The ET5B series comes in five sizes: 32" (81 cm) TX-L32ET5B, 37" (96 cm) TX-L37ET5B, 42" (107 cm) TX-L42ET5B, 47" (107 cm) TX-L47ET5B and 55" (140 cm) TX-L55ET5B.
Like the rest of Panasonic's 2012 collection, the ET5B has a sober design with the kind of quality finishing that would be nice to see the competition adopt. The screen is framed by a dark grey border covered in see-through plastic. Great look!
But the stand is different from many of Panasonic's other models. Instead of a thin metal base, it's a thick plastic one. This isn't exactly a deal changer, but we prefer the stands on Panasonic's higher-end models.
Panasonic's 2012 range features a new remote control. The general shape is the same as before, but the button layout has been redone. The volume and channel up/down buttons are higher up on the remote, which makes them easier to reach with your thumb. And the backlighting is helpful when you're watching a movie in the dark.
The ET5B range offers Panasonic's numerous, well-designed Viera Connect apps, via Ethernet and Wi-Fi. In addition to the classics—YouTube (including HD), Skype, Twitter, Facebook, Google Maps—you get Gameloft video games, although be aware that each games costs around £5! Another advantage is that the web browser handles HTML 5.
The media player is better than last year's, having gained support for a wider range of video file formats. It recognises NTFS (Windows) external devices, which means it can read files over 4 GB in size, which FAT 32 won't do. In fact, it will read most video formats: AVI, DivX, MP4, MKV, MOV, MTS and M2TS. The only thing missing is ISO (disk image) files, and DVD and Blu-ray menus are still problematic.
2D Image Quality
As mentioned earlier, this is an IPS panel, but this time it's LG who made it.
After selecting the best settings for watching movies (see inset), we got a quality image, with good shades of grey and accurate colours (average Delta E = 3.7), despite a certain exaggeration in the flashier tones.
But the big flaw in screens like these is the contrast. Unfortunately for the ET5B range, using our testing criteria, no TV from any brand with contrast this low (1150:1) can get more than three stars in our overall rating. Here, in a pitch black room the parts of the screen that are supposed to look black appear washed out and grey. In comparison, most of Panasonic's competitors have contrast well above 2000:1 (twice as much). And the only way to correct this is to turn on a light in the room, if not all the lights. This seriously detracts from the movie watching experience.
Light Dark Average
to remove each frame after displaying the following frame.
Responsiveness is also not one of the strengths of LG panels. At 12 milliseconds, this TV just falls within average for the TVs we've reviewed. As a result, fast movements come out blurry with ghost images following each frame. Similarly, a 66-millisecond (four-frame) delay in video games is bad news for gamers.
Panasonic's motion interpolation, however, is effective. Jumpy images are entirely eradicated here. The only drawback is that this gives the image a sort of camcorder feel with minor artefacts. Too bad.
One of the (only) positive things about low contrast is that it removes clouding. Five stars here!
3D Image Quality
The ET5B is Panasonic's shot at competing with LG on its own turf. Passive 3D technology has the advantage that it requires glasses (four pairs included) that are lighter, more comfortable and less expensive because they don't have any electronics inside. The downside is that it halves the screen resolution. 1920 x 1080 turns into 1920 x 540 pixels on each eye, making for 720p on the whole. (That said, 720p is nothing to scoff at...)
However, the 3D rendering is excellent. There's virtually no crosstalk (which is when you see two images instead of one 3D image). Slam dunk! Plus, there's no flickering (common to 3D technology) and the low loss of light in passive 3D glasses makes the image more comfortable on the eyes than active models. Given all these advantages, the drop in resolution is easily forgivable.
Here's what it looks like as seen through the passive 3D glasses, compared to a few other TVs, with the LG 47LM660T at the bottom right:
Panasonic and Samsung's plasma TVs are the only TVs of their kind that do this correctly.
But not all is rosy with passive 3D. Unfortunately, it also makes for very limited vertical viewing angles, so you basically have to be sitting at exactly the same height as the TV in order to see a good 3D image. Once you stand up the crosstalk goes off the charts.
It's a fact: sound quality on TVs has been getting worse by the year. At 1 kHz the ET5B doesn't go above 76 dB. That's low, but the rest of the spectrum is even worse. To cap it all off, the sound saturates horribly. Take our advice and buy a home cinema system. Even a cheap one will improve the sound on this TV.
Fortunately, the ET5B's power consumption is much better than its sound. We measured 1 W on standby and 78 W when turned on, which over 47 inches comes to 129 W/m².
- Good image in 2D and 3D
- Accurate colours (average Delta E = 3.7)
- Virtually no crosstalk in 3D mode
- Four pairs of 3D glasses included
- Very low black level (.18 cd/m²) and contrast (1150:1)
- Glossy screen shows reflections
Passive 3D TVs have a lot going for them: well balanced images, excellent 3D rendering, and more. But the IPS panel's demons inevitably catch up with the Viera TX-L47ET5B, making for a less responsive TV with contrast low enough to earn only three stars from us.