Long known for its superior plasma HDTVs, Panasonic has a winner on its hands with its new ET60 series of LED backlit models. It’s a sleek-looking LCD HDTV line that uses IPS (in-plane switching) panel technology, edge-lit LED backlighting, and a 120Hz refresh rate to deliver a beautiful picture in both 2D and 3D modes. The 1,920-by-1,080 panel has a high contrast ratio that provides crisp highlight and shadow detail, and its excellent off-axis viewing performance keeps the picture looking bright and colorful at any angle. It won’t put a hurting on your utility bill either. Its flaws are minor; there’s a touch of crosstalk when viewed from an extreme side angle and it has three HDMI ports instead of four. We tested the TC-L55ET60, the 55-inch model with a $1,699.99 (direct) price tag.
Editors’ Note: This review is based on tests performed on the Panasonic TC-L55ET60, the 55-inch model of the series. Besides the screen-size difference, the 50-inch $1,399.99 (direct) TC-L50ET60 is otherwise identical in features, and while we didn’t perform lab tests on this specific model, we expect similar performance.
Design and Features
Narrow silver bezels and a 1.4-inch-thick cabinet give the TC-L55ET60 a sleek, streamlined look that will spruce up any room whether you hang it on a wall, place it on a desktop, or install it in an entertainment center. There’s a thin (0.4-inch) clear panel attached to the bottom bezel that contains a power indicator and two sensors. The panel uses a semi-gloss anti-glare coating that’s almost as reflective as a high-gloss treatment. The included silver-colored rectangular stand lends sturdy support to the 46-pound cabinet, but doesn’t let you swivel it.
Most big-screen HDTVs offer four HDMI ports, but Panasonic typically equips their sets with only three, which is the case with ET60. They are located over on the left side of the cabinet facing outward along with two USB ports, a digital audio output, and an SD card slot. Down-facing ports include shared composite and component A/V ports, an Ethernet port, and a cable/antenna jack.
Over on the right side of the cabinet are Power, Channel, and Input buttons. Pressing and holding the input button launches the menu screen where you can adjust picture, audio, and system settings. However, it’s much easier to use the included 8.5-inch remote, which has 43 buttons and four directional arrow keys. None of the buttons are backlit, but the white labeling stands out on the black buttons. The remote offers dedicated Netflix, 3D, and Help buttons, as well as an Apps button and a Home button that takes you to Panasonic’s My Home screen. Each family member can create a custom Home page and populate it with frequently visited apps, videos, music and photos. It has a calendar, a clock, a link to the settings menu, and an icon that takes you to Accuweather.com.
In addition to the aforementioned Ethernet port, the ET60 offers built-in Wi-Fi networking, either of which can be utilized to access streaming web services such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, CinemaNow, and MLB.TV. There are also numerous games powered by Playjam, Panasonic’s Viera Connect Market shopping service, a Web browser, and social networking apps like Twitter, Facebook, and Skype.
Basic picture settings include five picture presets (Vivid, Standard, Home Theater, Cinema, and Custom) and adjustments for Backlight, Brightness, Contrast, Color, Tint, and Sharpness levels. There are five color temperature settings, a Vivid color setting (enhances green and blue color saturation), A.I picture (makes dark areas darker without affecting brightness), Contrast Automatic Tracking System, or C.A.T.S. (adjusts brightness and contrast according to ambient light), and Motion Picture (reduces motion blur).
The Pro menu offers a generous selection of calibration adjustments, including Gamma correction, Color Hue/Saturation/Luminance settings, High and Low White Balance settings, Input Signal Level RGB settings, and Black Extension settings. The Advanced menu lets you enable Game mode (optimized for video games), 3:2 pulldown (reduces judder in film-based content), 1080p pixel direct (for use with a 4:4:4 video signal), and HDMI range settings (0-255 and 16-235).
Other settings include Voice Guidance, which uses text to speech technology to guide you through certain settings like volume control and input selection, and 3D settings to adjust 2D to 3D depth and swap left eye and right eye stereo sequencing. Panasonic covers the TC-L55ET60 with a one year warranty and offers a three year plan for $159.99 and a four year plan for $199.99.
The TC-L55ET60 is an all-around solid performer. The 120Hz panel with backlight scanning technology delivered smooth motion video without having to rely on the motion smoothing feature. Gameplay was fluid while watching the Islanders/Penguins hockey game, and panning scenes from the movie 2012 on Blu-ray showed no evidence of blurring. Picture quality was sharp and noise-free.
Color accuracy was good but not ideal; as you can see in the CIE chromaticity chart above, red, green and blue colors were very close to their ideal coordinates (represented by each corresponding box), but none were spot-on. That said, none were too far off either, and there were no signs of tinting or oversaturation while watchingPiranha on Blu-ray. Colors appeared bold and uniform on the DisplayMate full screen color tests as well.
Using a Klein K10-A colorimeter and SpectraCal’s CalMAN 5 software I recorded a peak brightness level of 304.34 cd/m2 and an impressive 0.0232 cd/m2 black level. The resulting contrast ratio of 13,118:1 allowed for very good shadow detail while maintaining a bright picture. By way of comparison, the Vizio M3D651SV turned in a contrast ratio of 11,228:1 with a peak brightness of 224.57 cd/m2.
IPS panels are known for their outstanding viewing angles, and the ET60 didn’t disappoint; colors remained bright and vibrant from every angle and the picture did not wash out or become dim when viewed from an extreme side angle.
The ET60 uses passive 3D technology and comes with two pairs of comfortable lightweight glasses (additional pairs can be purchased for $5.22 on Panasonic’s Parts and Accessories website). While watching Sharks 3D on Blu-ray, the 3D effect was very convincing and image detail remained pristine. As is usually the case with passive 3D there was some crosstalk (image ghosting) when I moved to an extreme side angle (around 80 degrees from center), but it wasn’t constant or overly distracting. You can convert 2D content to 3D, but I recommend sticking with real 3D content as converted video just doesn’t look very good.
The TC-L55ET60 used 100 watts of power during testing with Eco mode disabled and 79 watts of power with Eco mode enabled. Although it doesn’t beat the LG 55LM6700 (67 watts), it is much more energy-efficient than the Vizio E601I-A3 (118 watts) and the Sharp LC-60LE650U (146 watts with power saving disabled and 114 watts with power saving enabled).
With the Panasonic ET60 series, you get solid performance and a wealth of features for a reasonable price. The company’s IPS panels deliver dark blacks and good color saturation regardless of where you’re sitting, and 3D content looks awesome as long as you don’t wander too far from the center of the screen. If you can live with a little 3D crosstalk and only three HDMI ports, the TC-L55ET60 is a great deal for the money and is our newest Editors’ Choice for big-screen mid-range HDTVs.
|Video Inputs||Component, Composite, HDMI, USB|
|Diagonal Screen Size||50 inches|
|Pixel Refresh Rate Speed||120Hz|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc