Panasonic has brought its A-game to LED this year. After years of treading water, the brand’s engineering and design teams have seemingly been let off the leash, culminating in its DT65 Series screens which positively throb with bright, fresh ideas. Boasting a new customisable user interface, twin tuners and a multi-core processor, Panasonic is clearly looking to put the squeeze on feature-laden rivals.
The range spans a wide variety of screen sizes, from 42 to 60 inches - TX-L42DT65, TX-L50DT65, TX-L55DT65 and TX-L60DT65 respectively. Our featured panel is the 47-inch TX-L47DT65.
The set itself is rather handsome. With a super-narrow bezel and distinctive V-necked pedestal stand, it’s appropriately modernistic. If the marque has suffered from fusty industrial design in the past, those days look well gone. Back panel connections include just three HDMIs which is one less than you might expect on this calibre of set. There are also component and AV sockets, which need a supplied adaptor, Ethernet and a trio of USBs (one of which is a speedy 3.0 offering). There’s also an SD card slot. Wi-Fi is built in.
Because the TX-L47DT65 features twin Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners, allied to that multi-core processor, it offers some rather nice user refinements. You can record to an external USB hard drive while watching another channel, granting genuine PVR functionality for the first time. The set can also display two channel feeds simultaneously, helpful when you’re scrolling through the channel listing. You can also stream channels from the second tuner direct to any smartphone or tablet running Panasonic’s Remote app – suddenly that iPad in the kitchen becomes a separate TV display. The multicore processor is also used to animate channel changes, flipping and spinning like a dervish. In truth the effect isn’t quite as smooth as it should be, and the novelty of these gymnastics soon wears off.
Welcome to My Home Screen
Panasonic’s new “My Home Screen” interface dominates the user-experience. It’s a menu which you can personalise, either by selecting one of a trio of presets - themed lifestyle, TV or information - or creating your own, by dragging apps and streaming TV services on to an empty grid. There’s even provision for uploading your own background JPEG wallpaper. Such hot-rodding makes the whole smart TV shtick a lot more compelling than routine portal browsing.
Voice interaction is another new trick, although Panasonic deploys it differently from rivals. The screen ships with two remotes: a standard IR controller, plus a Bluetooth touchpad with integrated microphone. You use the latter to communicate with the TV, through a fairly extensive set of preset commands. A smartphone running the Panasonic app will also do the same job. Overall accuracy is surprisingly high, but the process of adjusting the TV’s volume via microphone is still more labour intensive than just clicking a button. As a control interface voice remains a rather uneven experience, you can only go so far before having to revert to traditional button mashing after all.
Panasonic has done a good job integrating app-based functionality. The brand’s remote app includes support for the latest iteration of “Swipe & Share”, a DLNA-based content sharing protocol. Photos and videos can be shoved to and from the screen from a mobile device, and you can also mirror content that you have on your phone.
Panasonic’s online content offerings are solid, although catch-up is limited to BBC iPlayer. IPTV services of note include YouTube, DailyMotion, Netflix, Acetrax, Vimeo, Viewster and Ustream. To maximise streaming image quality, by smoothing edges and reducing noise, is the Pro iteration of the brand’s “Web Content Optimizer”. It works rather well.
Visually the TX-L47DT65 impresses, although for a (near) flagship screen, it struggles to deliver pure, dark black. Still, shadow detail is good and the image enjoys decent contrast, thanks to 16-zone local dimming. Marvel’s The Avengers (on Blu-ray) looks a riot of colour and hi-def detail. The newly christened Hexa picture processing engine directs a suite of six different technologies, including noise reduction, colour correction and text smoothing, at both high definition and standard sources.
Off axis viewing is impressive, as you’d expect of an IPS panel. Officially blessed to 178 degrees, you don’t lose too much contrast or colour intensity when you have the temerity to park off axis.
Motion clarity is excellent. 1600Hz BLS (scanning backlight) combats blur, although care needs to be taken with settings. Panasonic’s IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) processor has a well-deserved reputation for its heavy-handed approach. When IFC is switched off, the set’s native resolution stalls at 850 lines. With IFC engaged on Minimum, you’ll realise a full 1080, with only minor motion artefacts around moving objects. This is ideal for sports and general goggleboxing. Keep clear of the Mid or Max settings though, as both come with heavy artefacting. For movies, the screen looks most cinematic with IFC Off.
The 3D is of the “passive”, rather than Full HD “active”, variety. Provided you view square on, the TX-L47DT65 delivers clear, pointy stereoscopy free of double imaging. The menu of Disney’s Tangled (Blu-ray) is very challenging in this regard, but the DT65 performs well. Move vertically from the sweet spot though and the picture rapidly splits apart. Four pairs of passive 3D glasses come in the box, and you can always "borrow" more from your local multiplex if needed.
Multimedia file support from USB is really accomplished too, with most popular codecs playable, including MKV. Across a LAN our playback success rate wasn’t quite as high. The TV identified DLNA servers on our network, but failed to see network shares.
Sonically the TV sounds a tad above average, with a 10W woofer on hand to help bolster the 2x4W downward firing speakers. Obviously, the set would benefit from being partnered with a soundbar or separate AV system, but for general use it’s okay.
Overall, we rate the TX-L47DT65 an extremely satisfying flatscreen. With an advanced, customisable interface and the provision of twin tuners, it offers luxuries you’ll quickly get used to. It may not quite have the picture performance chops to match its technical ambition, but that doesn’t stop it being arguably Panasonic’s best LED TV offering to date.