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HolidayBuyer's Guide






Remote control

Smart TV


Picture quality

For the past couple of years Panasonic's higher-end plasma TVs have been known for excellent picture quality, and 2012 is no exception. In contrast, its LCD range, with more models and larger sizes this year than ever before, still poses threat to the Samsungs of the world. The TC-LE50 series is one of Panasonic's least expensive models available in larger (47- and 55-inch) sizes and while it performs better than the DT50 at twice the price, it's still not a great deal.

Picture quality is mediocre, with gray blacks, a fairly mean serving of shadow detail, and colors that look a little "off." I liked its styling, however, and the E50 offers a better feature set -- Smart TV and a large serving of connections -- than the otherwise superior and less expensive Toshiba L5200. But the trade-off here is in picture quality, and I believe you should always pay for the best picture your money can buy, and not the most number of widgets and doohickeys.

Read the full review of the Panasonic E50 series

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The TV includes a piano-black bezel and doesn't look like a budget TV.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Like most LCDs released these days, the E50 is quite slim.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Unusually for a sub-$1000 TV, the Panasonic includes four HDMI ports, but you'll need to pay extra for a wireless Internet adapter.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The TV includes back-mounted onscreen controls.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The remote is basic and not particularly ergonomic, as some buttons are easily pressed by accident.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The Panasonic includes a full Smart Viera suite with easy access to Netflix and the like.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
The menu is fairly straightforward.
Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET

In comparison with the picture quality presented by rivals like the Toshiba L5200, the Panasonic E50 is unimpressive at the price. It doesn't do anything particularly well, with fairly inaccurate colors and grayish blacks. It's better than a bargain-basement TV like the catchily named TCL L40FHDF12TA but not much.

The E50's biggest problem is that black areas of the picture are subject to backlight bleeding, which further obscures the TV's average handling of shadow detail. Side-by-side with the Toshiba, the Panasonic's images lack the solidity of the L5200's. Even a decent way with 24p sources doesn't do much to propel the picture of this Panasonic TV past shoulder shrug territory.

Caption by / Photo by Sarah Tew/CNET
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