The Panasonic TX-L55WT65B is the third TV we’ve seen from Panasonic's 2013 TV range, with its TX-P55VT65B plasma sibling already winning the full five stars from us and the smaller TX-L47DT65 winning the 46-47in TV group test in our June issue.
It’s fair to say, then, that it has been a promising start for Panasonic’s 2013 TV lineup and so we’re certainly excited to see if the company can keep up its run of five-star performances with the TX-L55WT65B.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: picture
While we’d hoped the WT65 range would create a similarly excellent first impression as the VT65 plasma, things don’t go quite as smoothly for this LCD screen.
After using a THX disc to fine-tune the TV’s picture settings – a procedure we do for every TV we test – we still felt the need to delve into the menus again to play around with the settings some more to achieve more balanced results.
While there was a ton of detail on show, there was something not quite right about the overall presentation of the TX-L55WT65B – and that irked us. It wasn’t just the slightly patchy backlighting, either; in particular, we were disappointed in the black levels, with dark scenes losing impact and detail and the overall picture appearing a little washed out.
But that’s what the various active processing modes are there for, so we spent some time playing around with them to see the differences they made.
We usually find ourselves switching these modes off or to the minimum setting, but in this case turning the adaptive backlight control up to medium went a long way to improving its black level problem, with blacks immediately punchier, dark scenes better rendered and the overall picture much brighter, albeit at the expense of a little detail.
This change also meant we had to go back and tweak our colour settings, as this feature introduced a slightly warm tinge to the picture, particularly in skin tones.
Teething problems aside, while watching X-Men: First Class on Blu-ray, the Panasonic TX-L55WT65B produced clean, accurate lines with excellent definition, and while it’s not completely immune from judder, a customised tweaking of the motion controls brought this right down to a level that made it almost unnoticeable, with outlines of buildings staying strong during panning scenes.
Turn the motion processing just a bit higher, though, and the results make the moving object seem like it has a thin, rather distracting force field around it.
Switch to HD broadcasting and the strength of the WT65’s tuner is clear. Tuning into Deal or No Deal, the picture is sharp and detailed. Noel’s striped shirt could easily turn into a fuzzy mess on lesser sets, but this Panasonic LED TV handles them with applaudable definition and clarity, allowing you to see each stripe individually.
Standard-def was a bit more of a mixed bag, with images coming across a little on the soft side compared with some of the WT65’s competition. It’s a perfectly capable and watchable performance given the unavoidable drop in quality, but this 55in Panasonic TV certainly thrives best on HD content.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: 3D picture
With passive 3D under its belt, the WT65 is able to offer an easy-on-the-eye third dimension to your viewing, with four pairs of lightweight passive glasses included in the box.
We put on animated film ParaNorman to test out its capabilities and are highly impressed with the results. Colours are well balanced and the 3D effect is subtle but effective, with the added depth helping to bring the film to life.
Motion is handled well too, remaining stable throughout with edges defined and little crosstalk of note. We would certainly recommend ensuring the ambient light sensor is off when watching 3D, though, as this will automatically drop the screen brightness when in a darker room.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: my Home Screen
Panasonic has taken a hard look at its Smart Viera TV offering and completely revamped it the look for its 2013 TV line-up. To great effect, too – the result is a much-improved design, with a slick, intuitive and accessible interface that even new users should be able to navigate without any hiccups.
Once you’ve finished the tuning setup, you are greeted with ‘My Home Screen’ – a choice of screens that offer you a large preview window of the current channel (which you can click to go full screen) surrounded by a choice of popular apps and widgets for quick selection.
There are four preset views – TV Home Screen (the default), Lifestyle Screen and Info Screen, as well as a Full Screen option for a widget-free view.
Apart from the latter, the other options come surrounded by suitable apps for their purpose, from calendar and weather apps on the Lifestyle Screen to social networking, Skype and browser bookmarks on the Info Screen.
MORE: See our video of Panasonic's new look Smart TV for 2013
You can select any of these screens to be your default view, or you can create up to seven other customisable screens so all the family can have a personalised view of the apps they use most. Panasonic’s Viera Connect currently offers a large chunk of the big-hitters, including BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Skype and BBC News.
The TX-L55WT65B comes with a built-in camera too, and there’s facial recognition on board, so you can link a face to a homescreen for automatic loading when prompted via voice command (more on this later). We found this to work well on the whole, but you’ll need to make sure you’re in good light for it to pick up your face accurately.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: remote control and voice commands
Panasonic includes two remote controls with the TX-L55WT65B, giving you plenty of ways to interact with the TV. There is, of course, the standard handset with all the bells and whistles, but there’s also the new Touch Pad controller, which offers computer-like navigation on a large and responsive touchpad, and scales back controls to the bare necessities.
It’s a perfect size and shape, nestling nicely in the palm of your hand, with a handy ‘OK’ trigger underneath the remote in the exact place your index finger rests. We found the control to work just fine for day-to-day navigation of the set too, and only needed to pick up the other remote when configuring the TV.
The Touch Pad remote also holds the key to the TX-L55WT65B’s voice control, as you speak into it to give your commands. Panasonic says these can be as simple as changing the channel or volume, all the way up to slightly more in-depth requests such as searching for programmes by name or browsing the internet.
We’ve had a rather patchy experience with voice commands in the past, and unfortunately Panasonic’s offering on the WT65 has proved to be a similar story.
While it understood our requests to change the volume, the channel and to be taken to our programmed Home Page, it was patchy when we asked it to search, strangely mistaking “EastEnders” for “367”, and “What Hi-Fi?” for “4155”. It was also rather jumpy, making random changes before we’d even spoken in some cases, which made it a rather frustrating experience overall.
This is a vast contrast to our experience with the voice controls on the Panasonic VT65, which worked well – we hope a firmware update will be able to bring this WT65 up to scratch.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: design and specs
The Panasonic TX-L55WT65B will certainly look the part in pretty much any living-room set up thanks to its barely-there bezel and super slim design. There’s a glowing transparent strip that runs along the bottom of the set too, which is a nice touch.
What we weren’t so keen on was the transparent plastic stand. Panasonic says it’s to make the screen look like it’s ‘floating’, but we’d much prefer the square metal, more premium-looking stand we saw on the VT65.
As previously mentioned, there is a pop-up camera in the WT65 (as we also saw in the VT65) that allows you to use Skype through your TV as well as the facial-recognition features in My Home Screen. It’s not the most sturdy add-on, though, and doesn’t have the same quality feel as the retractable camera on Samsung’s high-end sets.
The TX-L55WT65B has Freeview HD and Freesat tuners, giving you the choice of channels on both if you have all the necessary equipment. You can also watch a channel while another is recording, similar to Sky’s set-top box.
Round the back, Panasonic includes just three HDMI inputs; three USB ports; an SD card slot; digital audio out; component, composite and RGB scart inputs; and a headphone jack.
There’s also an ethernet port for a wired internet connection, or you can opt to go wireless thanks to the WT65’s built-in wi-fi. The setup process for the latter was simple, picking up our network quickly and connecting to it without issue.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: sound
Manufacturers have been paying special attention to sound in their flatscreen TVs recently, and while they’ll never be able to come close to the sound of a multi-channel surround system or even a soundbar, it’s nice to hear the quality improvements that are being made to make it more listenable.
While the stunningly slim bezel to this WT65 does not, unfortunately, offer the slim front-facing speakers of the Panasonic TX-P55VT65B, it does still pack two downward-firing speakers and the same 7.5cm woofer, albeit with a slightly lower 18W output.
The thinness of sound that is often associated with skinny TVs is gone and there’s definitely more weight and refinement to the overall presentation, with dialogue in particular benefitting on this Panasonic.
That said, sound effects like explosions certainly lack the punch you’ll get with a separate speaker package, and you’ll lose out on the more subtle dynamics as well.
If you’re serious about your home cinema – and at this price, who isn’t? – a speaker package is a must to really get the most out of this set.
Panasonic TX-L55WT65B: verdict
Overall, the Panasonic TX-L55WT65B is a well-rounded TV that offers a good picture, impressive sound quality and an intuitive, easy-to-use smart interface, all wrapped up in a slim and attractive design.
We did find it took rather a lot of work to get the picture to show colours as naturally as possible, however, and had to add extra processing to get the black performance to an acceptable level, losing a touch of detail as a result.
We’d have taken that as a trade off, but despite all the tweaking, the picture on this 55in WT65 TV still falls behind the competitors at the top of their game here. This is particularly obvious in scenes that contain both very dark and very light elements, which is when the Panasonic is at its weakest.
As such, we have to dock the Panasonic TX-L55WT65B a star from the full house. It will take patience to get the most out of the WT65, and though it ultimately pays off in the overall picture you’ll get – and its top-drawer 3D performance – there is still better out there at this price.
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