This time last year Panasonic’s flagship 3D LED TV, the DT30, had just launched and we were impressed by its solid uniformity, motion handling and excellent 3D performance; albeit with the proviso that an immersive experience in the third dimension would have been greatly enhanced had Panasonic offered a screen size greater than the 37 inches available at the time. Fast forward 12 months and the Japanese manufacturer are on the LED warpath. Not only are Panasonic breaking new ground by producing their IPS Alpha panels in sizes up to 55 inches and dabbling with passive 3D technology but they have even introduced a further tier above the DT series in the WT50. Panasonic has clearly decided that if they are to compete with the likes of Samsung then they need to be catering for as many requirements as possible. Quite whether the strategy will prove successful remains to be seen but we certainly can’t blame them for trying.
Despite it being usurped at the top of the pecking order, the DT50 still offers most of the premium features present in the new flagship including 1600Hz backlight scanning, a not yet available HTML5 capable web browser (update to follow), both Freeview HD and Freesat HD compatible tuners and, of course, Full HD 3D images via active shutter technology. All this comes at a fairly high price premium, however, and the Panasonic UK website quotes a price of £2,070.99 for the 47inch model under review here. It is worth noting that Panasonic are embarking on a new retail initiative this year and are attempting to keep online prices inflated to force buyers in to authorised bricks and mortar stores where prices will be lower. In the case of the TX-L47DT50B, the in-store recommended retail price is somewhere around £400 lower than the online equivalent so they’re certainly serious about the policy and it’s one we endorse the ethos behind although the challenge of policing internet distribution is certain to be an onerous one.
Of course, all this matters not a jot if the DT50 can’t live up to even the high street price-tag and we’ll be hoping for at least some improvement in ultimate contrast performance if it’s going to be a serious contender. The new season is at last upon us so let’s hope we can kick off in style!.
Styling and Connections
We’re not totally sold on the merits of ‘silver’ bezels but at least in ideal viewing conditions the DT50 didn’t attract too many of what stray beams of light there were and the bezel actually looked fairly matte. We still wish Panasonic had chosen to stick with the brushed charcoal look of last year’s DT range; we’d probably then have one of the best looking TVs around but, that said, we guess the D8000 went down a storm with most observers, even if it wasn’t quite to our tastes. In fact the DT50 is far nicer in the flesh than the D8000 and possesses a build quality that puts the Samsung to shame. Ironically Samsung have ditched the silver trim in their 2012 flagship so Panasonic are still playing catch-up it seems. Thankfully the Japanese haven’t paid full ‘homage’ to Samsung and there’s no unsightly quad stand to put up with, instead the base stand is nicely rectangular and hewn of material to match the bezel. The stand feels extremely - and reassuringly – heavy when compared to the kind that ships with a typical LED TV and it attaches to the back of the television with a (and forgive the lack of technical nomenclature) connecting tube that slopes back at around 45 degrees. It gives the form of the DT50 very pleasing lines and a floating appearance that just about compensates for the ‘metal’ trim. We’re not so keen on the idea of locating a few basic function buttons right around the back but we guess that’s an example of the price we pay for ever sleeker designs. Overall, it’s a very attractive display that’s sure to leave your friends and family wide eyed with envy, especially if the visitors we’ve had over the last few days are a good barometer.
To accompany the somewhat shiny new facelift we have a very shiny new remote control to play with, but it’s more or less the same layout as Panasonic have been providing for a number of years. If anything it’s a touch lighter than those of years gone by but the majority of the most frequently used buttons are still conveniently located from the centre up. It’s comfortable enough, in the hand, but we do slightly prefer the ergonomics of its predecessor, although we speak as THX/ISF certified calibrators who are forced to spend extraordinary amounts of time with remote in hand. We don’t expect the vast majority of users will have any problems with it however the new gloss finish does show up greasy fingerprints more easily. Quick cleaning tip – a lens cloth does a fine job here.
Moving around the to the rear of the DT50 and we’re presented with the almost de facto set of 4 HDMI ports on the side panel which are joined by 3 USB inputs. HDMI2 is ARC (Audio Return Channel) compliant but will only take Stereo back to your AV receiver from anything other than the internal tuners. The top USB input is the one designated for use with the built-in PVR functionality by means of connecting an external hard drive. It’s coming to something when your TV possesses as many USB ports as your laptop, don’t you think? It’s been a while since we complained about HDMI inputs being too close to the edge of the bezel, honestly, but that’s certainly the case with the DT50 and we had to give our set of cables a bigger twist than we’d like so they didn’t peep out and spoil that ultra-modern design.
The down facing connections feature the terminals for both the Freeview HD and Freesat HD connections; a D-SUB PC port; S/PDIF audio out; a LAN port and inputs for legacy connections in AV1 and AV2 by way of the supplied adapters. The AV2 connection doubles up for component and composite video and the AV selection menu lets you manually select which type of signal is being sent whilst the AV1 input is the domain of SCART sources.
Unfortunately the Panasonic TX-L47DT50B 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 generation 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 for you silver surfers/Stateside friends reading this. 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. We’re glad Panasonic have given up at their attempts to give them a touch of designer swagger with the previous black and bronze paint job; let’s face it you’re never going to look cool wearing them or any other active shutter glasses.
Menus and Set Up
Whilst the appearance of this year’s GUI is identical to that of last year, Panasonic has added a further sub-menu to the main Menu screen. We now have menus for Picture, Sound, Network, Timer and Setup although we’re not quite sure why they’ve bothered with the Timer Menu since it contains only 2 or 3 options, depending on whether you are tuned to the internal tuners - and thus able to schedule recordings to a connected USB hard drive – or watching from an external sources. We’ve previously praised Panasonic’s stripped back menu structure and it’s a backwards step, in our estimation, to have added more items but the sub-menus, at least, are all well structured with options logically placed.
The first page of the Picture menu houses all the usual Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Sharpness options common to all TV’s as well as the various options for Viewing Mode. The Viewing Mode’s available include Normal, Dynamic, Game, Cinema and True Cinema. A delve in to the Setup menu will allow for the enabling of the isf picture modes and will give two further Viewing Modes to the Picture Menu in Professional 1 and 2. The Professional Modes allow for a more detailed calibration with their 2 point white balance sliders, pre-set Gamma curves and a 3D CMS allowing for full control over the Hue, Saturation and Luminance of the primary colours. The advanced calibration options are accessed from toward the bottom of the second page of the Picture menu, under Advanced Settings.
Joining the calibration options, in the Advanced Settings, there are selections for Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC), 24p Smooth Film, Clear Cinema, 3D Refresh Rate, 16:9 Overscan and DVI Input Setting. We’ll deal with IFC, 24p Smooth Film and Clear Cinema later on but we’d advise 16:9 Overscan be set to Off for high definition sources. 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) but if the input is straight HDMI – rather than a HDMI to DVI connection – the DT50 will automatically operate in Normal mode. Again, we’ll deal with the 3D Refresh Rate option later in the review.
Finally, as far as the picture options are concerned, 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. We’re not quite sure of the logic behind that but we’re assuming it has something to do with health concerns. On the same theme, at the bottom of the 3D options, we can access the built in warning message concerning the viewing of 3D images by way of Safety Precautions. 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 but 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. It sounds a little more confusing than it really is but we set ours to On Advance and had no issues with multiple signal detection.
The Network and Timer Menus play home to a number of self-explanatory options but it’s worth noting the Network Menu allows for the searching of software updates via the network. In the Setup Menu you'll find all the odds and ends that didn’t suit the other sub-menu titles including Recording Setup for the PVR functions, Child Lock, DVB & Analogue Tuning Menus, Power On Preference, Display Settings and, if the illuminated logo on the transparent strip under the bezel is distracting you, the option to turn it off from the ‘Other Settings’ area. It was the first thing we did even if the logo is reasonably discrete.
Since we’ve been so heavily critical of their Electronic Programme Guides (EPG’s) built in to service the internal tuners in the past, it would be positively rude of us not to mention the fact that Panasonic have heeded the complaints and at last done away with the intrusive advertising that used to take up so much of the screen real estate. It’s a very welcome move indeed and we thank Panasonic for doing so, it looks so much better!
We know that the most used of the ‘smart’ functions are Video on Demand (VoD) services and the Connect platform is home to the two most popular in the UK, the BBC iPlayer and YouTube. There’s also the rather excellent Netflix available for streaming in addition to Acetrax, Fetch TV and the ‘LastFMesque’ AUEPO personal radio service. For those that can’t bear to be away from their social networking fix, Twitter and Facebook users are catered for with the Social TV app that allows for their streams to be fairly discretely hidden under a tab whilst you get on with watching TV. Personally I can’t think of anything worse than being interrupted, whilst kicking back and relaxing in front of the telly, by a message telling me what someone I knew 20 years ago has had for breakfast but that’s just me, perhaps.
We’re not 100% certain that the existing TY-CC10W HD camera/mic attachment will work on the DT50 for Skype calls but we assume it will. For anyone wishing to utilise the previously mentioned recording facilities with external storage, be warned the hard drive will need to be a minimum of 160GB in capacity up to a maximum of 3TB. It’s no substitute for a dedicated PVR but we’ll certainly not bemoan its inclusion.
Strangely we were unable to get the DT50 to play media files from any of our multiple media servers over the home network using a wired connection, leading us to conclude that Panasonic’s DLNA implementation is a bit flaky given we’ve had no issues with the majority of other manufacturers’ implementations but we were able to gain full access using the built-in Wi-Fi. We didn’t have any such problems using the media player via USB and they’ve definitely upped the ante in terms of file support this year. The manual promises support for AVCHD, MOV, AVI, MKV, ASF, MP4, FLV, 3GPP, PS and TS containers and it duly played absolutely everything we threw at it. Audio support now includes FLAC to compliment the MP3, AAC and WMA/WMA Pro codecs and for photos, the DT50 can display jpg, jpeg and the 3D mpo formats. If they can get the streaming issues ironed out, it will be a fairly formidable media player for one built in to a TV.
Panasonic certainly seem to be putting their full weight behind developing their connected TV services and can longer be seen as the poor relations in this department and we look forward to seeing what more they have in store for the future.
Measured Results – Out-of-the-BoxBefore embarking on our calibration of the Panasonic DT30 we were slightly disturbed by a very noticeable orange tint to images, even in the most accurate True Cinema and Professional modes. Fortunately it transpired to be nothing more than a short term bedding in issue and after 30 hours running continuously it had disappeared and, as it turns out, in quite spectacular fashion. For those interested the True Cinema and Pro modes measured, as near as damn it, identical but we elected to calibrate the Professional 1 pre-set for no other reason than it was possible to copy the calibrated settings over to other inputs; in other words, it was just convenient to do so. Calibrators should welcome the three accurate modes to play with for the flexibility it will allow.
As is routine, we optimised the Contrast and Brightness settings for our environment and the observant will notice there’s no dedicated backlight control which is very unusual for an LED TV. We didn’t miss it one bit, in all honesty, as the Contrast control doubles up as the Backlight slider when pushed over around half way and light output is already plenty high enough for most rooms with Contrast at default.
So, after the spectacular turnaround we mentioned in the paragraph above, the DT50 gave us these results for greyscale and gamma:
So if Panasonic’s rough factory ‘calibration’ could achieve almost totally linear greyscale, what of the colour reproduction against the HD
Rec. 709 standard…
All in all, the ‘uncalibrated’ (and run-in) DT50 exhibited extremely impressive accuracy but you can (almost) always do better.
Calibrated ResultsLet’s be honest, we could have justifiably left out the greyscale calibration and nobody could have complained, but where’s the fun in that? So minor were the adjustments made we’re actually tempted to publish our calibrated white balance settings for the first time ever as it was literally 2 clicks, in total.
Primarily we’d like to see Panasonic add in controls for the secondary colours but we’d be almost as equally happy to see them really nail the interactivity issues in the existing system. It almost seems churlish to complain given the results here but we don’t want them resting on their laurels, do we?
Picture ProcessingThis is an area where Panasonic struggled in the past in comparison to their competitors but the last couple of years has seen them get their video processing act together. The good form continues with the DT50 and it fair flew through the majority of our torture tests.
First of all we checked on the scaling performance of the DT50 and found it to perform in fine fashion. Using the SMPTE 133 pattern we could see the Panasonic was able to resolve the full and fine details without blurring or nasty ringing artefacts at both 480i/p and 576i/p. We remarked in an earlier review that as the world moves more and more in to the high definition era, the need for top class scaling is becoming less of an issue but it’s still nice to see it done so well – you never know when your Blu-ray player might break down. The DT50 also dealt very well with video deinterlacing duties 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 very good with only slight jaggies appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars.
With our player set to 1080i the Panasonic correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests with 16:9 overscan set to off in the Picure Menu. The 47DT50 also showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as impressive resolution enhancement. Blu-ray 24p content was handled, unsurprisingly, without issue. In the best modes the DT50 wasn’t able to show much above reference white but, in reality, there’s not an awful lot of information there in any case. It’s always nice when a display can get up to peak white but we’re not going to lose any sleep over it. The Panasonic also possessed full luma and chroma bandwidth and excellent resolution for both too.
We promised to cover the Clear Cinema setting earlier which, when engaged, activates the film mode on the DT50. Last year’s Panasonics struggled to detect to the most common PAL film cadence, 2:2, and once locked on occasionally lost it again meaning resolution was being thrown away and some jagged artefacts and moire could be seen. Unfortunately the DT50 hasn’t moved things on much here but it did lock on a little bit quicker and is only likely to be a small issue as we expect the majority of our readers to possess ‘upscaling’ DVD/Blu-ray players or HD boxes for broadcasted programming. The most common NTSC cadence, 2:3, was detected instantly and without ever being lost.
Finally, a word on Panasonic’s attempt at motion enhancement by frame interpolation, in the shape of IFC, which was largely unsuccessful with noticeable artefacting around objects, even when set to minimum. We can see the merits of its use at the minimum setting with fast sporting action but we felt the panels excellent response time, unaided, led to a good representation of motion even if the motion resolution tests say different. Motion handling is one of the greyest areas of evaluation if we’re honest, with each individual more or less susceptible to a particular panel's idiosyncrasies but we were happy enough with the DT50. With Blu-ray material, or at least the majority of it, the 24p Smooth Film option replaces IFC but it is so unspeakably detrimental to the look and feel of film we can’t bring ourselves to comment further.
Gaming PerformanceWe have to say that we were quite disappointed with the DT50 here. We’re not hardened online competitive gamers but even our single player exploits felt hampered by the 50millisecond lag - and that was in Game mode. After last year’s super responsive DT30, it’s a definite retrograde step here and we’ll be feeding back to Panasonic in the hope a software upgrade can improve matters.
Energy ConsumptionPanasonic have been seriously pushing their green credentials over the last 12 months, both at IFA and CES, and the DT30 proved a suitable representation of their aims by drawing an averaged 64W in calibrated Professional mode. The out of box Normal picture pre-set didn’t ask much more in taking 66.5W but it did look considerably worse!
Picture Quality – 2D
Our reviews of LED TVs are almost routinely punctuated with mentions of the uniformity issues so prevalent with the technology, be it panel banding, light pooling, edge bleed, haloing or any number of other terms so we can’t let this one go by without making mention. On first firing up the DT50 we were rather alarmed to notice severe light pooling emanating from each corner that spread a long way toward the centre. As an estimation we would say the problem was present in around 60% of the screen, which is obviously unacceptable and made anything with dark scenes a milky, detail-robbed mess. But, lo and behold, just as the orange tint disappeared after around 30 hours, at about 50 the light pooling stopped being a major issue and died back quite dramatically. There was some still present but it was far more concentrated near the corners and rarely visible with actual content. We still wish it wasn’t there but the DT50 had managed to turn the issue from ‘shocking’ to actually fairly impressive for the technology involved. Regular readers of our reviews will know my partiality for a spot of sporting action and will be pleased to learn that I managed to watch a couple of Football matches without once exclaiming in derision about panel/array banding, and that’s quite an achievement for any LED TV although, occasionally, if we were to look very closely, some horizontal banding can be seen in large blocks of colour but nothing to the extent where it will be a deal-breaker for most. You can tell my personal tolerance for this particular trait of LED tech is very low and I would quite happily watch sport on the DT50 given the lack of banding and the fact that motion appears fairly smear free as a result of the excellent panel response. Now there’s a turn up for the books!
So with the panel run in and calibrated we were able to really enjoy our time with the DT50. With reference greyscale and gamma response, images had plenty of pop and believability. Again, provided the lights weren’t low. The excellent video processing meant that even SD fare was more than watchable in most instances and, of course, high definition material looked fabulous. We mentioned earlier the constrictions on vertical viewing angles but off the horizontal axis, the IPS panel inside the Panasonic was more generous with colours holding up very well. Black level doesn’t stand up so strongly and, as is common with edge-lit IPS, it will degrade at the opposite side from which you’re viewing. Still, with careful placement and use of the swivel stand most families should be kept happy
After a rocky start with tints and clouding the DT50 certainly proved itself as a worthy entrant to the higher-end LED TV market, with the caveat that purchasers should not expect deep looking blacks in lights low conditions.
Picture Quality – 3D
Panasonic’s new (TY-EW3D4ME) glasses were also a great boon for the 3D delivery and are perhaps the most neutral in tint we’ve known a TV manufacturer produce and the DT50 proved faultless in detecting when a 3D signal was being emitted. We didn’t find any use for the Edge Smoothing option in the 3D Options, in fact it just blurred matters but then we refuse to watch shoddy 2D>3D conversion jobs, on principle, so perhaps it may come in useful in that scenario. Thanks to the neutrality of the lenses colour accuracy appeared good in the True Cinema and Pro modes which augurs well for the 3D THX modes that will be present in the high-end Panasonic plasma’s. The loss of luminance that wearing the eyewear results in, is easily negated by the panels ability to spew almost solar levels of light from its innards.
If we see another LED TV matching the DT50’s abilities as a 3DTV – WT50 excepted – we’ll be pleasantly surprised but we certainly wouldn’t be brave enough to put money on that happening.
- Very accurate picture in the best out-of-the-box modes and fantastic when calibrated
- Mostly top-notch video processing
- Beautiful floating design
- Motion is very crisp and clear for a LED TV
- 3D is excellent - the best 3D LED TV we've seen so far
- Lots of features to play with
- Built in Wi-Fi
- Freeview HD
- Relatively weak black levels
- Restrictive vertical viewing angles
- Quite Expensive
- Wired DLNA streaming was flaky
- Some uniformity issues toward the corners
Panasonic DT50B (TX-L47DT50B) 3D LED LCD TV Review
There’s a potentially large caveat to this and if you’re one that likes to watch in low light conditions, the DT50 shouldn’t be first choice.
Whilst black levels looked extremely deep in the daytime, or with what we could consider average living room lighting, late night movie watchers are going to be left wanting more. The filter in the DT50 is so good, however, that hands on heart we called it totally wrong on first viewing, during the day. In fact it holds up very credibly right up to the point you’re down to the last lamp or two being on, so don’t disregard it if you’re not a nocturnal viewer. There’s more to good pictures than ultimate black levels and the accuracy, clean appearance of motion and excellent video processing combine to produce images that will impress. Throw in the absolutely first class 3D delivery – the best we’ve seen in an active shutter system LED TV - and we have quite the multi-talented performer.
We were suspicious of the silver trim of the incredibly slim bezel adorning the DT50 but, unlike the Samsung D8000 it so obviously takes its ‘design inspiration’ from, it actually doesn’t pick up much stray light and appears quite matte a lot of the time. We would have preferred that Panasonic had stuck with the charcoal grey heritage of the DT30 but we understand the need to drive sales by cosmetics and they’ve certainly made the best of the remit. The pleasing lines and ‘floatiness’ are fine compensation for the trim and we’re, for the most part, very impressed by the design. The swivel stand matches the bezel nicely and is very weighty and robust giving the DT30 reassuring ballast. The new design ideas don’t stop there, either, and there’s a very shiny new backlit remote control to play with that does a fine job; but don’t let the sticky-fingered kids near it. Connections wise, we have the requisite 4 HDMI, LAN port and as many USB inputs as your laptop is likely to have together with digital audio out and inputs for the (supplied) adapters servicing legacy connections.
The menu system hasn’t undergone the same transformation as the design but there was no need, as the existing menus were already well thought out but we’re not too sure there’s any need for an added sub-menu, particularly as the Timer Menu is so sparsely populated; but it’s a minor criticism really. As we’d expect in a TV of the DT50’s status, it’s feature packed and fancy free boasting built-in Wi-Fi, a Freeview HD Tuner, a generous media player and internet applications aplenty. Owners will also have the option of connecting up a USB hard drive for some light duty PVR functions or even a camera/mic attachment for Skype video calling. We had a few problems with the DLNA implementation not liking a wired connection but over wireless it seemed robust with a variety of media servers. The VIERA connect platform is ever growing but already numbers favourites such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter amongst the services available.
Once the orange tint had died down, accuracy in the Professional and True Cinema modes was nothing short of outstanding. Greyscale and gamma tracking were near perfect and at least we got to check out the efficacy of the Colour Management System (CMS) as gamut performance wasn’t quite so impressive. Carrying over from last year’s complaint, the individual Hue, Saturation and Luminance controls had too high a degree of interactivity on the area’s they weren’t supposed to but it was much easier to find the sweet spot than in last year’s VIERA’s. We’d still like Panasonic to add full control over the secondary colours but at least we’ll get to see how they’ve managed that challenge in the VT50 plasma.
Somewhere along the line Panasonic have gone wrong with the Game mode and thumb twiddlers and keyboard and mouse avengers alike won’t take great delight in the 50 millisecond input lag readings we routinely got. Energy consumption figures were more impressive with an averaged 64W in calibrated Professional mode. In our preferred, True Cinema, 3D mode the DT50 averaged 102W whilst the default Normal mode was just that little bit more at 103W. The Panasonic didn’t register a reading in standby meaning it was drawing less than 0.5w.
The asking price of the Panasonic DT50 is fairly steep but if your requirements are for a bright, accurate picture with pleasing motion handling, fantastic 3D and more than a handful of features, you could certainly do much worse. The fact that the DT50 didn’t display noticeable panel banding is reason enough to lift it above most of the current crop of LED TV’s alone. It’s ultimately not going to satisfy the most demanding of videophiles but there’s no doubt it has plenty of thoroughly recommendable qualities.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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