Not so long ago we reviewed and were slightly disappointed by Panasonic’s first 55in LCD TV, the flagship L55WT50. It really struggled to deliver a natural black level performance.
It’s with some trepidation, then, that we approach the step-down 55in LCD TV, the Panasonic L55DT50. Especially as unlike its more expensive sibling, this one doesn’t employ a local dimming system with its edge LED lighting array.
Before we get too hung up on this, though, it must be said that at least some of the issues we had with the L55WT50 were caused by the clumsy machinations of its local dimming system. So maybe the L55WT50’s lack of local dimming might turn out to be a good thing.
The Panasonic L55DT50 gets off to a strong start courtesy of its design. The tiny silver bezel that wraps around all four sides joins forces to hugely attractive effect with the couple of cm of glass protruding from the bottom edge and a supremely robust but also elegant stand. In fact, we might just prefer the DT50 design to that of the WT50.
Connections are comprehensive. Four v1.4 HDMIs support the TV’s video capabilities (including 3D), for instance, plus there are both Freesat HD and Freeview HD tuners. The modern era’s multimedia needs, meanwhile, are met by three USB ports, a LAN and built-in Wi-Fi. The latter two connections access either stuff stored on networked DLNA PCs, or Panasonic’s Viera Connect online platform.
Onwards and upwards for Viera Connect
Viera Connect has enjoyed a significant boost over recent months, giving us current highlights of AceTrax, Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, Skype, YouTube, the new BBC Sport portal, BBC News and Eurosport, as well as a wider selection of gaming and information apps. It’s worth stressing, too, that not all the games are of the basic ‘single screen’ variety found with most Smart TV platforms. Let’s Golf 2 and Asphalt 5 both deliver near-console experiences.
Viera Connect also has the most complete and well-organised marketplace for buying extra apps and accessories of any online TV system - though we still maintain that the brand should perhaps rethink its main app interface, which is starting to feel increasingly cumbersome as content levels increase.
While experimenting with the L55DT50’s multimedia streaming and online tools we noticed that the set doesn’t support the same handy multi-tasking features enjoyed on the WT50 models - a result of the DT50 series not enjoying dual-core processing.
The Panasonic L55DT50 doesn’t join the upper reaches of Panasonic’s plasma TV range in enjoying the endorsement of the THX group, but it is supported by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF). Which means there’s a degree of colour/white balance management and gamma control at your disposal, as well as two (day and night) ISF preset memories. Sadly, though, no matter how much time you or a paid-for ISF engineer put into toying around with the L55DT50’s picture settings, you won’t be able to get it to produce truly satisfying pictures.
There’s one simple but substantial reason for this: the set’s inability to produce a convincing black level response.
You are vaguely aware of this problem even when watching mostly bright images, as any dark bits tend to look grey rather than deep black. But the problem becomes excruciatingly obvious during predominantly dark sequences, leaving such scenes looking washed out, short of shadow detail, and generally unconvincing.