So, finally, we get to the Panasonic TX-L42ET5’s performance. And provided you’re watching HD content on it, it’s rather good. Even if it doesn’t feel always like a typical Panasonic LCD TV...
With 2D HD, for instance, detail levels look impressively high, with good skin textures and decently - if not amazingly - subtle depiction of marginal colour tone shifts. This impression of clarity is helped, moreover, by the set’s likably clean motion handling. There’s some marginal blur before calling in Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation system, but this and judder can both be reduced using the IFC’s ‘Min’ setting without making the picture look processed or glitchy.
HD pictures look punchy and vibrant too, thanks to a nice combination of high brightness levels, pleasingly intense colours and surprisingly natural, deep black levels. HD pictures look clean and noise-free too, and we could see nary a trace of the horizontal line structure of the passive 3D filter over 2D material.
Even when watching 3D footage from a typical viewing distance, the presence of the filter isn’t overwhelming. You can just about make out some striping and jaggedness around small, stand-out bright objects, but you don’t feel as regularly aware of "missing lines" of picture information as you do with much larger passive 3D TVs. So the Panasonic L42ET5 again, as with LG’s passive sets, suggests that 42in is the optimum size for passive 3D TV technology.
Let’s not forget, either, about those key passive 3D attractions of cheap glasses and a more relaxing, flicker-free experience, both of which are delivered by the Panasonic L42ET5.
We guess the L42ET5’s passive technology can be argued to help it keep crosstalk in check too. It would be misleading to say there’s NO crosstalk with the TV's passive 3D system - there is a little evidence of it from time to time. And if you watch from as little as 12 degrees above or below the screen, crosstalk goes through the roof. But crosstalk is certainly generally less aggressive than it is on most budget active 3D TVs, contributing to what is overall a really enjoyably natural, relaxing 3D experience.
The Panasonic L42ET5’s 3D images look bright and vibrant too - another advantage of the passive glasses. However, passive 3D does have a significant downside, namely that HD 3D pictures don’t look as polished, smooth and detailed as they do on a good active 3D set. Instead they look a touch rough and ready, for want of a better description. But there are certainly plenty of people who would take this disadvantage in return for the practical and financial advantages of the passive format.
Another area where the L42ET5 doesn’t excel is with standard definition 2D footage. Non-HD Freeview broadcasts look a bit soft and noisy, and the set’s colour range seems to decrease - all traits we’d actually usually associate more with LG TVs than Panasonic ones, interestingly enough.
One final problem we detected with the L42ET5 is that it produced a rather inconsistent input lag measurement during our tests that varied between 38ms and as much as 80ms. This higher measurement certainly has the potential to damage your gaming performance - and experience suggests that the blame for it lies with LG’s core panel.
So long as you can feed it a good amount of HD content, the L42ET5 really is a very decent TV for its money. Especially as its sound quality is unexpectedly well-rounded and clean for such a slim design.
It admittedly feels a bit odd that some of the characteristics of the L42ET5’s performance are more reminiscent of the TVs from a brand other than Panasonic. But this is perhaps just a sign of the tech-sharing times rather than a reason to not like Panasonic’s passive 3D debutante.
Fans of Panasonic’s home-brewed LCD and plasma panels don’t need to worry, either; there are plenty of these waiting in the wings too.
Overall, we’d say the best thing to do with the L42ET5 is embrace the new level of diversity in Panasonic’s TV thinking, and celebrate that if LG’s passive 3D tech appeals, then you can now get it attached to other brands’ picture processing technologies and features.