However, presumably on account of the tougher backlight demands of the larger screen, the L55WT50 sometimes gets into quite a bit of backlight trouble. Problem one is that without the ‘area dimming’ feature active, the set’s black level response really isn’t impressive at all, with dark scenes becoming largely obscured by quite strident grey clouding.
So you’re left with having to put the Area Dimming feature on. This certainly delivers a massive black level depth improvement, but comes with significant strings attached. For there’s no ignoring the fact that whenever a bright object appears against a predominantly dark background, that object is accompanied by a pretty clearly defined rectangle of extra brightness caused by the different brightness levels being applied to separate segments of the edge LED backlight array.
Source of distraction
This phenomenon did appear on the L42WT50 too, but it seems more obvious on the L55WT50 than it was on the smaller model. In fact, the problem can lead to dark scenes that contain a lot of action or camera pans looking really quite distractingly inconsistent, as large chunks of the picture change their overall brightness tone to ‘track’ the change in position of a relatively small bright moving object. This is tough to take when you think of the more or less perfect black levels delivered by Panasonic’s latest plasma TVs.
With these issues in mind, it’s frustrating that Panasonic hasn’t provided you with more control over the way both the area dimming function and the set’s backlight levels work. Most TVs with local dimming allow you to adjust the feature’s ‘potency’, but with the L55WT50 it’s either on or off, and that’s it. And surprisingly the L55WT50 doesn’t carry a backlight adjustment at all; you just get basic brightness and contrast tweaks.
It’s back to more positive territory with the L55WT50’s 3D talents. The natural dimming effect of the active shutter 3D glasses serves to reduce (though it has to be said, not fully remove) the visible impact of the backlight consistency problems we’ve just been talking about, while the set remains bright and colourful enough to still look punchy. Detail levels are high with full HD 3D sources too, not least because pictures are largely devoid of 3D’s crosstalk ghosting issue. All in all, the L55WT50‘s 3D pictures are very watchable indeed.
Got the angles covered
There’s more good news where input lag and viewing angles are concerned. Stick the set into its Game picture mode and you shouldn’t experience any lag higher than 40ms, which should leave your console-gaming skills unhindered. And since the L55WT50 uses one of Panasonic’s latest IPS Alpha LCD panel designs, you can watch it from quite a bit further down the sides before colour and contrast levels plummet than you can with most rival LCD TVs.
The L55WT50’s audio is about what we’d expect of a TV with so little bezel width and rear depth to play with. In other words, it’s rather average. There’s a decently open sense to the mid-range, and treble detailing is decently handled. But bass is in short supply, and as a result action scenes can sound a bit harsh when the going gets tough.
With bright, colourful material the L55WT50 is just peachy, producing flagship-standard pictures more or less as good as anything the LCD world has to offer right now - including Sony’s HX853 series. The L55WT50 also benefits from a good online service and some strong multimedia support.
However, it struggles at times to produce dark scenes with total conviction, and it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that at £2,500 it looks rather expensive versus the recently reviewed £1600 Sony 55HX853.