Panasonic TX-L47WT50B £2099
5th Jul 2012 | 10:35
Flagship Edge LED TV with 2mm bezel, smart TV, a cracking smartphone app and dazzling 2D and 3D images
Is this Panasonic's best Edge LED telly yet? With a slinky designed frame around great smart TV features, a quality panel and dual-core processing, the company famous for plasmas here diversifies to stunning effect.
Design and build quality are second to none.
Measuring a mere 27mm in depth, the look is what Panasonic calls its 'Super Narrow Metal' frame, which features a 10mm black screen surround within a metallic 2mm bezel.
Completing the oh-so-svelte look is a curved 'crescent' desktop stand.
Other than its generally very un-Panasonic looks, the headline act on the TX-L47WT50 is VIERA Connect, which is fast becoming one of the best smart TV interfaces around.
Unlike those on Sony, Samsung and LG TVs it's not fully integrated into the architecture of the TV, which may be a mistake, but at least keeps it a clean affair.
It's also customisable, which is rare, and a boon given the sheer amount of apps that keep appearing.
As a default (and do bear in mind that regular firmware updates may change this) VIERA Connect's first page sports BBC News, the all-new BBC Sport, Skype, BBC iPlayer, Eurosport, YouTube, and Acetrax movies.
The second page includes Aupeo radio, Jambox Games (chess, Sudoku, etc), iConcerts, SHOUTcast radio, the useful ROVI TV guide, and Panasonic's own web browser.
The third – and last, unless you download a load more apps – includes Netflix, Euronews, Dailymotion, CNBC Real-Time, and Fetch TV.
On pure panel tech alone the TX-L47WT50B is just as smart, pairing an 'Infinite Contrast' IPS Alpha LCD panel with active shutter 3D.
The TX-L47WT50 comes from a newly huge Edge LED collection by Panasonic.
However, get to this kind of money and it's seriously worth considering Panasonic's historical area of expertise – 3D plasmas – which include the fabulous, great value ST50, GT50 and VT50 Series.
As well as all of those apps, VIERA Connect is also one of the few online platforms to include an online shopping dimension.
Sign-up with a bank card and you can order the latest accessories (a Skype headset with cost you £120.25 for the TY-CC10W model, or £88.72 for the TY-CC20W), while Panasonic's 3D glasses are available in several flavours, costing from £16.13 to £80.65 at the time of writing.
There are also a few games, though months after launch we're still only talking Uno, Asphalt 5 and Let's Golf, which can each be downloaded to VIERA Connect for £3.44.
Other apps of note in the Marketplace include Twitter, Facebook and Social Media TV, the latter of which makes use of the set's dual-core processor to put your Twitter or Facebook feed directly beside the live TV feed; chattering away has never been easier – and this idea could really catch-on during the 2012 Olympics.
So too the new multi-screen BBC Sport app, itself a thing of wonder; who needs the iPlayer? Not sports fans, that's for sure, though seeing as the BBC has limited and ever-decreasing broadcast rights to sports, it may not be much use beyond London 2012.
Two pairs of Panasonic's mid-range TY-ER3D4M Active Shutter 3D glasses (which you can buy on the VIERA Connect Marketplace/accessories for £64.52) are included in the box.
The 'M' stands for medium-sized; 'S'-sized versions can be bought for the same price. The specs themselves are chunkier than those supplied with Samsung TVs, but are designed to keep light out more effectively.
As well as Active Shutter 3D, the TX-L47WT50 includes both Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, a 1,600Hz system (though don't be fooled – it's a not-to-be-underestimated 400Hz brain with backlight scanning), Smart VEIRA Engine Pro (which includes Intelligent Frame Creation to banish blur, and a 24p Smooth Film to get rid of Blu-ray judder), 2D-3D conversion, Wi-Fi to aid VIERA Connect, and Bluetooth for fuelling those accessories.
The final innovation is a Touch Pad controller, a handheld device with a touch-sensitive pad for operating the TV via Bluetooth, though a regular remote is also provided.
Ins and outs are as extensive as they get, with four HDMI inputs on the side, three USB slots (one of which can record Freeview programmes to an HDD, or pause live TV to a USB stick), and an SD card slot.
Back there you'll also find adaptors for component video and Scart, a D-sub 15-pin VGA port for hooking up a PC or laptop, an optical digital audio output, and a wired Ethernet LAN slot.
Pacific on Blu-ray usually looks great on a good telly – and here it looks absolutely stunning.
We just can't get over how detailed some of the close-ups are. We're talking fine beard stubble, eyelashes, even individual pores of skin … yuck.
Impressive the detail may be, but it occurs within a clean image devoid of picture noise.
Colour is outstanding, which is partly down to the contrast-rich panel.
Black levels perhaps aren't class-leading on all settings, but we've got no complaints about the True Cinema preset, which we started watching Pacific on.
Barely a few tweaks later we're watching the kind of subtle, graded colours that are rarely seen, at least not within what is probably the most cinematic image yet seen on an Edge LED TV.
Particularly taxing on most TVs is a mixed brightness scene from Pacific where a firestorm sweeps through a dense, inky black jungle in the pitch black of night; the TX-L47WT50 produces not a whisper of haloing, jagged edges or noise.
Truly top-draw stuff – and it continues when viewed from wildly off-centre.
During another nighttime scene the moonlight shines down on the troops, with some excellent detailing visible on reflective armaments, helmets and water, and some clearly visible facial features.
With this kind of local dimming not performed during otherwise sharp, clean and well upscaled standard definition Freeview programming, black levels overall are not quite up there with Panasonic's best plasmas, but it's a close run thing and for the True Cinema setting, there's really no issue.
There really isn't much blur at all either, which gives credence to that 1,600Hz claim (though we really know it's 400Hz), but we did notice a lot of film judder.
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At one point the camera pans across the troops ensconced in a clearing of palm trees, creating a massive, uncomfortable judder that's not only jarring to watch, but creates a lot of picture noise within the frame, too.
Happily, there is a solution with few side effects; 24p Smooth Film Judder manages to deliver clean, virtually pristine images from the same sequence, though only on the highest 'max' setting.
Some hate the processed look this kind of trickery can produce, and though we're usually the first ones to disengage such frivolity, we'll make an exception for this one.
Pictures from hereon in are truly excellent, with Freeview HD pictures sparkling and games from an Xbox 360 handled with no visible lag, though it's worth explaining the ups and downs of the Intelligent Frame Creation feature.
Although it does create nasty artefacts, such as flicker, around moving objects if used on its highest settings, it very clearly improves on graphics such as scrolling credits, but use carefully on low power.
Panasonic is a brand that until now has only allowed LED backlit LCD TVs into the outer rings of its vast gamut of plasma TV-dominated TV ranges.
The reason why Edge LED is now allowed to rival its favoured plasmas is obvious; Panasonic's engineers have pretty much mastered it.
If that's the 2D sorted, it's a similar conclusion on 3D. Although plasma was generally agreed to be a much better screen tech for 3D, the TX-L47WT50 puts the case for Edge LED-backlit LCD TV very well.
Pacific converted into 3D by the TX-L47WT50 is where we start.
It's actually a more profound 3D result than on many competitor TVs, though hardly a must-do.
Fed with a 3D Blu-ray disc of IMAX production Legends of Flight, the TX-L47WT50 definitely suffers from less crosstalk during a fly-by sequence where less-able, slower panels tend to display echoes of the wings of a fast-moving glider.
The TX-L47WT50 also produces a bright image, even with the 3D specs donned, and though competitors manage a slightly more vibrant 3D picture we prefer Panasonic's version.
Usability, sound and value
VIERA Connect is perhaps the slickest of all the smart TV platforms, and it works speedily – thanks to the dual-core processor – and without any fuss.
Some don't like the platform's reliance on three separate screens, and the overly large icons for each app, but it's similar to how smartphones work.
Furthermore, customising the first page means you can get to the likes of iPlayer, Lovefilm and BBC Sport without having to scroll past the dross.
It's also great to have a live input screen in the centre, which displays, say, a Blu-ray disc or Freeview channel, complete with sound.
Sadly, it's the only sign of a joined-up user interface, with the rest of the TX-L47WT50's onscreen menus disjointed and, worse, horribly old fashioned.
Picture menus are presented as lists, and have barely changed for years, while the electronic programme guides for Freesat and Freeview are similarly rudimentary.
Engaging either instantly kills both picture and sound of the channel you're watching – surely there should be a live TV thumbnail?
Best head to the ROVI app on VIERA Connect – it's so good it should have a shortcut on the remote control.
Although the picture presets provided on the TX-L47WT50 are mostly excellent, we like the option to not save, but lock (PIN-protected, even) specific settings to each input.
Tweakers are well provided for, though not initially; toggle on the ISFcc settings in the Picture menu and the Advanced Picture Settings menu is suddenly graced with calibration-friendly options for changing gamma, white balance and colour management options.
Having three remote controls is a mixed blessing. The hard button remote is largely fit for purpose (apart from having to enter text via the number pad, pre-smartphone text message style), though we did find it unresponsive from time to time.
The immediate alternative is the Track Pad included in the box, which is a half-baked idea; we've seen a similar thing used on the brand's high-end DMP-BDT320 3D Blu-ray player, but at least on that machine it works within a 'swipe'-friendly user interface.
Used with the TX-L47WT50 that Track Pad struggles, principally because it's not sensitive enough, and has other buttons and controls below the touch-sensitive area. The self-defeating end result is that it's much more complicated than it should be.
The third option is to download Panasonic's VIERA Remote for the iPhone or a smartphone running Android.
Once linked to the same Wi-Fi network as the TX-L47WT50 is hooked-up to, a part of this app simply replicates the hard-button remote and works well enough.
It also allows some swiping. However, the real innovations come in the other two parts of the app – browsing, and photos/videos.
Navigate to a website from the app's built-in browser, and a simple swipe of a finger upwards towards the TV 'sends' it to the TX-L47WT50.
In our initial test of this great-sounding feature, it didn't work – and though an empty browser page did launch on the TV, the app actually packed-up and quit. Whoops.
On our second try, it took around five seconds for the TX-L47WT50 to receive the instruction, launch its own browser and load the same page we had on our iPhone.
It gets better.
Touch the 'media' tab of the app and a list of all photos and videos on the phone is produced. Again, press with a finger and flick towards the TV, and that photo or video is shown on the TX-L47WT50.
It works really well, with relatively fast slideshows possible.
If that feature recalls Apple TV/iPhone features, the TX-L47WT50 does a much better job on digital media as a whole.
Streaming from a PC or playing for a docked USB stick is best initialised using the remote's VieraLink button, which puts some icons for music/video/photos/TV recordings (if you've got an HDD attached) across the bottom of the TV screen.
In our tests we managed to get MKV video files to play only from a USB stick, but support for AVI, MPEG4 and AVC HD files appears to be universal.
As well as MP3 support, the also supports lossless FLAC music files.
Don't get excited by the TX-L47WT50's audio chops – it doesn't really have anything to offer. Super-slim TVs rarely do, and here the provision of V-Audio, V-Audio Surround and V-Audio ProSurround and more an overly done apology than a collection of worthy sound modes.
The latter may appear to be home cinema modes, but don't in reality offer noticeable separation, let alone rear sound effects.
Elsewhere, the choice is between 'music' or 'speech' modes, though there's never enough bass or even mid-range to deliver anything other than acceptable dialogue.
Watch some low-rent Freeview channels and you'll sometimes hear an echo. Home cinemas at the ready…
The provision of a couple of pairs of 3D glasses in the box – albeit the cheapest in the Panasonic collection – seems relatively fair, though whether 3D is still a draw card is hugely questionable.
For a flagship TV the price was always going to be high, though judged on pure picture quality it's a toss-up between this and the brand's ST50 plasmas – and the 50-inch version of that costs just over a grand.
This is Panasonic's best Edge LED TV ever. It's not quite the high-end home cinema machine, but the sheer detail, smoothness, colour and contrast are a fine achievement – and the smart TV dimension and classy design help, too.
The super-slim bezel makes this Panasonic's best-looking TV ever, whatever the panel tech inside, and we love its overall picture performance, too.
Home networking is comprehensive and VIERA Connect as slick as ever, though kudos goes to the VIERA Remote app that 'flicks' photos, videos and websites from smartphone to TV.
It lacks ultimate black levels, and we're not at all sure about either its 2D-3D conversion mode or its old-fashioned user interface.
If the latter needs a complete overhaul, so does its Freeview HD electronics programme guide, whose activation instantly kills both picture and sound of the live TV channel you're watching.
A smooth operator, Panasonic's TX-L47WT50 is both its best-looking and best performing Edge LED-backlit LCD TV so far.
Achieved in a seriously short amount of time, the brand that's famous for plasmas has here developed a super-slim bezel containing smooth, blur-free, contrast rich and immaculately detailed images.
A special mention goes to its smartphone app, though VIERA Connect's app-packed pages impress, too.
However, a high price and some distinctly old-fashioned menu systems take the gloss off an otherwise assured package.
For a cheaper option with awesome design and a 'passive' 3D dimension, try LG's 47-inch 47LM670T .
However, don't miss the opportunity to compare like with like; far cheaper, Panasonic's awesome TX-P50ST50 is this telly's closest competitor.