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Panasonic TC-LDT50 review: Panasonic TC-LDT50

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MSRP: $2,499.00

The Good The Panasonic DT50 series performs moderately well in 3D with less crosstalk than some rivals. The onboard wireless and full complement of video services will please Smart TV fans. The thin bezel and metallic finish is distinctive if a bit retro.

The Bad This TV's picture quality is below average, especially considering the high price. Black levels are some of the lightest we've ever seen and shadow detail is washed out. Colors are inaccurate and undersaturated, the screen reflects too much ambient light, and uniformity is poor.

The Bottom Line Panasonic's DT50 series of LED TVs is among the worst we've seen this year, and can't hold a candle to the company's plasmas.

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4.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 4
  • Value 3

One of my favorite reviews of all time was for a David Lee Roth solo record from the 90's called "A Little Ain't Enough." In reference to the title, and the quality of the record, the music reviewer replied with just two words. Just two. Unfortunately there cannot just be a single, pithy one-liner for the Panasonic DT50 LCD TV, but it can't be all that bad, right? My words, as were the Rolling Stone reviewer's at the time, are: "Wanna bet?"

Panasonic offers LCD TVs in order to appeal to plasma-phobes, but for a TV as expensive and poorly performing as the DT50, I've got to wonder if the effort is worth it. The DT50 is plagued by poor black levels and an uneven color response, which makes it difficult to watch in a dark room. Conversely, its glossy screen means that in a well-lit room it's too reflective to enjoy completely.

On the upside the TV does come with a full complement of video apps, and the 3D performance is better than our current 2D star, the (plasma) Panasonic ST50. But this is where it stops. The ST50 is just so damned good I can't see why you'd pass it over to get this TV. The 55-inch DT50 is a full $1,000 more expensive (!) than the identically sized ST50 and yet performs worse than even a $500 TV like the TCL L40FHDF12TA. As a result, the Panasonic DT50 is a TV you can safely avoid.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 47-inch Panasonic TC-L47DT50, but this review also applies to the other screen size in the series (55-inch). Both sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

!-- Models in series -->

Up until 2012, design was never a major consideration for Panasonic, a company much more concerned with picture quality than aesthetics. But the outlook has brightened, and this year's Panasonic crop is keeping an eye to a more modern design aesthetic -- even if it's still a couple of years behind. For example: the ST50 looks like any number of Samsung/LGs from the last couple of years and the VT50 looks like an iPod touch. The DT50 goes even further back with a bezel design reminiscent of the "floating glass" Sony televisions of 2004. The Panasonic's aluminum bezel is impressively thin however and subtler than the similar-looking LG G2.

Panasonic's yellow-on-blue menus haven't changed and remain a bit archaic-looking if easy enough to use. The remote control is also largely untouched, with just a lick of gloss paint and an Internet (Viera/Smart/Connect) button to differentiate it from previous models. But why ruin a good thing?

The Panasonic DT50 features a metal and glass finish reminiscent of a Sony XBR TV from 2004. Sarah Tew/CNET

Models in series (details)
Panasonic TC-L47DT50 (reviewed) 47 inches
Panasonic TC-L55DT50 55 inches
Key TV features
Display technology LCD LED backlight Edge-lit
Screen finish Glossy Remote Standard
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Wireless
3D technology Active 3D glasses included No
Refresh rate(s) 240Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video

The DT50 is an LED edge-lit LCD with a 240Hz panel; ignore the "backlight scanning 1920" marketing bunk. 3D glasses aren't included, but thankfully it's compatible with the universal standard so you can use compatible 2012 glasses like the Samsungs ($20 each) instead of the Panasonics ($60). The DT50, along with all 2012 Panasonic TVs, won't work with 2011 or earlier glasses.

Some people may also appreciate the 2D-3D conversion capability but I personally prefer to watch 3D native content, as it leads to less eyestrain. The TV offers a number of wireless functions including its Smart Viera platform and offers smartphone control and third-party gaming control support.

Smart TV: Panasonic debuted its Smart TV platform several years ago and the name has changed a few times -- now it's called Smart Viera. The interface remains the same, though, and it's still easy to use. It consists of a big a grid of eight tiles with all of the best apps available on the first screen, including Hulu Plus, Netflix and Skype. You can swap any available app in or out, a level of customization not found on other Smart TV suites. Response is a bit sluggish and the look somewhat old-fashioned compared to the slick interfaces of LG and Samsung, but it's also arguably more usable.

Update: The latest software update causes the TV to show you a banner ad when you first power up. It popped up and lasted about 3 seconds, but it was still annoying. I was happy to see I could disable it (here's how), but the banner is turned on by default.

Apart from the overarching Smart Viera name, Panasonic's smart TV platform remains largely unchanged. Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: Despite the high price, the Panasonic gives you only a basic selection of picture controls, so its poor red/blue balance, for example, is unable to be corrected. Setting the DT50 to Cinema mode is probably about as good as you'll get out of this TV unless you pay for a service menu calibration. In regard to 3D, the TV does offer a couple of extra controls for 3D depth.

The Panasonic offers a bare minimum of controls. Sarah Tew/CNET

At its price level we'd expect onboard wireless, which Panasonic provides, plus the TV's got the obligatory four HDMI inputs and two USBs. Interestingly it also features a Bluetooth module for use with the 2012 glasses. Check the Specifications section for a full list of inputs and outputs.

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