Top positive review
264 people found this helpful
Recommend the ET5 Series for Best-In-Class Picture, 3D and IPTV
on July 1, 2012
I bought this TV for a very bright room with lots of sunlight, as this IPS LED seemed brighter than any plasma display, and without the energy draw or heat of a plasma. I'm exceptionally happy with this great TV on many levels.
Highlights of why I like this television:
I have seen the future and it's clearly LED. The picture quality of this LED TV is top-notch. The brightness and the colors are fantastic, showing a truly stunning picture with an extremely wide viewing angle from the sides that really is a hair away from 180°. It's also very bright, noticeably brighter than a plasma TV. While it's not quite as good at displaying pure black and picture uniformity in comparison to high-end videophile plasmas that costs thousands more, it's really not far off. It's the best I've seen from an LCD/LED set and as good or better than mainstream plasmas.
From reading Internet forums, I appear to be the one person on the planet who prefers motion interpolation, which Panasonic calls "Motion Picture Setting" and this TV allows four settings: Off/Weak/Medium/Strong. Basically, I prefer life-like video, with natural motion that feels like I am watching in-person on a stage or set rather than film or video, and "Strong" pretty much delivers that. 1080p HD sources look like I'm watching a play with the action unfolding live in front of me. For sports, the experience is unrivaled and truly pulls you into the action. Or, if you hate this so-called "Soap Opera Effect" and prefer traditional film/video movement, then you can turn this feature off. And if you need very fast response, there's also a Game mode.
I was completely unprepared for being blown away by this TV's 3D picture. I've played with 3D TV before, but somehow other TVs with bulky electro-mechanical active shutter 3D glasses always let me down due to the flicker, which distracted me from enjoying the 3D effect. I tried an LG passive 3D TV last year, and the effect was "dulled" compared to active 3D TV so I wrote off the whole 3D-at-home thing as immature technology. Not any more. The state-of-the-art has apparently changed in one year. This TV is the best of both worlds (active-like effect/passive-like ease and no flicker) and comes with four pairs of lightweight passive polarized 3D theater glasses (TY-EP3D10), and frankly, the effect is amazing with none of the flicker of active glasses. I watched several Blu-ray 3D movies along with my cable company's 3D channels and 3D VOD. All I can say is... wow. It's not only very watchable, it's incredible. Movies are flat-out fun. Sports on ESPN 3D are amazing. Interestingly, the TV has a 2D-3D conversion function which is really quite good; although it lacks the deep depth of native 3D content, whatever magic it uses to turn 2D into 3D is remarkably effective. I had no idea passive 3D TV could be this good.
The TV has a good array of inputs: 4 HDMI 1.4 ports with ARC, 2 USB 2.0 ports, 1 set of component (Y/Pb/Pr) or composite video & analog stereo audio RCA connectors (via included proprietary adapter), 1 PC VGA connector, 1 coax RF port, 1 SDXC card slot, and 1 Fast Ethernet jack. WiFi is built-in, with no dongle required, and therefore does not take up a USB port. The TV's black stand and black/clear frame are attractive, making it look stylish in my living room. And the glossy black remote is very nice, with illuminated buttons.
Internet TV is via Panasonic's smart TV system called VIERA Connect. It's simple, and has applications included for subscription services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Hulu Plus, MLB.TV and others. I stream videos from Amazon Prime and it works great with high quality HD. Another standout is the Skype app, which requires the optional TY-CC20W camera with inbound calls integrated into the watching experience. Audio and video Skype calls can be received or dismissed while watching something else, and the overall Skype experience is simple and straightforward with very high quality video calls. Outbound calls require going into VIERA Connect, and then launching Skype. Perhaps initiating an outbound call while watching other content could also be similarly better integrated in the future with fewer button presses?
Sound is very good for a flat screen TV, and is certainly more than I was expecting. Don't expect miracles, the integrated speakers are small and on the bottom of the frame facing down, and compared with an external sound bar or home theater system they're missing bass and some midrange. But, for a panel TV, the sound is really very good.
Quibbles, as overall it's still an outstanding TV:
The digital audio out (TOSLINK optical) doesn't pass through everything, as surround sound (DD/DTS) does not get passed from HDMI connections (silence or static instead) and audio from Skype is not passed at all (probably for echo-cancellation reasons). In both cases the TV speakers still work if enabled.
The VIERA Remote App on iOS slow and clunky, although I suppose it's nice to have it as an option. It makes the iPhone vibrate with every remote button press. I found it not a particularly useful gadget compared to the normal infrared remote.
By default, the TV shows sponsored banner ads upon startup (VIERA Connect Banner) and in the VIERA Connect app selection screen. I suppose this pervasive advertising is the future of digital media, but it seems unnecessarily intrusive on your own TV as it's turning on. You can disable the startup advertisement, and move the VIERA Connect ad app to another app page with seldom-used applications. However, if you disable the startup banner ad, and you try to use IPTV in the first 15 seconds or so after turning the TV on, you get an error message saying the TV needs an Internet connection.
The DLNA Media Player isn't quite full-featured enough to be the primary home network media player for me, even though its user interface is fast and simple. The first major flaw is that while it plays many media formats, such as MKV/H.264, it doesn't support some exceptionally common media formats like AVI files ("Cannot read file"). What is perplexing is the FAQ on the Panasonic web site says certain AVI files are supported. It may not be that AVI is the actual problem, but any media in any container encoded with MPEG-4 Visual such as DivX/Xvid/Nero Direct/3ivx/QuickTime 6 video codecs ("Cannot read file") and that just happens to be the most common format for AVI video. Also, media encoded with a DTS audio codec plays without any audio ("Audio format not supported"); it would have been nice if digital audio would at least be passed unmodified through to the digital audio out port. Other formats trip it up as well. I tried a media file that contained two audio tracks (one in German, the second in English) and while the menu appeared like one could choose which track plays, it only displayed and played the first track. The second major flaw is that it immediately begins playing the highlighted video in a preview window as you move up and down your list of media, including its audio, which is not only annoying but also places a burden on the media server if the media needs transcoding. This might be the case, for example, if you configure your DLNA Media Server to transcode AVI/MPEG-4/DTS files in order to even have them play at all with this TV's media player.
The only complete miss on this TV: I found the web browser pure misery to use with the included infrared remote. While I could fumble through navigation using the VIERA Remote App from my iPhone, I couldn't get any site with video to work. It's one of the worst overall web browsing experiences I've ever encountered. In my opinion, the web browser is essentially unusable unless used as an instrument of torture. In such cases, I suspect it would be effective in extracting information from the most hardened target. ("I'll talk, just make it stop!")
But, the issues are minor compared to the positives: the best-in-class plasma-beating picture, 3D quality and great IPTV functionality. Overall, this is a great TV.