After experiencing a slightly mixed bag from other Panasonic LCD TVs so far this year, in the shape of the excellent Panasonic L42E6 and the glamorous but flawed Panasonic L55ET60, we’re really not sure what to expect of the Panasonic L55DT65. A 55-inch set with a hefty price tag, can it match the superlative Panasonic TX-P42GT60 that revceived 10/10 recently?
The Panasonic L55DT65 sits one rung below the top of Panasonic’s new LCD range, and is one seriously good-looking TV. Its frame is only around 1.5cm wide, and it’s adorned in a lovely metallic silver finish. Also rather fine is the open ‘V' neck design that connects the TV to its surprisingly small and beautifully built desktop stand.
If you’d rather wall hang the Panasonic L55DT65 you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s only 35mm deep, and arranges all of its connections – including the power inlet – so they can be accessed from the side rather than sticking straight out.
The set’s connectivity is mostly impressive, with one notable exception. The good news: there's three USBs, an SD card slot (a feature unique to Panasonic at the moment), a LAN port, Freesat and Freeview HD tuners, and built-in Wi-Fi. The bad news: there's only three HDMIs when most TVs at this level give you four.
The USBs (one of which is the faster USB 3 variety) can be used for playing back multimedia from USB devices or for recording from the integrated tuners to USB HDDs. The SD card slot provides direct playback from the SD cards used by so many digital cameras and camcorders these days, while the network options support streaming from a DLNA PC and access to Panasonic’s online Viera Connect platform.
Viera Connect provides access to a decent selection of apps, including the Netflix, BBC iPlayer, BBC News and Acetrax video platforms. But its video streaming support falls well short of that found on Samsung’s latest TVs, with Lovefilm, Blinkbox and more UK catchup channels being particularly noticeable by their absence.
The Freesat and Freeview HD tuners are more exciting than most for the key reason that there are two of each, adding up to four tuners in total. This is a brilliant set up for two reasons. First, it allows you to record one programme from either tuner while watching another. Even better, it means you can watch one broadcast programme on the main TV screen while you watch another tuner feed on a smartphone or tablet computer via Panasonic’s excellent Viera Remote 2 app for iOS/Android. Brilliant.
This well-designed app also lets you to share your smart device multimedia on the main TV screen - shifting content between your TV and smart device is no more complicated than just swiping your finger on your smart device screen towards or away from the TV. The Panasonic L55DT65 also supports screen mirroring, unlike the ET60 series.
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Another superb element of the Panasonic L55DT65’s interface is Panasonic’s My Home Screen system. It has three themed hub screens with direct access to different collections of apps, but also lets you to build your own completely customised home screens to sit alongside the preset ones. You can even create a separate hub for each member of your family if you wish.
We’ll leave Viera Remote 2 and My Home Screen there as we’ve covered it in-depth in our full Panasonic My Home Screen Smart TV review, but suffice it to say that it’s rapidly become our favourite smart TV interface so far as sheer user-friendliness is concerned.
Still on the subject of the Panasonic L55DT65’s control systems, however, this is the first TV we’ve seen from Panasonic this year that ships with not one but two remotes; a standard one, and a touchpad one designed to make web browsing and some other aspects of the smart interface easier.
We didn’t find this remote especially helpful, though. Its touch pad’s small size and circular shape doesn’t make for a particularly ergonomic fit between your finger movements and the rectangular screen, and the lack of physical response you get from tapping the pad to select an option feels weird. There is at least a separate, more tactile ‘select’ button on the latest remote’s underside, but the unit’s only real saving grace is its ability to work as a mic so you can issue voice instructions to the TV.
Panasonic’s voice recognition system is far less sophisticated than Samsung’s in terms of both the functionality it delivers and the level of sentence structure it can recognise. It's also very prone to hearing ‘mistakes’. But in principal, at least, the way it just uses basic key words – or more usefully, names – to track down content shows promise, and can be quite effective so long as you take the time to understand and stick within its limitations. As well as accepting that sometimes it just won’t respond as you expected it to at all…