Panasonic TC-L55ET60 Review (TCL55ET60)
55" 1080p 3D LED TV
by Robert Wiley, Editor
The TC-L55ET60 is the 3rd tier choice of the 3D Panasonic LEDs in the 55 inch size. It's got a pretty similar feature set compared to the DT60 series above it except for the stand, Touchpad remote, and voice recognition. It does have strong passive 3D performance with two pairs of glasses included. It may not be the strongest choice in terms of value, but if picture quality and 3D performance are important that may make up for it.
Picture Quality Rating: 8.7
The panel is is a driving force of the of picture quality on the 55ET60. It's got a great IPS LED panel with the Clear Panel Pro filter like the DT60 and WT60 series above it. The IPS (In Plane Switching) LED panel allows for clear images with wider viewing angles and better off-center color reproduction than a lot of the LCD/LED TVs. We were glad to see that the advertising was not just hype, and that the panel actually does provide a better side angle viewing picture. After getting the calibrations dialed in, color reproduction was accurate and realistic, but certainly not superb. Nothing was overblown and flesh tones looked about right. Dark shadow detail was good in some examples, but we've seen better. Background elements and dark areas of the screen weren't washed out by surrounding bright areas either.
We were very impressed by the sharpness and detail seen in this image. Lines are clean and you can see every bit of light reflecting off the glass
Black levels and contrast were not as strong as some we have seen, but not bad by any means. If we were to compare the picture quality to one of Panasonic's plasmas, it would be closest to the S60. LG's LA7400 is a good LED TV comparison to the ET60.
Vivid – Terribly overblown colors, brightness, and sharpness. Avoid this one.
Standard – Not the dim energy saving mode that it is in the ST60 plasma even though it is still the Energy Star rated picture setting. A cool color temperature (blue) overall image is produced.
Home Theater – The Home Theater setting is the dimmest of all the settings, meant for dark viewing rooms. Colors are subdued with this setting, but flesh tones look natural.
Cinema – This is similar to Home Theater, but with warmth and brightness turned up a notch or two.
Side Viewing Angles – Great for an LED
Side angle viewing in Panasonic's ET60 is very impressive. We would say the viewing angles are similar to the top tier Samsung F8000 in this arena. This is because of the IPS panel allows for much greater flexibility in viewing angles on LEDs and LCDs. In fact Panasonic claims it to have a 178 degree viewing angle. That may be a stretch, but they are getting closer. Contrast and color are great dead on, but slowly degrade as you move off center. We saw a 10% decrease in color saturation and contrast at 25 degrees off center and about 25% at 45 degrees.
The ET60 really misses out on off center viewing angles when it comes to above or below angles. Standing or kneeling in front of the TV gave the black bars of a Blu-ray a purple haze. This is important to note if the TV will be wall mounted higher than eye level from the couch or seats.
At more than 40 degrees off center and at eye level you can see the contrast begin to degrade, but colors still keep their vibrance. This is due to the IPS LED panel seen in the higher tier Pansonic LED TVs
120Hz and 720 Backlight Scanning
The TCL55ET60 features a native 120Hz panel that renders fast action and side to side panning in a very nice way. If sports take up most of your living room's TV time, this is probably a smart way to go. In addition of the 120Hz processing Panasonic has added 720 backlight scanning into the mix. This pushes the panel's performance a little further to provide even more reduction in motion blur and a little extra clarity in edges.
You get a sense of the realistic color rendition, more clean lines, and great shading from this shot. Notice the amount of detail in bright areas too
Motion Picture Settings – Super Important
The Dejudder mode on the ET60 is called Motion Picture Setting. It's got 4 levels: Off, weak, medium, and high. There are no custom settings for this feature, but weak is a nice addition. Blu-rays, DVDs, and games are going to be the best with this turned off. If any judder bothers you at all, weak setting may be just the right choice. The smoothing effect is very unobtrusive in the weak mode. The picture isn't noticeably flattened out like in the higher settings. Background blur is even present. Standard definition content benefits from this as well. 3D content is best with the mid setting.
3D Picture Quality - Great Passive Performance
The ET60 series uses passive 3D, unlike Panasonic's plasma counterparts. Enabling 3D from the 3D button on the remote initially dims the picture because 3D enters own set of picture modes. Changing it to Custom brightens everything up a touch and gives colors a natural look (See 3D Picture Settings). There was a surprising amount of depth to the images, but it had a fair amount of judder in movement. This where the Motion Picture Settings come in handy. Set it to mid or weak, and the judder is gone without causing and unnatural look. As usual no flicker is present with passive 3D. 3D side angle viewing is strong as there isn't much loss of color and contrast as you move off center. This seems to be another positive trait for passive 3D displays. Double images present themselves with top and bottoms off angle viewing. The glasses are much lighter and more comfortable than Panasonic's active 3D glasses. This is the way 3D glasses should be. 2 pairs are included in the box.
Recommended 3D Settings
The following are the picture menu options we found to be most helpful with creating the best 3D playback. Try out our settings to see if they work for you. As always, a bit of tweaking may be necessary for the best personal results.
-3D settings > 3D adjustment > On > -2
-Motion Picture Setting > Mid
-The 3D Picture Mode we used was Custom with its default settings
2D to 3D Conversion Quality
2D to 3D conversion only adds minimal amount of depth to images, but subtle is okay when it comes to this feature. It's not overall unusable like we have seen on the ST60 plasma. It would be good for refreshing an old favorite movie or TV show. This mode really benefits from the weak mode from the Motion Picture Setting. Games are also a strong point of 2D to 3D conversion on the ET60, more notes on that below.
This is a good example of the contrast seen in the ET60. There is a good amount of dark area detail lost in this shot
Standard Definition Content – 480i and 480p Upconversion
Standard definition upconversion on the ET60 was good, but really stood out with 480p content. To get the right aspect ratio, scroll through the options brought up by the Format button on the remote. Just seemed to be the best for the DVDs we tried. 480i upconversion picture quality did not look good, but there isnt that much content out there any more in this format. 480p was a completely different story with improvements in color and contrast. Side viewing angles didn't perform as well here as they did with HD content.
Game Mode – An Excellent Choice
Battlefield 3 on the ET60 performed wonderfully with the Game Mode enabled
First of all, Game Mode is located in the Advanced Picture menu. The Game Mode disables most of the image processing to decrease input lag. The TC-L55ET60 is very successful with this, though motion blur is increased. This will be the go-to mode for a first person shooter or action game hands down. When playing Battlefield 3 and Okami HD, that was by far the best setting for each. We tried out 2D to 3D conversion on both as well and were impressed with the subtleness of the results. The picture dimmed a bit, but the image was sharp and the added depth could lead to a more immersive experience. This is viable option that may give a little new life to 2D games. Games with dedicated 3D modes in the in-game options like Gran Turismo 5 and Crysis generated even more of the 3D effects of depth but produced some crosstalk that may be distracting. One more thing, make sure Overscan is set to off so the whole picture will seen be on screen. This is found in the Screen Settings menu. The ET60 is a solid choice for a gaming LED TV.
Turning on the Game Mode makes a world of difference for input lag. This is really important for shooters and action games
Features Rating: 8.7/10
Smart TV Functions
The Apps button gives access to all of the Viera Connect apps. The most important apps like the web browser, the media player, and photo frame are laid out across the top of the menu with downloaded apps like Netflix, MLS MatchDay, and Amazon Instant Video below. These can be rearranged to anyone's liking. Positions can even be password locked if that is needed for some reason.
It may seem a little clunkly while trying to move the apps around, but getting your most used apps to the front may be a good idea
Featured Apps include MLB.TV, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Games (Playjam), You Tube, Amazon IV, Accu Weather, Cinema Now, WSJ Live, MLS Soccer, Skpe, Fox Sports, Vudu HD Movies, Pandora, TCN TV Country. Notably missing was Picasa though. One area of superiority with the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 compared to some of the competition is that the wifi connection is excellent. MySpace is not a big part of the selection anymore and other Apps that have taken a backseat or that are not present anymore include Daily Motion, Bigflix VOD, Smagfilms. There are 33 games to choose from with most free and the others costing 99 cents.
Web Browser – Wifi works great, but browsing is slow
The Web Browser is thoughtfully laid out and very easy to use. Having your frequently visited sites bookmarked will speed things up a lot. The only downfall is controlling it with the standard remote
When the Web Browser is opened, a tiled screen shows all bookmarked pages with the address bar, Google search bar, and other browser commands across the top. It's got everything one would need. Well, everything except browsing speed. The arrow keys of the 5-way controller moves the cursor around the screen to speed things up, but it's painfully slow to use. The soft keyboard for inputting searches is not arranged QWERTY style, which slows down those used to that type of keyboard. On the plus side, searches and pages load fast. There is one quirk, we got an error message that said, “Web browser cannot display this page,” on every page even though it loaded correctly.
This is the strange error we got on every single page we loaded even though it seemed to load just fine
My Home Screen
The large Home button on the remote brings up the Home Screen selection on the ET60. These screens allow different users to create different home pages for themselves. Different apps can be assigned to the home screen like the calendar, weather, or notes. New screens can be added and set up with bookmarks and even more apps. This will most likely be useful for high traffic TVs that get a lot of different users.
Here you see the home screen where every user of the TV will be able to customize the home page with any apps they like
This seems like a thrown in feature, but I imagine there is a time and place for it. Voice Guidance is an accessibility function that uses a text to speech function that reads text content aloud as it appears on your TV. This can be a big help when using the on-screen web browser and for people that have a hard time reading the screen.
Remote Control/Menu Functionality
The Standard Remote of the Panasonic TC-L55ET60, notice the 3D and Netflix buttons at the top and bottom
The remote is long and simple, but effective. Even though it is a standard remote, the buttons are large and it works well. It's black with matte finish with lots of buttons and a 5-way controller for controlling the menu, Smart TV and Browser. It has a dedicated Netflix, Apps, and 3D buttons for quick access. The eHelp button, marked with a ?, brings up a great on board guide for answering any questions you may run into.
The volume overall is a little weak. Even when nearing full volume. Movies end up sounding compressed and lack a full range. There is little that goes on in the low end of the sound spectrum. Deep voices sound muffled and hollow. Even adjusting the bass levels in the sound menu and turning on the Bass Boost little difference. The on board speakers are fine for light TV watching, but need some outside help for much more than that.
Aesthetic/Appearance/Design – Love the Silver
The ET60 series keeps the flat silver color scheme of the DT and WT above it. It's great for those looking to break the mold of black home theater equipment. Around the screen is a silver ¼ inch frame. A ¼ inch clear strip runs across the bottom of the screen that houses the power light is a nice design touch. It's not quite a frameless design, but it ends up looking sleek. The ET60's silver plastic square stand and arm look pretty standard. The total depth of the TV is 1.25 inches. That includes the speaker housing and may account for the lack of boom. Overall the TV looks great and will demand attention in the room where it is placed.
The front of the ET60 seires shows off the design. This one has a silver square stand with thin metal bezels. The thin clear strip running along the bottom of the screen is a nice touch
Value Rating: 7.9/10
The TC-L55ET60 may be slightly overpriced at nearly $1600 when compared to some other 3rd tier models, but the strong picture quality nearly justifies it. The strong 3D performance helps its case too. Those in search of a good TV for 3D content may be in luck. The similar Samsung UN55F7100 sells for a bit more, but it gets a faster refresh rate and a touch pad controller with the bump in price. The LG 55LA6900 is the passive 3D competition for the ET60.
Overall Rating: 8.4/10
|Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine...Wiley does. Read more about Robert|