If you have always associated Panasonic with plasma technology, then you should be aware of their LCD offerings also. The recently released Viera WT60 line features LED edge lighting, 3D technology with passive glass, and an ultra thin bezel (1.3" depth). From a SmartTV perspective, the WT60 features the typical streaming media fare along with a pop-up video camera (for Skype or face recognition), voice recognition and a special touch pad interactive controller.
- 240Hz, 4,200 Back Light Scanning Technology
- Dual Core Hexa-Processing Engine
- 1.3: Ultra-Slim Metal Bezel w/Clear Acrylic Base
- IPS LED LCD Panel
- 1080p Full HD Resolution
- Dimensions without stand (41.6" x 24.5" x 1.3"); with stand (41.6" x 28.2" x 14.1")
- Video / Audio Connections (3 HDMI; 3 USB and 1 Component)
- Internet / Digital Media Connections (Ethernet, Wi-Fi, 3 USB and SD)
- Four Pairs of passive 3D Glasses Included
- Touch pad controller
- Remote Control
One of the primary reasons that we wanted to review the WT60 was around the increased performance of viewing angle and local dimming. In my room for reviewing monitors I have an outdated 47" CFL LCD display. This puppy is heavy and I can't get it down off the table myself. I was amazed when the 47" WT60 showed up and I got it out of the box and on the table myself!
The visual design of the WT60 is also very appealing, particularly if you like a chrome style finish. After turning the unit on, a LED light bar along the bottom of the TV illuminated. This was actually nice for use as it helped produce a back light for the TV that reduced eye strain when viewing in a light controlled (i.e. black) room. The reason that I feel that this is important is due to the fact that just about ever currently shipping LCD HDTV has a high gloss screen, which makes it next to impossible to view an image because of the reflections that are constantly on the screen. Why LCD panel manufacturers went from matte finish to glossy (outside of the initial "wow" factor) is beyond me as glossy finish simply destroys the picture when there is light in the room.
Smart TV features:
One of the check box features on almost any HDTV today is some form of "Smart TV". The definition and features of this capability vary widely between manufacturers. If you are buying a HDTV with a key consideration of streaming digital media and/or getting access to Internet pages, then this might be of interest to you as you could save space by not having to purchase another digital media player (i.e. Apple TV, Roku, etc.).
The Panasonic comes with Smart TV functionality and has two unique ways of interfacing with the HDTV. One is a touch pad controller. That allows you to use your thumb to navigate around the Panasonic SmartTV experience.
Users also have the option of navigating around via voice commands and customization of the pop-up camera (which is also used for Skype).
The customization that occurs with the camera is from face recognition that will allow for customized home screens. An example home screen is below and each user can have their own home screen that is comprised of different applets.
All these features were unique to Panasonic and with those features came the expected streaming media sources.
Another feature that I particularly thought was useful was Panasonic's eHelp. This is basically the manual available via the Smart TV interface. Nice!
I have yet to find a manufacturer that doesn't have a series of "enhancements" that are not turned on by default that 99% of the time degrades the picture! It just amazes me that manufacturers add the "enhancements", particularly when so many sources are HD, when they have the opportunity to produce an excellent to substantially better picture without the features in the first place.
Unfortunately, the WT60 is no exception to this rule with a slew of "enhancement" features turned on by default. After running some initial test patterns with Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark and Calibration 2nd Edition Disc to see what was occurring, I wound up turning every one of the enhancements off. I would suggest doing this on any display you run across. If you ever have your HDTV professionally calibrated, this will be the first thing that the calibrator does.
After turning everything off and choosing the Cinema Mode, I was impressed with how close the WT60 was out of the box for color accuracy and grey scale. I was also impressed with the options in the menu for ISF calibrators to put in settings that couldn't be accidentally messed with. The CMS was also very robust and was done in a way that using the menu didn't interfere with taking readings from test patterns. After calibration using Spectracal's Calman5 with the C6 color analyzer, I was able to get both grey scale and color gamut within a range (i.e. less than 3 DeltaE 2000). For 2D color accuracy the WT60 gets very high ratings.
The primary reason that the current slew of LCD LED HDTV's are so thin is because of LED edge lighting. This allows the LED lights to be along the edge's of the panel instead of in the back, thus allowing for a thinner panel. The down side of this technology is the issue with a consistent black level. Displays like the Sharp Elite have a LED panel array behind the LCD panel that allow for precise local dimming which allows for extremely wide dynamic contrast ratios. Of course, the downside to this, if you consider it a downside, is a thicker panel.
One of the issues with LCD technology is viewing angle limitations, thus if you move off axis to the screen all sorts of artifacts start to be introduced. For instance the colors can change, contrast can start to become inverted, etc. Basically it has been a huge issue for LCD technology, particularly compared to DLP or Plasma. The WT60 had the best viewing angle of any LCD that I have seen to date. I could go well over 45 degrees off axis and not see any degradation in the image with test patterns or video content.
The WT60 uses edge lit LED technology and while it is a best attempt at local dimming, it just isn't feasible to do this without artifacts. For instance, if you were watching a movie that had a black screen with a white title in the middle, the width of the screen would be a different gradation than the top and bottom of the screen. This artifact is only really noticeable in those types of scenes. I couldn't find an option on the WT60 to turn local dimming off, which I would have done as I would have had a consistent black level at all times. Given all of that, the WT60 measured in with an impressive black level reading of .009Fl, which is close to the limits of the Minolta CS-100 that I used to take the measurements with.
Below are the results for pre and post calibration for the color gamut:
Below are the results for the pre and post calibration for the grey scale:
Also is the post DeltaE2000 view of the grey scale, which was basically perfect.
Due to limitations with existing technology, 3D performance compared to the theater experience starts to have compromises. In the theater, the viewer gets to enjoy the experience with lightweight passive glasses that don't degrade the resolution of the picture.
With in home technology, the viewer has two options: active glasses or passive glasses. Active glasses require some form of battery and are considerably heavier than passive glasses, which causes fatigue for certain viewers. Active glasses, as the name implies, are active in that they are switching polarizations constantly to by openly presenting the image intended for the left eye while blocking the right eye's view, then presenting the right-eye image while blocking the left eye, and repeating this so rapidly that the interruptions do not interfere with the perceived fusion of the two images into a single 3D image. For some viewers, including myself, this introduces eye fatigue and sometimes headaches. The other downside of active glasses is that they cost more and frequently are not compatible with other manufacturers sets, thus increasing costs to have many view a 3D movie at your house. The upside is that they maintain a true HD image (1920x1080), but with a trade-off of flicker, light loss and ghosting.
With passive glasses the viewer gets light weight glasses that don't need to be recharged, are cheap to acquire and are compatible with other 3D sets. The down side to this is the technology that allows this to even occur. FPR (Film-type Patterned Retarder) is the technology that allows for passive glasses and is based on circular polarization. It shows left and right images through different patterns in a circular polarizer. Left/right polarized glasses allow the left and right images to then be seen by the left and right eyes separately. Both images are combined in the brain and generate the 3D effect.
The problem here is how it is produced on the panel. This is done by using half the resolution of the screen to do the left eye and the other half of the resolution to do the other eye. The theory around this is that the brain can't distinguish this and that it still perceives the image to be 1080P. The upside from an artifacts point of view is that the flicker, ghosting and brightness are better than active glasses.
The WT60 went down the FPR technology route for it's 3D implementation and there are a list of pros and cons with this that I noticed. Immediately upon putting in Despicable Me 3D Blu-ray I saw the reduced resolution (i.e. the odd/even lines) from a distance of 7' away from the screen. For me this was quite bothersome. I then started to wonder what other artifacts that FPR might be introducing and ran the 3D test patterns and demo material from Spears & Munsil HD Benchmark and Calibration 2nd Edition Disc. Many 3D test failed (though I have yet to see any 3D projector or display pass all of his tests). Even running the resolution tests and watching some of his demo material I could see loss of resolution and moire artifacts. Those were the downsides.
The upsides were that the image remained bright, unlike what I see when using active glasses, I didn't have any eye fatigue after watching 3D movies back to back (something that I have never been able to do with active glasses) and my nose didn't hurt from the weight of the glasses. One of the early 3D blu-ray movies that came out was Monsters and Aliens and I remember seeing ghosting artifacts on a series of scenes on the movie. In particular the scene where Susan is on the "roller skates" and is going towards the equivalent of the Golden Gate Bridge. During that whole scene, I rarely see a display that does not show ghosting on the cables of the bridge. The other scene where Susan is out in the country at night after getting dumped by her fiance there is usually ghosting on the contrast between the dark sky and the gas station that she is sitting on. I never once saw any of those artifacts on the WT60.
The Panasonic TC-L47WT60 47-Inch 1080p 240Hz Smart 3D IPS LED HDTV is recommended. It has a:
- Wide viewing angle
- Good picture reproduction for both color gamut and gray scale out of the box and ability to calibrate with an easy to use interface to near reference level quality
- Attractive design with thin bezel
- Robust Smart TV interface with unique interactivity features
The only complaint I have is the in-ability to turn off local dimming.
In regards to 3D performance, there are pros and cons to both technologies and if you fall on the side of wanting light and affordable glasses, and are fatigued by flicker and notice ghosting artifacts, then the FPR technology on the Panasonic is for you.
If you are looking for an excuse to get your wife to get replace that old black CFL LCD TV that weighs over 100lbs, then having a sleek chrome, thin and light LED TV is a way in the door. You can also through in the whole "green" reason as the LED sets consumer considerably less energy than their CFL predecessors.