Panasonic ET50 (TX-L47ET50B) 3D LED LCD TV Review
Mark continues to work his way through Panasonic's new lines. This time it's the new ET50 3D LED TV.
IntroductionThe model under testing here is the Panasonic TX-L47ET50B 47 inch 3D LED LCD TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available is the Panasonic TX-L42ET50B 42 inch 3D LED LCD TV which has not been reviewed here but should offer the same features and a very similar viewing experience.
We’ve certainly been clocking up the Panasonic TV reviews, of late, and next in line we have the ET50 3D LED TV, which is basically the same as the previously reviewed ET5 in terms of feature set but is fitted with one of Panasonic’s own IPS panels and offers active shutter 3D technology, rather than the passive variety found in the LG equipped form of the ET5. As such, this review will be briefer in nature and its primary focus will be on the picture quality sections where it’s most likely any differences between the respective panels in the ET5 and ET50 will become apparent. For a more in-depth look at features and menus, we would refer you to the ET5 review as in those respects, they are identical. One thing that isn’t identical, is the price and the ET50 commands a £100 premium over the ET5 so let’s see if it can justify the extra…
Styling, Design and MenusThe Panasonic TX-L47ET50B is a world away from the drab designs of years gone by with its ‘metal and glass’ design ethos and very pale grey bezel surrounded by a ‘crystal’ strip. The accompanying swivel stand is thankfully rectangular in shape and matches the grey of the bezel. Of all the 2012 Panasonic LED TVs we reviewed, the ET50 is perhaps the most striking in appearance and we’d expect it to stand out nicely on the showroom floor.
The ET50 is equipped with 4 HDMI inputs, running down the side and 10cm from the edge of the bezel, also on the side facing connections panel are 3 USB ports, a headphone jack and a SD Card slot. Running across the bottom and downward facing there’s a LAN port; an aerial terminal; a S/PDIF digital audio out; a D-SUB PC connection and adapter connections for analogue video connection – Scart/Component and Composite.
To match the swanky new design the remote control has also had something of a face lift. There’s a new gloss black finish but like the older controllers, remains coherently laid out and features a backlight. All the main buttons are present and correct, including On/Off, Menu, 3D, Inputs, Internet (for VIERA Connect), VIERA Tools (for accessing different media content) and Guide (Electronic Programme Guide).
The Panasonic TX-L47ET50B doesn’t ship with any 3D eyewear in the box but Panasonic were good enough to supply a set of their new Bluetooth active shutter 3D glasses (TY-EW3D4ME) for the purposes of the review. Compared to the first gen of Panasonic 3D specs the ‘3D4ME’s’ are a joy to wear as they’re extraordinarily light, weighing in at just 26g, or just under an ounce. The glasses have quite large lenses and are very tint free. To activate the specs, there’s a switch located at the top of the frame above the bridge and they’re rechargeable via a mini USB connector.
The menu system is almost a facsimile of the ET5 but, of course, the 3D options differ. The menus are broken down in to five categories - Picture, Sound, Network, Timer and Setup and are swift to navigate around with options located where they should be.
For our needs, the Picture Menu can be 'upgraded' by unlocking the advanced calibration menus from the Setup Menu, which will give 2 point white balance controls, pre-selectable gamma values and, when operating in the True Cinema Viewing Mode, a 3-axis 3D CMS. As well as the True Cinema mode other choices include Dynamic, Normal, Game (from an external source) and Cinema. Under the Viewing Modes are the standard Brightness, Contrast, Colour and Sharpness sliders, and below those a few options that we’d mostly disable - Vivid Colour, C.A.T.S. (Contrast Automatic Tracking System, which is an automatic brightness control function), P-NR (Picture Noise Reduction) and 3D-COMB.
Along with the calibration controls in the Advanced Settings area of the Picture Menu are Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC), 24p Smooth Film which is available only for 24p signal input and displayed instead of IFC, Clear Cinema and 16:9 Overscan. We’ll discuss the first three of those later in the review but you will want 16:9 Overscan set to ‘off’ with your HD sources. Finally, as far as the Advanced Settings are concerned, the DVI Input can be set to Normal/Full where Normal represents video level signals (16-235) and Full corresponds to PC levels (0-255).
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.
FeaturesThis section will provide familiar reading for those that have seen our previous 2012 Panasonic TV reviews as the ET50 is packed with all the same goodies as all the other Smart VIERA’s, including built-in (or actually built-on) Wi-Fi. The wireless connection means more people will now be able to access the cloud based, VIERA Connect portal and stream HD video on demand content from the likes of Netflix and BBC iPlayer. Other highlights include Twitter and Facebook Apps; the internet radio service AUEPO in addition to all that is offer in the VIERA Connect Market that has a variety of games and fitness diversions as well as all the on demand applications to download including the fairly new VIERA 3D World. The content on offer is the usual mixture of Movie Clips, Music, Sports but there’s some exclusives in there including NASA Space Shuttle footage and a 2012 Olympics preview.
Located right at the bottom of the Viera Connect Market, under the News and Lifestyle section, owners are able to download Panasonic’s new Web Browser, although users will need to create a VIERA Connect account to download. The browser functions OK with the standard remote control although, naturally, it’s a fairly laborious process so owners of mobile devices (android/iOS) can take advantage of Panasonic’s free to download app for tablets and smartphones. Another alternative is to use a wireless keyboard although the list of compatible accessories isn’t yet available from Panasonic for the 2012 TVs. Despite the lack of dual core processing found in the higher-end ranges, web pages loaded quickly but we were still having a few problems with alignment with embedded videos as per the earlier reviews.
The media playback abilities of the Panasonic’s have certainly taken a turn for the better this year and we were able to stream video files including AVCHD, AVI, MKV and MP4. The manual also lists ASF, FLV, 3GPP, PS, MOV and TS containers as supported. Audio support now includes FLAC to compliment the MP3, AAC and WMA/WMA Pro codecs and for photos, the ET5B can display jpg, jpeg and the 3D mpo formats. The same files supported over DLNA streaming are also listed for a USB connected device so, all in all, it’s a capable little player and using our Windows 7 PC we found Servio to work nicely.
Further features include Skype video calling, provided the TY-CC20W or TY-CC10W HD camera/mic attachment is purchased, and Personal Video Recording (PVR) like capabilities from the internal tuner, where recordings can be set either manually or from the Electronic Program Guide (EPG).
Out-of-the-Box MeasurementsIn out-of-the-box Professional (isfccc) mode, the Panasonic ET50 exhibited a reasonable approximation of the reference D65 point for white. The excess of both red and green together with the lack of blue energy means we have a notable yellow cast, but then we’re used to a calibrated image and others might not pick up on it, although we’re sure that if we showed someone the before and after images the differences would be very noticeable. Gamma tracking is not far off our target but as shadow detailing is a particular strong point of the ET50, we’ll definitely be looking to get it closer to 2.2 than the 2.3 average it shows before calibration.
Calibrated ResultsAs the RGB Balance Graph below illustrates, we were able to calibrate the greyscale to near perfection, using the 2 point White Balance controls. Gamma tracking was just under our usual target but, in fact, suited the panel better allowing it to reveal just a little more of the detail in darker scenes.
Picture ProcessingThe ET50 coped with standard definition signals well with all the detail in the SMPTE 133 pattern revealed without haloing. Video deinterlacing tests were handled capably with jaggies only appearing when the line was at an acute angle in the first test on the HQV disc and, in the second test, the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also competent with only slight jaggies appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars.
With our Blu-ray player set to 1080i the Panasonic ET50B correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests with 16:9 overscan set to off in the Picure Menu. Like all the other Panasonic LED’s so far this year, the ET5 wasn’t able to show much above reference white and also the most common PAL film cadence, 2:2 sometimes caused difficulties. Unsurprisingly, 24p Blu-ray material proved no issue and was displayed without telecine judder or unwanted artefacting, provided 24p Smooth Film was disengaged in the Advanced Settings in the Picture Menu.
Intelligent Frame Creation(IFC), the name given to frame interpolation when not from a 24p source, showed noticeable artefacting around objects, even when set to minimum although we can see the merits of its use at the minimum setting with fast moving fare as the ET50’s panel response doesn’t seem that of the higher end WT50 and DT50 TVs.
Gaming PerformanceUsing our new lag test device, input lag was measured at 39.3milliseconds in game mode, which places it better than the Flagship WT50 in that regard.
Energy ConsumptionThe ET50 drew an average of 66W draw in calibrated 2D mode compared to 68W in the rather dull out of box Normal viewing mode. As expected the extra luminance needed for 3D asked a little bit more at 91W
Picture Quality – 2DLike all the Panasonic LED TV’s we’ve seen so far in 2012, the LX-47ET50’s natural habitat is not in a home cinema type room and is much more suited to a typical living room set up. The black levels and contrast certainly aren’t stellar but that doesn’t really become apparent unless the lights are low as the filter does a very creditable job in creating the illusion that black is darker than the it really is. Once calibrated, the neutrality of the greyscale, in particular, helped convey a very good level of realism to images and there’s plenty of punch on offer with the ET50’s capability to go bright. Once again a Panasonic LED TV scores well for uniformity and we can’t overstate the relief in viewing an LED TV that doesn’t show array banding and/or dirty screen effect every couple of minutes. There was some light pooling, mainly visible with very dark content, but again, in a reasonably well lit room, not likely to trouble most.
Viewing angles are typically IPS generous, with colours holding up very well off-axis, there is some loss of contrast, off centre, but in the ET50’s most suited viewing conditions it’s not likely to be an issue at anything like a comfortable watching position. Panasonic’s IPS panels are generally pretty good at handling motion, by LED/LCD standards, and the ET50 typified that reputation. We’re not saying that some owners won’t notice some blur under rapid panning but we’d expect the majority will be satisfied as the brain tends to compensate for a bit of smear and if it does become troublesome, some might find relief with IFC set to minimum.
The Panasonic ET50 is a solid if unspectacular performer but we’ll take solid over the excess of patchy we tend to see.
Picture Quality – 3DThe Panasonic 3D LED’s have proved a winner so far and the ET50 maintained the form in fine fashion. If we were being picky, motion clarity is perhaps not quite that of the WT50 and DT50 but make no mistake this mid-range TV delivers 3D in way that most high-end sets would be pleased to replicate. The neutrality of the glasses combined with the inherent luminance of LED technology produced 3D with depth and lifelike colours and, once again, this reviewer found the experience to produce less apparent flicker than their plasma counterparts. Crosstalk is kept to a minimum and although we could induce some with black and white torture tests, real world material was very rarely affected. A simple resolution test proved the ET50 was resolving full HD 3D, 1920 x 1080 images and we have little to complaint about the clarity of images produced in 3D mode. Panasonic are proving the ones to beat, in terms of 3D delivery, and that applies to all technologies.
- Excellent 3D
- Great feature set
- Built-in WiFi
- Bright accurate colours
- Generous viewing angles
- Freeview HD
- Average blacks and contrast
- Some motion blur with fast moving action
- 2:2 film cadence still not properly dealt with
- Quite expensive
Panasonic ET50 (TX-L47ET50B) 3D LED LCD TV Review
You’ve got to credit Panasonic for their consistency as once again, in the ET50, they’ve produced a TV that would make an excellent choice for a typical family room whilst also adding in the possibility of some superb 3D fun. Not only that but this mid-range model adds in a high class feature set with lots of video on demand, a web browser, strong media streaming capabilities and Skype video calling amongst the many. We wouldn’t want to kid anyone that the ET50 can fully match the needs of the enthusiast market – they have their plasma’s to cover that – but there’s a bigger world out there and the ET50’s combination of generous viewing angles, bright and accurate colours and a decent filter should mean it will sit happily in the living room. Don’t buy one if you’re the sort to turn all the lights down once everyone else is in bed but do consider it if you’re on the look-out for a good all-rounder.
We expect the ET50 will win a few admirers on the showroom floor for its pale good looks and the fact that Panasonic haven’t skimped on the connections in this mid tier TV should mean most wont be left disappointed when it comes to hooking up their TVs. It’s nice to see that Panasonic have seen the sense in providing a decent set of calibration controls at this level and although it’s unlikely many owners will have, or undertake, a calibration, those that do should be rewarded with a reference level of neutrality. With some very fine video processing on-board, the Panasonic TX-L47ET50 is certainly capable of fine pictures in both standard and high definition. The single player focussed gamer is likely to find the ET50 an acceptable choice and they’re not going to hike up the energy bills too dramatically when putting in the hours.
It’s largely solid, if mostly unspectacular, but we can envisage the Panasonic ET50 gracing many a family room.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £1,673.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level5
3D Picture Quality8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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