues with frame skipping or any other unexpected unpleasantness with Blu-ray disc based material at 1080p24.
Gaming PerformanceWe’re glad to see that the DT65’s processing speed has been put to good use so it’s able to cope with the always connected demands of a modern day TV whilst delivering a very responsive gaming experience. Although we wouldn’t recommend it for the sake of your eyes, using the Dynamic Viewing Mode with the Game Mode option selected in the Options Menu saw numbers as low as 34 milliseconds. But what’s 4 milliseconds between friends? And we got consistent numbers in the 37-38 millisecond range using the Professional Modes, which puts well up there as one of the best top-tier sets for gamers. Interestingly, removing the advanced calibration changes from the Pro and Custom modes reduced lag by a couple of milliseconds, suggesting the settings are stored somewhere in the internal memory slightly less accessible to the processor than the defaults.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 112.2W
- Calibrated – Custom Mode: 56.9W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 81.4W
Panasonic TX-L55DT65 Picture Quality 2DIn all honesty, if we were to put the previously reviewed ET60 side by side against the DT65, we’re fairly sure we’d be hard pressed to tell them apart. The DT65 separates itself more with some additional features that it does in terms of picture quality but seeing as the ET60 was a good performer, that’s not such a bad thing. Perhaps where the two TVs differ most is in terms of their motion handling; at first glance the DT65 has a touch more smoothness and fluidity, which would indicate Panasonic is applying a touch of background processing with the higher-tiered DT65 but it does have some drawbacks, most noticeably in some stuttering when on-screen action changes its pace. We’ve encountered similar incidents with Samsung’s 6 series, and above, in recent years and also with some of LG's higher-end ranges. Unlike with the Korean manufacturers’ TVs, instances with the DT65 were fairly rare and fleeting but there always remains a slight sense of unnaturalness to motion, if you look very closely – particularly with 50Hz based material. This is by no means a killer problem, remember we’re scrutinising pictures far more than the average viewer is likely to, but it is something we think worth making mention of.
Elsewhere, the Panasonic DT65 largely delivers on the promise provided by its superbly accurate colour palette and neutral greyscale to produce some very convincing pictures that really came to life on the 55-inch panel. Over the Easter break we finally got to watch the full presentation of the Bourne Legacy, which gives a nice test of colours but also provides a good way to assess black levels and shadow detailing. Whilst the DT65 came up trumps on the former with scenes retaining a life-like appearance and excellent skin-tones, it didn’t fare so well with the darker content. The Adaptive Backlight Control does initially seem to remedy the rather average contrast levels but it does so at the cost of detail and gives an uneven spread of luminance across the image – typically raising the brighter elements of the picture to unnatural levels; and that’s in both Min and Max settings, although it’s worse on Max. We did wonder whether the wonderfully named, ‘Brilliance Enhancer’ control would act as some kind of finer control but it turned out to be nothing more than a selective colour brightness modifier and rendered totally unnecessary by calibration.
Besides the accuracy of the colours, the strongest cards in the DT65’s hand are its generous viewing angles that retain fidelity – albeit with contrast taking a hit – at quite acute positions and its effectiveness in bright living room environments where the ambient light filter shows its mettle, although the screen is very reflective so it’s best not positioned directly facing a light source such as a window or glass door. The DT65 will undoubtedly make a very attractive addition to most living rooms but if you’re serious about your movies, we’d strongly advise waiting to see what Panasonic’s 2013 Plasma range brings to the table.
Panasonic TX-L55DT65 Picture Quality 3DThe Panasonic DT65 is very capable of producing lifelike 3D at brightness levels that can make you forget that you’re wearing any 3D specs. That is a very good thing and when you combine that with the fact that the 3D images are totally flicker free and almost absent of any crosstalk, the DT65 makes a very engaging choice as a 3D display. Since we’re not tired of it yet, we let Dredd take us for another spin around Mega-City One and the DT65 proved an engagingly comfortable partner in crime, delivering the film’s subtle yet highly convincing 3D effect with total aplomb whilst maintaining the gritty urban colour palette; even through the specs. For a spot more pop we turned to some IMAX underwater action and the DT65 proved itself a master of the parallaxes, with the aquatic life both in your face whilst drifting far in to the distance. The debate over which is best in terms of 3D technology rumbles on but when ‘passive’ tech is done this well, it’s very hard to knock. The Panasonic TX-L55DT65B is a most accomplished 3D television.
- Impressively accurate colours
- Smashing design
- My Home Screen is great
- Oodles of Smart features
- Generous viewing angles
- 3D is excellent
- Viera Remote App 2 works extremely well
- Good in a bright room
- Contrast isn't very strong in more ideal viewing environments
- Some stuttering with motion occasionally
- Only 3 HDMI inputs
- Not really any better than the ET60 for picture quality
Panasonic TX-L55DT65 (DT65) TV Review
Panasonic’s DT65B is the sleekest of packages; comprising ultra-thin, minimalistic design, a colour co-ordinated set of accessories and a wonderfully useable interface that makes using all those smart and connected features an absolute pleasure. We’d prefer it if Panasonic hadn’t cut the number of HDMI inputs to three but we guess they’ve done their research and deemed it sufficient for the intended market.
A warm welcome awaits new users in the shape of the new My Home Screen which provides the dual benefits of almost infinite customisability with refined navigation, thanks to some clever design choices. The new Panasonic options menus are more sprawling than in previous years and there’s a lot more by ways of unnecessary picture controls but we’re not complaining too vociferously given the inclusion of a fabulous suite of calibration options therein.
The above said controls helped us produce a supremely accurate colour palette from the DT65, not that it was too shabby in its most faithful out-of-the-box viewing modes. The calibrated images when married with a much improved contrast performance - achieved by significantly lowering the eye-searing default light output – helped the DT65 deliver pictures of genuine plausibility which maintained colour fidelity, even at challenging viewing angles. Less impressive were the native black levels and implementation of ‘local’ dimming techniques, with the latter not really working at all. The DT65 is undoubtedly best employed in a brighter living room environment where the full splendour of its design can be shown with maximum impact.
It’s perhaps with 3D where the DT65 shines brightest; almost literally as its prodigious capacity for knocking out super-bright, but believable, pictures can have you forgetting you’re donning the 3D eyewear. Gamers with a taste for the finer things in life can also rejoice in the appearance of the DT65 which, with its sub 40 millisecond input latency makes it one of the snappiest flagship gaming TVs around. It’s good to see all that processing power put to good effect but that’s not at the expense of energy efficiency with the DT65 living up to its A+ billing in terms of electricity consumption.
Panasonic’s TX-L55DT65B is designed for the modern home and the contemporary lifestyle with a stunning design and an almost mind-boggling array of features, made highly accessible by Panasonic’s new user-friendly interface. The DT65 is hugely capable of throwing out vivid, yet accurate, images in both 2D and 3D which will suit brighter rooms more than a bat cave - and if that’s your flavour of viewing environment we’d recommend holding out for Panasonic’s 2013 plasma range. For everywhere else, it’s a simple Recommendation.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,099.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level7
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money6
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