Panasonic TX-L50E6 (E6) TV Review
We're under starter's orders as the 2013 TV season kicks off
What is the Panasonic TX-L50E6?It's that time of the year again and first out of the gates is Panasonic with a brace of TVs, including their entry level TX-L50E6B. This is a 2D only LED LCD TV - something of a rarity these days - but it does represent the first of the Panasonic range to include their Smart VIERA platform, with My Home Screen, Voice Guidance, Swipe and Share and Remote App 2. There's also built-in WiFi, a Web Browser, VIERA Connect, a Media Player and the option to add a camera. The E6 series uses a Full HD VA panel with LED edge lighting and 100Hz back light blinking. It also includes a High Contrast Filter, V-Real Smart image processing, Web Content Optimizer and V-Audio. That's an impressive set of features for a TV at the lower end of Panasonic's range but with an RRP of just under £1,000 for a 50" screen, it needs to justify itself. So let's sample the wares and see how Panasonic's 2013 vintage measures up...
Styling and DesignThe L50E6B has an attractive if rather uninspired design, utilising an all plastic construction with a silver bezel and black body at the rear of the chassis. The chassis is genuinely slim at 3cm and the bezel measures 1cm wide at the top and sides and 1.5cm wide along the bottom; also at the bottom is a clear plastic strip that's 1.5cm wide. On the far left hand side of this strip as you face the screen is a small bump where the on/off light and IR receiver are situated. The connections are on the left hand rear of the chassis and there are also some basic controls at the rear on the far right. The overall build quality is very good, despite the plastic construction and the entire screen sits on a solid rectangular stand. Unfortunately the stand doesn't allow for the screen to be swivelled, which is a shame, but otherwise there's little to complain about.
The provided remote is the standard Panasonic design, which means that it gets the job done without drawing attention to itself. The remote is made of black plastic, is reasonably robust, comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. The buttons are sensibly laid out and there are enough to ensure comprehensive control without the remote becoming cluttered. Along with all the usual controls there is a button for directly accessing the apps page and another for accessing My Home Screen.
At the rear is a reasonable set of connections considering the L50E6B's position in the line-up, including three rear facing HDMI inputs, the second of which includes the Audio Return Channel (ARC). There is also an aerial socket, an Ethernet port, a SCART connector and an optical digital output. There is a component video input using RCA connectors that also doubles as a composite video input and analogue stereo inputs. At the side there is a CI (Common Interface) slot, a headphone jack and two USB ports.
MenusWhen you first turn on the L50E6B you are greeted by Panasonic's new My Home Screen interface, although you can select to just open on the normal full TV screen if you prefer. My Home Screen comes with four default views, the previously mentioned Full Screen TV and three others - TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen and Info Screen – with a further option to create customised screens if you so desire. The Full Screen TV option obviously just displays a full video image where the other options provide a windowed video interface with a variety of apps and widgets surrounding it. The full capabilities of the new My Home Screen interface will be covered in detail in a separate review of Panasonic's 2013 Smart TV System.
The menu system itself 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. This is similar to the iManuals we’ve seen provided by other manufacturers and provides excellent assistance to more novice users, although the user-friendly nature of most of the menus shouldn’t require much in the way of further explanation.
The Picture Menu has been expanded extensively compared to last year's version and considering it entry level status, the L50E6B has a fairly comprehensive set of picture controls. The first obvious difference is that Panasonic have managed to add numbers to the control sliders, which makes life easier. They have also included of a new Viewing Mode - Custom - to accompany the existing Dynamic, Normal, Cinema and True Cinema options. Whilst the Custom and True Cinema modes share the same set of extensive calibration controls, the addition of Custom means that you could easily create calibrated day and night settings using these two modes. Otherwise the first page includes the standard picture controls, plus the addition of Vivid Colour and an Adaptive Backlight Control. Colour Temperature has some new settings and now offers a choice of Cool1, Cool2, Warm1, Warm2 and Normal. On the second page there is an Ambient Sensor control, Noise Reduction features and sub-menus for Advanced Settings, Option Settings and Screen Settings.The Advanced Settings sub-menu includes new features such as Adaptive Gamma Control, Black Expander and Clear White Effect which are either zeroed or greyed out in the True Cinema but set much higher in Custom by default. There are also more conventional calibration controls in the form of a two and ten point White Balance, pre-set Gamma values, as well as a 10 point adjustment feature and a Colour Management System for adjustment of the primary colours. It is good to see Panasonic including these more detailed controls on their lower end models.The Option Settings sub-menu allows for selecting the 1080p Pixel Direct mode and the engaging of the Film Cadence Mode. 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.Finally there is the Screen Settings sub-menu, where you can turn 16:9 Overscan off - although make sure you have also selected the 16:9 Aspect Ratio. If you have the aspect ratio set to Auto, Panasonic TVs will still scale the picture up even with 16:9 Overscan set to off.
FeaturesThe L50E6B proved to be something of a surprise in the audio department, delivering a reasonable performance with clear dialogue and a nicely expansive soundstage. Obviously the built-in audio of a TV will never be able to compare to an AV receiver or even a soundbar but the L50E6B certainly did a good job of delivering a stereo soundstage. It seems that sometimes less is more and the fact that the largely unprocessed audio was delivered by 2 x 10W of amplification certainly paid dividends. The L50E6B could be played reasonably loud with distorting and the overall audio had a well-balanced feel to it, meaning that even film soundtracks were handled quite well. The built-in audio also managed to reproduce music streamed over our home network quite well and whilst it wouldn't be our first choice, it certainly wasn't unpleasant. In these days of slim TVs it's always nice to discover a new model that delivers a competent performance, especially at the lower end of the range.
This year Panasonic have given their Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) a slight make-over and introduced a window showing the channel you are currently on, along with a choice of the guide itself, a list of the channel and a search feature. To access Panasonic's smart TV system, you can either go straight to the Apps screen where the full suite can be uncovered or opt to go via the more personalised My Home Screen interface. The Apps screen includes access to the Web Browser, Media Player, Media Server, Main Menu and EPG, as well as the installed apps. The L50E6B came pre-loaded with plenty of apps including iPlayer, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Skype plus access to the likes of Netflix, SHOUTcast Radio and the BBC Sport app. If that’s not enough, you can visit the Viera Connect Market where a range of further games, VoD services and Social Networking apps can be downloaded.
As well as the new content and interface, Panasonic havs also launched their new VIERA Remote 2 app. This latest version of their remote app is available for both iOS and Android and includes a redesigned interface and some new features such as access to the apps page. There is also Swipe & Share 2.0 which allows for easier sharing of content between devices and we really liked the new remote app, finding it well designed and easy to use. In fact our only negative observation would be that the Android version could crash on occasion, although the iOS version ran without a hitch. The Media Player and Media Server also worked flawlessly, connecting easily with our home network and a number of devices and providing extensive file support. Overall we found the 2013 version of Panasonic's Smart TV System to be very effective, offering plenty of content in an easy to use and intuitive platform.
Basic SetupThankfully by simply selecting the True Cinema Viewing Mode you can get a very accurate out-of-the-box performance. The True Cinema mode also has all the more exotic features turned off by default, whilst the Custom Mode appears to have many of them enabled at their mid-points - namely Adaptive Gamma Control, Black Expander and Clear White Effect. These have the combined effect of making images too bright near black, whilst obscuring shadow detail and the Clear White control seems to inject extra blue energy in to the greyscale near white. We foundF that if you turned off all the special features activated in the Custom mode then it matched the True Cinema mode, so both modes could be used to create calibrated day and night settings. We'd recommended using the True Cinema mode because that way all the special features are greyed out or zeroed by default but if you do use the Custom mode, remember to go through and turn off or zero them all. Otherwise the setup approach for both modes is the same, with the Sharpness control being reduced and the Contrast and Brightness being optimised for the specific viewing environment.
For an out-of-the-box setting, the greyscale accuracy in True Cinema mode is very impressive. If you look at the RGB Balance graph on the left above, you'll see that the combinations of red, green and blue are fairly even, resulting in dE (errors) between 3 and 5. As a general rule, an error of less than 3 is below the point at which the human eye can perceive it so the True Cinema error measurements are at the edge of our tolerance. In fact the only real error is a slight excess of green, which certainly wasn't apparent when watching actual viewing material. The Gamma curve is now measuring much closer to our target of 2.2 and although there is a slight increase to 2.4 at 10IRE and 2.3 at 80IRE, again neither is apparent when watching content. As with the greyscale, the accuracy of the Colour Gamut is very impressive for an out-of-the-box setting. All the colours are near their targets, the luminance, saturation and hue measurements are much improved and the overall errors are around the threshold of 3, meaning they would be mostly imperceptible to the human eye.
Calibrated ResultsFor the calibrated measurements we used the two and ten point White Balance control to adjust the greyscale and we used the (CMS) to adjust the colour accuracy. In this instance we used the Custom mode but you could almost just as easily have used the True Cinema mode instead.
The inclusion of a CMS in a Panasonic LED LCD TV is a nice surprise, especially in what is effectively one of the lower models. The CMS provides control over luminance, saturation and hue but it only affects the primary colours of red, green and blue; there is no way of directly adjusting the secondary colours of cyan, magenta and yellow. However, we were able to get the overall errors of all the colours below 2 and some below 1, which is a reference performance. Looking at the measurements in more detail, the luminance numbers were spot on and apart from a slight error in magenta, so were the hue measurements. There was a slight under-saturation in the colours of red and green and, as a result, magenta and yellow also but these were not apparent when watching actual content. There was a degree of interaction between the various CMS settings and it would have been nice to have control over the secondary colours but overall this is a great performance and we're glad to see Panasonic introducing more detailed calibration controls further down their product line.As we always do now, we measured the performance of the primary and secondary colours at different saturation levels. This is largely for information purposes because the only way to correct colours at different stimuli is to use an expensive outboard video processor. However it can reveal issues that might not be apparent at a saturation of 100%, which is where all the other colour measurements are taken. Overall, the L50E6B performed very well with most of the colours measuring close to their targets at 25, 50, 75 an 100%. There is a slight kink in green at 75% and obviously magenta is off since there was already a small error in hue at 100% but in general this is an adequate performance.
Contrast and Black LevelsUnlike the higher models in the Panasonic range, such as the recently reviewed ET60, the E6 series uses a VA panel. This is immediately obvious because the off-axis performance is poor, resulting a fairly limited effective viewing angle of about 90 degrees. However, on the plus side, the black levels were noticeably better for a LCD TV and the L50E6B performed well in our testing. Another point worth noting is that the backlight uniformity was also excellent, with no bright edges or obvious pooling. This point was evidenced by the ANSI graphic shown below, where the various measurements for the black and white squares are reasonably consistent.In our actual testing, we measured the native black level at 0.02cd/m2 which is excellent for a LCD TV. We also had no problems hitting our target of 120cd/m2 for white, which results in a superb on/off contrast ratio of 6,000:1 and a suitably wide dynamic range. The ANSI contrast ratio was almost equally as impressive, coming in at 3,791:1. In fact, effective viewing angles aside, the L50E6B is a stellar performer when it comes to contrast and black levels.
Video ProcessingThese days the level of video processing in modern TVs tends to be excellent, so it makes more sense to comment on the areas where a TV disappoints, rather than going through all the tests it excelled at. In the case of the L50E6B, the overall performance was excellent and Panasonic appear to have made some improvements to their video processing compared to last year. The L50E6B proved extremely competent at scaling standard definition content, with clear and crisp reproduction of fine details and no unwanted ringing. Whilst the L50E6B had no problems detecting 3:2 cadence, disappointingly it was unable to detect 2:2 cadence correctly which is obviously more important in PAL territories. This is an area where Panasonic has become very hit and miss and we really would like them to sort it out. Whilst not a big deal, you can deinterlace using your DVD or PVR if you wanted to, it's just annoying when some Panasonic models do pass and others don't. In most other areas the video processing on the L50E6B excelled, with 24p content in particular looking very impressive. In fact we found the overall motion handling to be quite impressive for a LCD TV, perhaps because there is less processing to introduce artefacts. The L50E6B didn't have any frame interpolation features but we measured 400 lines of resolution on the FPD Benchmark test, so even fast moving sport looked quite good. The only area where the L50E6B slightly disappointed was the quality of the video deinterlacing at 1080i50, which showed more jagged edges than we’ve experienced on our test patterns previously. This wasn't apparent when watching real world material but it did represent a minor set back compared to last year's processing.
Interestingly, the L50E6B didn't have a specific game mode and, unlike the ET60, there was no game mode selection in the Options Settings menu either. So we just measured all the modes that were available until we found the one with the lowest input lag. Unsurprisingly the True Cinema mode performed best, which is to be expected as all the processing features are turned off in that mode. We measured the lowest input lag at around 48 milliseconds which is fairly average, based upon our numerous tests last year. The ET60 also delivered a lowest lag of 48 milliseconds, so clearly the absence of a game mode wasn't a big loss. In terms of actual game play, we found the L50E6B handled motion very well and the bright, large and detailed images really lent themselves to an enjoyable gaming experience. If you aren't interested in 3D gaming and don't have the reactions of a cobra, then the L50E6B might make a good choice for the casual gamer.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Standard Mode: 42W
- Calibrated – Custom Mode: 60W
Panasonic TX-L50E6 Picture QualityThe L50E6B might be at the lower end of Panasonic's range of LED LCD TVs but you certainly wouldn't think that based on the images it produced. The accurate greyscale and colour gamut really pay dividends, as does the excellent blacks and contrast ratio. Whilst the viewing angle is somewhat limited, the superb backlight uniformity means that the L50E6B looks good whether you're watching during the day or at night. Motion handling was also very impressive and makes us think that sometimes a simpler approach to TV design and less processing really does help improve the picture. The excellent video processing with most content also helped with the great images and the L50E6B's handling of 24p content was very impressive with smooth judder-free motion and a wonderful level of detail.
The arrival of the L50E6B coincided with a weekend session of watching the second season of Game of Thrones and the Panasonic handled itself admirably. The beautifully cinematic images of the HBO fantasy series were superbly rendered with accurate flesh tones and plenty of fine detail. The specific colour schemes for the different parts of the mythological world in which the series is set where expertly reproduced and the black levels and shadow detail were also excellent. Whilst any LCD TV always has a slightly processed look when compared to plasma, when viewed at the correct angle the L50E6B could be genuinely impressive. The L50E6B proved to be a fantastic all round performer and regardless of whether you're watching TV, DVDs or Blu-rays the results were always highly entertaining.
- Excellent out-of-the-box performance
- Reference level of accuracy after calibration
- Impressive level of video processing
- Very good motion handling
- Excellent black levels and dynamic range
- My Home Screen is a big improvement
- Extensive smart features and numerous apps
- Decent sound for a slimline TV
- Android version of remote app is buggy
- Failed to correctly detect 2:2 cadence
- Pricey for a 2D TV
Panasonic TX-L50E6 (E6) TV Review
Despite sitting near the bottom of Panasonic's LED LCD TV range, the L50E6B certainly doesn't look that way, based upon its design and specifications. Whilst on closer inspection, the all-plastic construction might betray its lower range position, the attractive design and solid construction suggests a much more expensive TV. The stand doesn't swivel, which is a shame given the limited viewing angle and the HDMI connections face rearwards, making wall mounting tricky but otherwise there's little to complain about.
The L50E6B includes Panasonic's new Smart TV System, so you get My Home Screen, Voice Guidance, Swipe and Share 2.0 and the new Remote App 2. There's also built-in Wi-Fi, a Web Browser, VIERA Connect apps, a Media Player and the option to add a camera. In testing we found all the new smart features to be well designed and effective, with the new remote app being a stand out addition. The networking capabilities were also very good, with the L50E6B connecting with our network and other devices easily and the file support was comprehensive.
The L50E6B uses a VA panel with LED edge lighting, so the downside is a limited viewing angle but the black levels are excellent, as is the contrast ratio and dynamic range. The backlight uniformity was also very good, which makes a nice change. Once you add in an accurate greyscale and colour gamut, plus some excellent video processing, the result is a genuinely impressive picture. The L50E6B proved to be a fantastic all round performer and regardless of whether you're watching TV, DVDs or Blu-rays the results were always highly entertaining.
At first sight the Panasonic L50E6B might seem a little pricey given that it doesn't even include 3D. However, on closer inspection, you will find a well-designed, feature heavy TV that delivers a first class picture and sound. If you're not interested in 3D then the L50E6B could well be the big screen LED TV you've been looking for and is certainly worth a demo.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money6
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