Let’s get this out of the way right from the off, the Panasonic LX-L47WT50B is a very costly television. Panasonic quote an online price of around £2,099, which is dearer than the 50VT50 , our new Reference TV and £400 more than the 47DT50 we covered recently. So what does that extra outlay get you? Well, over the VT50, absolutely nothing but we realise plasma technology isn’t for everybody so the real question should probably be, what does it have over the DT50? To which, on paper, it’s 2 pairs of 3D Glasses, Dual Core Processing and the new Touch Pad Controller so, in essence, you’d really have to want the Touch Pad remote to justify the premium as we’ve already discovered the dual core processing doesn’t add that much in our reviews of the lower tier Panasonic’s. Of course, there’s the swanky crescent stand to consider too but, again, it’s a big price differential for something that’s not going to give anything in terms of picture quality.
The early press for the Panasonic WT50 has been positive and we’ve seen some quite astonishing claims about its performance, particularly in relation to black levels and contrast and, undoubtedly, if the WT50 can deliver in that regard, then we’ll likely have a very special LED TV on our hands so it’s time to find out whether Panasonic WT50 can live up to both the hype and the price-tag…
Styling and Connections
As with the majority of the 2012 Panasonics, the new remote control is in the box 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 it does show up greasy fingerprints more easily, so OCD sufferers may want to keep a suitable cleaning cloth close at hand.
In terms of connections the WT50 possesses the regulation set of 4 HDMI ports on the side connecting 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. 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.
As mentioned earlier the Panasonic TX-L47WT50 comes with two pairs of Panasonic’s new RF 3D eyewear, product code TY-EW3D4MA. The ‘3D4M’s’ are a relative pleasure to wear being extraordinarily light, with a weight of only 26g (about an ounce). The glasses have nice large lenses and are lacking in noticeable tint. To activate, there’s a switch located at the top of the frame above the bridge that can also change the 3D mode to show 2D images; although quite why anybody would want to watch 3D in 2D wearing glasses they don’t need is a bit of a mystery. The 3D4MA’s are not USB rechargeable and there’s a lithium ion battery behind a cover in the frame that you’ll need a watchmakers screwdriver to get at.
The new Touch Pad Controller resembles an inverted mouse and fits in the hand nicely. There’s a simple assortment of buttons including Standby, OK, Exit, Return and Volume and Channel up and downs. There are also dedicated buttons to bring up VIERA Connect, VIERA Tools and the Options Menu. Clearly you can do all of that with the standard remote so the sole purpose for the existence of the controller comes in the eponymous Touch Pad that dominates the top half. The pad allows users to tap, slide and scroll their way through menus and web pages and works well, up to a point. There’s no doubt it makes the navigation of the internet a far more rewarding experience but it does lack a degree of fine control that can make using the on-screen keyboard frustrating to use. Owners can choose to set a sensitivity with choices of Min, Mid or Max and we found the higher sensitivity setting our preferred choice. From the same area in the Setup Menu, one can also choose whether a tap of the pad doubles up as the OK button or otherwise and commence with the necessary Pairing action before first use, if it wasn’t done during the initial set up process. We’ll talk a little more about the Touch Pad in the Features section but our over-riding thought is that it’s a good idea and a very nicely crafted little gizmo that needs some work on the sensitivity for fine movements.
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.
Completing the set of options on the first page of picture options we have Vivid Colour that increases colour luminance (brightness) and C.A.T.S. that automatically adjusts the overall brightness of the picture dependant on the viewing conditions. The P-NR (picture noise reduction) and 3D-Comb options on Page 2 proved of no benefit with any of the material we tested the WT50 with but we do like the fact that the Screen Display can be set to off to preserve energy and it’s especially useful for anyone that users the Panasonic to access radio services through the Freeview or Freesat platforms.
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).
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 we 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.
Many people take using a television guide or on screen channel information for granted, but for people that a visually challenged it can obviously be difficult to find out information about their favourite programmes, check what is on later or to set a programme for recording. Panasonic have been working with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to provide the 'Voice Guidance' feature that works by announcing on-screen information with synthetic speech and provides clear instructions on how to navigate around the TV menu. The talking feature allows people to choose the level of guidance that suits them, whether beginner or expert, and can be adjusted in terms of speed and volume. Nice work there Panasonic!
Studies show 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. Some might even be interested to know that the VIERA TVs allow for a specific DNS to be entered in the Network Menu. Naturally social media addicts can tap in to Twitter and Facebook through the Social TV app that allows for their streams to be fairly discretely hidden under a tab.
It looks like the issue in using a wired connection we encountered when using the DT50 have now been fixed and we had no problems in streaming a variety of file types over both a wired and wireless connection. 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 with the same true via USB devices. Audio support now includes FLAC to compliment the MP3, AAC and WMA/WMA Pro codecs and for photos, the WT50 can display jpg, jpeg and the 3D mpo formats.
Measured Results – Out-of-the-BoxThe highly comparable DT50 we tested just a few weeks ago scored an extraordinary reference for out-of-the-box greyscale tracking but we could pretty easily see that the 47WT50 wasn’t going to follow suit, with skintones exhibiting a noticeable yellow tint in the most accurate Professional and True Cinema viewing modes. More surprisingly, gamma tracking was nowhere of the same calibre of that of its less illustrious stable-mate and without a parametric control it would be a tough task to flatten it out.
Moving on to the colour reproduction measured against the Rec.709 standard and it’s a happier story…
Ultimately we’re satisfied with the calibrated results but we’d ask Panasonic to look at providing a fuller calibration suite in their 2013 flagship LED TV.
Picture ProcessingFor anyone that’s read this section from the Panasonic DT50 review, the following will make familiar reading as the video processing capabilities are exactly the same, that is, they’re both largely excellent performers. We started by checking out the scaling performance of the WT50 and found with the SMPTE 133 pattern that the WT50 is able to resolve the full and fine details without blurring or nasty ringing artefacts at both 480i/p and 576i/p. The 47WT50 also dealt very well with video deinterlacing 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 Picture Menu. The WT50 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 Professional Modes, the WT50 is prevented from showing anything above reference white (video level 235) and so lacks a little of the dynamic range at the high end but it’s done deliberately to prevent clipping near black. Put simply, a lot of TVs struggle to show the really bright elements of the signal whilst simultaneously displaying the darkest portions and Panasonic have taken the stance they’d rather clip off those bits of information above reference white, i.e. whiter than white, and preserve detail in the darkest portions of the picture. So whilst it does mean a slight loss in contrast, it does mean that for most material dynamic range is greater and if it’s a limitation of the panel, we think they chose right.
The Panasonic TX-L47WT50 also possessed full luma and chroma bandwidth but we saw the same slightly anomalous results with the Luma Plate pattern, from the Spears and Munsil disc, we’ve witnessed with the majority of the 2012 Panasonics, where some of the curved edges are straightened by the video processing. Panasonic calls it Pure Image Creation and it’s a combination of edge detection and diagonal line straightening intended to give sharper looking images. We don’t normally welcome any kind of undefeatable video processing but, in this case, its effects are only detrimental to a single, and static, test pattern and not at all noticeable in actual material. If anything, it perhaps does contribute to the very clean looking pictures the high-end Panasonics are producing this year and is certainly nothing to be worried over.
The Clear Cinema setting present in the Advanced Settings of the Picture Menu activates the film mode on the WT50 but once again it struggles to properly lock on to the most common (2;2) PAL cadence, meaning resolution gets thrown away and some jagged artefacts and moire could very occasionally be seen. It’s only likely to be a small issue for most 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 although we can see the merits of its use at the minimum setting with fast video action especially as, for some unexplainable reason, motion is definitely more blurry than that in the DT50. With Blu-ray material, or at least the majority of it, the 24p Smooth Film option replaces IFC but it is so dire we wish Panasonic wouldn’t put in the menus, at all, let alone have it on by default.
Gaming PerformanceAs many will know, our present system of measuring input lag – with a camera and attached laptop running a stopwatch – has some question marks over its reliability. There’s a number of factors that can mean results are inaccurate (and inconsistent) and if there’s one thing, well two things, we don’t like they’re inaccuracy and inconsistency. To that end we’re currently working with the estimable Mr Leo Bodnar to make the AVForums Reviews the place to go for the hardcore gaming fraternity for whom every millisecond counts; we’ll even forgive them for skipping straight to this section as a lot of what is said earlier doesn’t apply to the Game modes in TVs.
So who is Leo and what has he done for us? Amongst other things, Leo makes driving simulators for clients and is of course only interested in those displays that exhibit the smallest amount of lag to make the experience as close to real life as possible. Unsatisfied with the traditional camera method, Leo set about producing a device that could actually measure lag reliably and accurately using his not inconsiderable engineering nous. Step forward the lagtest.
The device works by producing a standard 1080p60 DVI/HDMI signal with alternating black/white segments and measures the delay between the first line of the frame with white segment leaving HDMI transmitter and the photosensor detecting a change in screen light output. LagTest dynamically samples full black and white levels and sets detection threshold at 25% of full white. Strictly speaking, it measures input lag plus the panel response time which is what we should really care about given we can’t react to action on screen without first seeing it! The delay measurements are accurate to +-0.1 milliseconds which is far far better than the accuracy derived from the old camera method. It’s devilishly simple, in essence, like all the best things but we believe we can now give you gamers the most definitive results out there.
There’s a number of other things to consider when factoring the different display technologies, specifically the different ways Plasma and LED/LCD TVs produce their pictures and the various modulation frequencies of the LED TVs. To produce consistent and fair results, we will take measurements from toward the bottom of the TV as a LED TVs delay between producing the bottom of the image is almost 16 milliseconds longer than the top part of the screen, related to the moment corresponding data travels over HDMI; whereas plasma technologies near instantaneous panel response means the whole frame is ‘thrown’ on to the screen in less than a millisecond. There’s also the luminance (brightness) of the image to consider, as for LED/LCD the brighter the picture needs to go, the longer the panel response time required, so we’ve settled on a peak light output of 200 cd/m2 for two reasons - a) we know that every LED TV will be able to comfortably hit that target and b) any brighter and you’re doing your eyes damage in most viewing conditions.
We hope you can forgive the long and rather technical explanation and we know most of you reading this section will just what to know the result. So here it is – 41.3 milliseconds in Game Mode, which is quite average by previous reckoning, but then we didn’t have the benefit of this testing kit previously.
Energy ConsumptionPanasonic are really pushing the Eco message right now and the WT50 was certainly as impressive as the DT50 here, drawing an averaged 65W in calibrated Professional mode. The out of box Normal picture showed similar results at 66.5W but had nowhere near the vibrancy of the calibrated results. 3D naturally puts a bit more strain on things and the WT50 averaged 91W here.
Picture Quality – 2D
Now, as we’ve said before, black levels aren’t everything and provided you’re not one who likes to watch in ideal viewing conditions, i.e. with just some lighting behind the TV, the WT50 still looks impressive thanks in large part to the excellent filter deployed in the panel. It’s so good, in fact, that you’d swear blind the Panasonic is actually a top contrast performer during the day or with a few lights on in the room. Once we had calibrated the TV, pictures were very pleasing indeed and the accurate colour palette and flat greyscale response leant images a very convincing believability with a good degree of pop. Naturally it’s with high definition content that the WT50 really shows its colours (no pun intended) but standard definition pictures are also shown a nice degree of care and attention. One thing we were surprised at, and mentioned earlier, is that the ultra-fast panel response present in the IPS-Alpha panels wasn’t really shining through in terms of motion performance; with high speed action the WT50 did exhibit quite a bit of blur and it was only with IFC on its Mid setting that we were able to mostly rid ourselves on it. With the same 1600Hz backlight modulation found in the DT50 we were expecting identical performance in that regard, but it wasn’t the case, perhaps the extra video processing is to blame. Panning action could also show up some array banding, again something we didn’t see with DT50, but you would need to be looking out for it for it to become a problem and it was certainly far more mild in its manifestation than a lot of edge-lit LED’s we’ve seen but we have to mention it.
By no means does the WT50 produce poor images, in fact for most of the day it looks very good, but once the evening comes you may be wondering why you’ve laid down quite so much money when - for £600 less - you could have bought the DT50 and had a slightly better image, albeit you wouldn’t benefit from the Touch Pad controller and you’d need to shell out some more for 3D glasses, if you want 3D that is.
Picture Quality – 3D
Panasonic’s new (TY-EW3D4MA) glasses also contribute greatly to the 3D experience and are perhaps the most neutral in tint we’ve known a TV manufacturer to produce and thanks to the neutrality of the lenses colour accuracy appeared good in the True Cinema and Pro modes. The loss of luminance wearing the eyewear results in is easily negated by the panels ability to burn your retinas from 10 paces.
Like the DT50 that went before, the Panasonic WT50 really is a splendid 3D television with plasma like levels of clarity but with a brighter picture, which really helps convey the illusion. If you were laying out money on an active shutter 3DTV with the sole intent of viewing 3D on it, the high end Panasonic’s are, at present, top dog – whether LED or plasma!
- 3D is wonderful
- Distinctive and contemporary design
- The filter is excellent
- Near reference calibrated greyscale and colour
- Crammed full of features
- Built-in WiFi
- Freeview and Freesat HD
- Mediocre blacks and contrast performance
- Calibration controls feel like 'Short Change' compared to plasma range
- Some mild array banding
- Blurred images with fast moving action
Panasonic WT50B (TX-L47WT50B) Flagship 3D LED LCD TV Review
UPDATE: 30/04/2012: After the review was published we were contacted by Panasonic who informed us that the price published for the WT50 on their own website was incorrect. In light of the fact that the new price is around £500 less than we originally thought, we feel the WT50 now merits an AVForums Recommended Badge, given the all-round quality of the images produced, excellent feature set and, not least, because it includes 2 pairs of 3D eye-wear, the Touch Pad controller and the slight added benefits of dual core processing. At £400 more than the DT50, you still need to consider how important 3D glasses, the exclusive stand and Touch Pad controller are to you but at least the price differential is now not prohibitive and decisions can be reached with only the added features and accessories as a factor.
The WT50 is a great TV in many ways, but in terms of picture quality there’s little to separate it from the DT50, in fact, we’d give the slight edge to the DT50 for its flatter gamma response and inexplicably cleaner motion handling. With the WT you get 2 pairs of 3D glasses, the Touch Pad controller and dual core processing but if you can do without the Touch Pad (you can use a Tablet/Smartphone as a replacement), one could easily buy a couple of pairs of ‘tech specs’ and save themselves a couple of hundred pounds. The dual core processing is no great miss as, in the case of the WT50, it only slightly enhances the Browser and Streaming experience, yet doesn’t offer the full calibration suite of the similarly equipped GT50 and VT50 plasmas. The WT50 is good looking and full of fun – especially in 3D - but you need to weigh up if the extras and distinctive design deserve your extra cash..
There’s no doubt that the WT50 is a distinctive looker although we're more keen on the micro-thin black bezel than the daring crescent stand, which doesn’t look, or feel, quite as nice as you’d expect from the photo’s. The build quality wasn’t what we expected either and the silver back panel feels a touch cheap and has more give than we’d really like. Connectivity is what we would expect at this level with the WT50 sporting 4 HDMI, more USB ports than my laptop, connections for both Freesat HD and Freeview HD, plus the usual PC, Network and legacy video inputs. Nothing remarkable there and similarly the Menus held few surprises save for the lack of extensive calibration controls found in the other dual core processor equipped Panasonics.
If you can think of a Smart TV feature, the Panasonic 47WT50 probably has it, including an Internet Browser, Skype video calling, PVR functions and voice guidance for the blind or partially sighted. The VIERA Connect hub allows for a good variety of video on demand services, from Netflix to BBC iPlayer via YouTube and Lovefilm. We’d prefer it if there was a little more content displayed, per page, but the presentation is nice, response is snappy and you can customise to your hearts content. Navigation of the features can be aided by use of the included Touch Pad remote controller which is a boon for the Browser, even if it is quite difficult to pick out the smaller targets.
As said earlier, the lack of precision calibration controls was a disappointment in this Flagship product but we were able to still dial in excellent results, but we could certainly have done better, particularly with gamma, had the WT50 been afforded the tools its status warrants. Once the yellow tinge had been calibrated out, we found the Panasonic a mostly excellent all-round performer but contrast and black levels are not Premier League, by a far shot, and it’s really with a brightish viewing environment that the WT50 will show its mettle as the filter is excellent. We were very surprised to note that motion clarity didn’t appear as crisp as that of the DT50 and we’ve no particular explanation as to why that would be unless the Pure Image Creation processing, only found in the dual core models, is to blame. As with the DT50, it was with 3D images that we were really blown away; with its plasma-like lack of crosstalk married to the inherent brightness of LED delivering the perfect match of pop and depth. This reviewer also finds it a less ‘flickery’ experience than that of the PDP counterparts.
Gaming wise, our new and highly accurate LagTest device gave a reading of 41.3 milliseconds in Game Mode and our nearly as accurate power meter showed the DT50 drawing an averaged 65W in calibrated Professional mode. The out-of-the-box Normal picture showed similar results at 66.5W but had nowhere near the vibrancy of the calibrated results. 3D naturally puts a bit more strain on things and the WT50 averaged 91W here.
If you really want the Crescent Stand, Touch Pad Controller and the slight added oomph that dual core processing brings, then the Panasonic WT50 makes a very good choice. If you can live with out them, go for the cheaper model, it will give you just as much pleasure.
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
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