By the far the most interesting thing about the Panasonic TX-L42ET5B lies in the choice the manufacturers made in electing to launch a passive 3D TV whose pictures are delivered by an outsourced panel. Panasonic have long been strong advocates of the active-shutter system which many claim delivers a higher resolution image, although it’s not really as simple as that owing to the way the brain processes 3D images but that’s a discussion for another place. As we’ve said in recent reviews, Panasonic are looking to compete on more fronts this year and they’ve obviously seen that a certain Korean manufacturer has been doing rather nicely with its passive Cinema 3D TVs. In fact, that very same manufacturer is the one from whom Panasonic purchased the panels employed in the ET5 – we’re not going to name them but perhaps you could take a Lucky Guess.
It’s not all about the 3D though, of course, and that’s but one of the many features available in the ET5 being as it’s branded under the new Smart VIERA ranges. There’s built in Wi-Fi, access to the cloud based services available through VIERA Connect, a Freeview HD Tuner and USB PVR recording functionality, to name a few. All of that is of no use if the 2D pictures can’t deliver, however, and we’ll not be blinded by the razzmatazz on offer. So will Panasonic’s about face prove a success and can they market passive aggressively? Let’s take a look…
Styling, Connections, Menus and Setup
The ET5 comes with the older style Panasonic remote control but retains, almost exactly, the button layout of the recently reviewed higher tier products. If anything, we prefer the more classic remote slightly, not only for its more matte appearance but also for the fact we (I) find it a touch more comfortable in use for extended periods. Given that the ET5 is capable of running Panasonic’s new Web Browser, you may find that a convenience, although we’d probably advise the use of a wireless keyboard if you intend to extensively utilise that feature.
Also in the box were 4 sets of Panasonic’s TY-EP3D10EB 3D eyewear; obviously with them not being of the ‘shuttered’ technology, they’re much cheaper to produce but it’s still good to see 4 pairs of specs in the box and it should service the average family requirements. The glass themselves are very lightweight and have nice large lenses that are almost tint free. Most importantly for sensitive types (cough, hello) they don’t flicker at all, making the 3D experience so much more comfortable for those that suffer with the other tech.
It’s nice to see Panasonic haven’t skimped on the connections front either and despite its mid-tier status the ET5B is still equipped with 4 HDMI inputs, running down the side and 10cm from the edge of the bezel; so it will be a tight fit to get those cables hidden around the back without adapters but feasible. 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.
The menu system is pretty much exactly that we found in the DT50 save for a few items only found on the high-end DT50 and, 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. We’re still not totally convinced the Timer Menu justifies its existence with only 3 items – at most – selectable but the new Network Menu definitely merits its place.
For our purpose the Picture Menu can be greatly enhanced 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 (eugh), Normal, Game (from an external source) and Cinema but we like the accuracy True Cinema gives. If you don’t like True Cinema, for whatever reason, next best is Cinema with a Colour Balance (read colour temperature) of Warm. Under the Viewing Modes we have our 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 (Automatic Brightness Control function), P-NR (Picture Noise Reduction) and 3D-COMB.
As far as the 3D settings go, 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. There’s a built in warning message concerning the viewing of 3D images by way of Safety Precautions and there’s an Edge Smoother option too. 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.
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 best of the servers installed.
Further features include Skype video calling, provided the 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); and hats off to Panasonic for removing the advertising from the EPG, again. The Panasonic ET5B is certainly plentiful in its extras and we’re getting the idea that at least some of them will begin to be plentifully used in the near future.
Measured Results - Out of the BoxAs we mentioned earlier, to get the best out of the ET5 the advanced calibration options will need unlocking in the Setup Menu and by doing so options for White Balance, Gamma and a CMS will appear. It’s good to see Panasonic conceding that there is value to providing a good set of fine tuning options in to the user menus of a mid-tier product although we would prefer the white balance settings were per source instead of carrying over to all inputs. It shouldn’t provide too much of a problem providing the connected kit is behaving itself but you can’t always rely on that. The CMS settings are independent, however, possibly as a result of it only being available in the True Cinema mode. Fortunately it was that very mode that proved the closest to the industry standards and pre-calibration we got the following results:
Here’s how the ET5 fared when measured against the Rec. 709 colour standard:
Calibrated ResultsThere’s certainly no need of 10 point controls when a basic 2 point system can gain results like below:
Picture ProcessingThe ET5 may not have the lofty aspirations of the TX-L47DT50 we tested recently but it looks like they share more or less identical video processing engines. When fed a good source, the ET5 was capable of displaying standard definition signals well with all the detail in the SMPTE 133 showing without unsightly ringing at both 480i and 576i. The ET5B also handled video deinterlacing tasks 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 ET5 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests with 16:9 overscan set to off in the Picure Menu. Like the DT50, the ET5 wasn’t able to show much above reference white but that’s more a ‘nice to have’ than an essential. The Clear Cinema activates the film mode in the ET5 and it was able to pick up the most common PAL film cadence, 2:2 but occasionally seemed to lose it but it seemed faultless with the NTSC 2:3 cadence. A mixture of film and video based text proved no real challenge and the general cadence detection prowess is completed by the ET5’s excellent handling of Blu-ray at 24p.
Exactly as per the DT50, Intelligent Frame Creation(IFC) was more hit than miss with 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 ET5’s panel response doesn’t seem to match the higher end TV. With Blu-ray material (or at least most) 24p Smooth Film option replaces IFC but it is really quite unpleasant, even at Min, and gets progressively worse higher up the scale. Film lovers avoid.
Gaming PerformanceThe Panasonic ET5 proved a nifty little gaming TV, particularly when you factor in the 3D capabilities and returned an averaged figure of 25 milliseconds controller latency, when in Game mode. Which is more than adequate for our needs and likely the vast majority of our readership. If you want significantly better, you’ll need to be looking at dedicated gaming monitors.
Energy ConsumptionThe ET5 has good numbers here, too, and we saw an average of 54W draw in calibrated 2D mode compared to 53W in the rather dull out of box Normal viewing mode. As expected the extra luminance needed for 3D asked a little bit more but the averaged figure was still impressive at 77W.
Picture Quality – 2D
In terms of screen uniformity, which is so often a major issue with the technology, the Panasonic TX-L42ET50B was one of the better examples we’ve seen, though not perfect. We could see some light pooling, particularly emanating from the top right hand corner, but with most material it wasn’t apparent in day to day viewing but movie lovers won’t appreciate their black bars glowing when watching non 16:9 aspect ratio content. Again, this is something for those that like to watch with the lights low, for which the ET5 isn’t well suited in any case. We didn’t notice any array banding or obtrusive haloing so we were able to enjoy sports broadcasts without unintentional pitch markings showing up and whilst motion performance was about average for a LCD/LED, i.e. fast moving action will exhibit some blur, we weren’t overly troubled by it and we’ll take a bit of smearing over distracting uniformity issues, any day.
In short, the Panasonic ET5 has all the usual strengths and weaknesses associated with IPS panels. On the plus side, it has accurate colours, plenty of light output and generous viewing angles and counting against it, relatively weak contrast and black levels, average motion clarity and some mild(ish) uniformity problems. The negatives are only really so in relatively low light surroundings, however, so please take that in to account. And then, of course, there’s the 3D…
Picture Quality – 3D
The most hotly debated topic is the ‘resolution loss’ and what Dr Raymond Soneira concluded in his study ties up well with what Steve and I had to say about last years LG’s, using the same system used in the ET5. And that was, we could perceive no noticeable resolution loss with actual content at comfortable distances (which we’d consider at something like 5ft for a 42inch TV). There’s a term for why this would be the case and it’s known as image fusion, whereby the brain will take the information from each eye and combine it in to one image. It makes sense really otherwise 3D images would literally be unwatchable on a Passive 3DTV and they’re simply not. As for the so called ‘scan lines’ Dr Soneira found as we do, that if you’re anything like at a sensible distance to enjoy the 3D experience, you simply won’t see them. For reference, we measured the point at which the matrix became invisible on a light background at being around 2ft, for this 42inch, and we have 20/20 vision. You would need near super human peepers to see the matrix at reasonable distances.
Dr Soniera’s report is extremely interesting and well worth a look for a far more in-depth discourse on the subject but our (or at least my) experiences largely mirror his findings. This is a review, however, and we need to get back to the matter in hand, and that is, how does the Panasonic TX-L42ET5B handle 3D. The answer is a resounding, ‘fantastically’. With zero crosstalk, a bright punchy image and without the nasty flicker some of us permanently witness with active-shutter TV’s, I found the 3D experience to be the best since last I reviewed a passive set. With four pairs of glasses in the box, the ET5 is the ideal family 3DTV and bar some minor complaints over a slightly smeared motion here and there, virtually flawless in its 3D delivery. We realise not everyone has the same complaints over active shutter system but we’d urge everyone to give passive a try before dismissing it on the common, and supposed, drawbacks.
- Capable of bright, accurate images
- 3D is fantastic
- The greyscale calibrated to reference standards
- Packed full of features
- Excellent viewing angles
- 4 Pairs of 3D eyewear in the box
- Good calibration controls
- Low input lag and energy consumption
- Black level and contrast performance is weak in low light conditions
- Some smearing with fast motion
- Light pooling - particularly in top right corner
- Web Browser is difficult to access and needs some tuning
Panasonic ET5 (TX-L42ET5B) 3D LED LCD TV Review
If you’re not one of those that likes to watch with the lights down low, the Panasonic ET5 will make a fine choice. In fact, if you’re requirements are for a 3DTV in a family room, we can think of few better. The ET5 is pretty much what we’ve come to expect from an IPS based LED TV, the black levels and contrast won’t leave you agog, motion clarity can be bettered and there are some mild, but nagging, uniformity issues. That’s the bad. The positives are bright and accurate images, generous viewing angles, an absolute wealth of features and the 3D performance, which is gloriously bright, crosstalk and flicker free plus detailed, to boot. There’s Wi-Fi built in as well, which makes accessing all the connected features the ET5 possesses that much easier with the highlights being the new Web Browser, lots of Video on Demand Services and capable DLNA streaming of media files. It’s not going to knock the socks off the videophiles amongst us but the Panasonic ET5 still delivers on a lot of fronts.
There’s no denying Panasonic have been somewhat ‘inspired’ by a certain Korean manufacturer in a lot of this years designs but it’s not a wholesale rip-off job in the case of the ET5 and, although the crystal strip running around the perimeters of the bezel is markedly reminiscent of a Samsung TV, we prefer the matte brushed metal looks of the Panasonic ET5. We’re also slightly more keen on the older style remote that ships with it too, over the new glossy affairs we’ve handled with the other 2012 Panasonic’s we’ve covered. The menu system is common to all, however, and we find it very easy to navigate with sensible placement of items within. We’re not sure there was the need for a separate Timer Menu but that’s but a small gripe and the exclusion of advertising from the built-in EPG is more than recompense.
The inclusion of a decent set of calibration controls is a welcome one, especially in a mid-tier product, and we were able to gain some very impressive results that brought a very noticeable improvement to picture quality. The excellent calibrated performance was backed up with equally impressive video processing capabilities that all combined to serve up pleasing, punchy pictures with the, already mentioned, caveat that the ET5 won’t look as impressive in dimly lit rooms. While the 2D performance is good, it’s with the 3D that this Panasonic truly excels, with literally no crosstalk or flicker bundled with enough luminance to make you forget you’re wearing the eye-wear. With four pairs of glasses in the box, the ET5 is the ideal family 3DTV and bar some minor complaints over some slightly smeared motion, here and there, virtually flawless in its 3D delivery.
Gamers and the energy consumption conscious will also be pleased to note a latency figure around 25milliseconds to controller input and an energy draw of just 53w in calibrated 2D mode.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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