Panasonic DT60 review:

Pretty but poor performer

There are two potential problems with activating Game mode. First it's hard to find, lurking in the Advanced picture menu, and secondly, once it is enabled it is activated in all of the picture presets. While the last part is great if you want minimal picture processing, it's bad if you forget to turn it off and want to enjoy the improved picture quality other modes offer. I'd like to see an onscreen reminder here, like Sony used to have, telling you game mode was activated.

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Connectivity: The TV includes a rather stingy three HDMI ports, which doesn't even include the now-fashionable MHL port. There are a lot of USB ports though, three to be exact, and you can connect USB disks, Skype cameras, or even keyboards. Other connections include a composite/component input, digital audio and Ethernet. Like many Panasonic TVs, you also get an SD card slot, although there's no PC input.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV’s picture controls worked during calibration.

Picture quality
Black level is the single most important picture component and the one we give the most credence to when assigning our picture quality score. While the Panasonic DT60 does reasonably well in other aspects -- color, 3D, bright lighting -- it's the light black levels and poor uniformity that bring the TV's score way down. In a theater environment, the TV lacks the punchiness of the other televisions on test, and its decent color doesn't make up the difference.

Comparison models (details)
Sony KDL-47W802A 55-inch LED-based LCD
Sony KDL-55HX850 55-inch LED-based LCD
Sharp LC-60LE650 60-inch LED-based LCD
Samsung UN55ES8000 55-inch LED-based LCD
Panasonic TC-P55ST60 55-inch plasma

Black level: Of our six-strong lineup the DT60 had the poorest black levels of the group, evincing gray-blue shadows in dark scenes. At the start of Chapter 12 in "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II," the TV wasn't able to make any sense of the small army on the hilltop scene -- it looked like an goth cupcake with skull sprinkles...shot through a wall. As the camera spun around the group the detail improved and the hazy skulls became wizards, but the too-light blacks meant impact was quashed. On every other TV in the lineup, from the W802 to the ST60, you could tell from the opening moments what the scene was about, but with the Panasonic you just couldn't.

Switching to a less demanding scene, the unique New York skyline of "Watchmen" Chapter 3 (12:24), didn't help. With the DT60, I was greeted with the least dynamic picture deadened by crushed clouds and a very flat, cardboard cutout look to the apartment buildings in the foreground. While the Sony placed second-to-last, there was still a significant jump in the performance over the DT60, with the W802 able to provide some light and shade in even the most difficult scenes. The next worst was the Samsung E8000 which had overly green shadows and light blacks, but it still trounced the DT60.

Color accuracy: While last year's DT50 had a problem with diluted colors, the DT60's palette is much keener this time around. From the opening shots of "The Tree of Life" Chapter 5, I could see that the Panasonic was capable of communicating natural colors -- from the cyan of the mother's dress to the lush green grass, the DT60 had notably better color than the similarly priced Sony W802.

While colors across the group were fairly consistent, as you'd expect from a set of calibrated units, and the DT60 sat in about the middle in terms of saturation. The W900 and ST60 were superior but the Sony is much more expensive due to its proprietary quantum dot technology and the plasma's color is likewise superb. The only "issue" I saw with the DT60's color was that brown could be a little more red than on the other TVs, but not a big deal.

Video processing: The Panasonic features a "hex-core processor", but I'm unsure what effect this has on image processing as it was only just passable. The TV passed the oscillating test pattern in our synthetic tests, for example, but it displayed some moire in the subsequent pan of the sports stands. On the 24p test of the air carrier fly-by, the TV was able to correctly reproduce the cadence of film.

In our gaming test, the TV was able to achieve a lag time of 34.37ms in game which means it achieves a "good" rating. This puts it on a par with the much cheaper Panasonic S60 though.

Uniformity: If you choose not to use the AI dimming mode, then uniformity is a problem with this TV, with lighter corners and yellow spotlights appearing over the bottom and top of the screen. Without frame-dimming, the set's uniformity problems looked identical to the Sony W802A's, with yellow spotlights along the top and light leakage out of the corners. If you do use AI dimming -- and you should as it gives you a much better picture -- then the yellow spotlights disappear, but the corners are still discolored.

The DT60 does have very good off-axis performance. There is very little tailing off of image quality until you get to an extreme angle, and this lack of sweet spot means it's quite usable in a large living space.

Bright lighting: The DT60 served up a mostly good performance in the light with softer reflections than some of the other TVs in the lineup, but some of the blacks were still blue-tinted. For whatever reason, there were a couple of obvious "projector iris-like" effects under lights as the frame dimming activated, though. When compared to the other TVs, the DT60 dimmed down or up a lot more obviously.

Sound quality: The sound quality of the DT60 was actually acceptable with an all-rounder performance from the two front speakers and dedicated 75mm woofer. While dialogue could sound a little distant most of the sound spectrum could be heard: from the boom of an exploding rocket to the smashing of glass.

Music was only just OK, with a distinct separation between the bass and the vocal line on "Red Right Hand" and only the faintest distortion of the bass itself -- some of these speakers really shake themselves apart on this song!

3D: By using a passive system, the TV performed similarly to the Sony W802 in 3D with no crosstalk and a solidity to motion that the active TVs in the lineup lacked. The Panasonic performed slightly better though as the default depth for the W802 was a little too strong. Furthermore, the Sony W900 has a strange anti-ghosting system that can make some objects look see-through and the Panasonic ST60 is unable to track objects very well at all. Color and shadow detail in the default 3D modes was almost identical on both TVs. The downside to passive technology is that it divides the resolution in two, and the inevitable interlacing could be distracting to some viewers used to active HD.

GEEK BOX: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.04 Poor
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.19 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.2 Good
Near-black error (5%) 2.159 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 0.48 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 1.346 Good
Avg. color error 1.176 Good
Red error 0.615 Good
Green error 1.76 Good
Blue error 1.703 Good
Cyan error 1.135 Good
Magenta error 0.898 Good
Yellow error 0.946 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i De-interlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 850 Average
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 330 Poor
Input lag (Game mode) 34.37 Good

Panasonic TC L55DT60 calibration report

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