Panasonic TC-L42ET5 Smart Viera 3D LED/LCD TV - Review

Panasonic Goes with Passive 3D on its ET5 Series LCD TVs

Panasonic TC-L42ET5 3D Network LED/LCD TV - Photo - Front View
Panasonic TC-L42ET5 3D Network LED/LCD TV - Photo - Front View. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The Panasonic TC-L42ET5 is a slim, stylish-looking, 42-inch LCD TV that incorporates 3D viewing using the passive glasses viewing system (4 pairs of glasses included), as well as VieraConnect network media player/streamer functions. The TC-L42ET5 also utilizes LED Edge Lighting that provides for a slim physical profile, as well as eco-friendly power consumption.

In addition, the 42-inch TC-L42ET5 features a 1920x1080 (1080p) native pixel resolution for 2D viewing, and 120Hz refresh rate with Backlight Scanning for both 2D and 3D viewing.

Connections include 4 HDMI inputs, 2 USB ports, and an SD Card Slot for accessing audio, video, and still image files stored on flash drives and other compatible devices and memory card. Both Ethernet and WiFi internet connection options are provided for network/internet access. After reading this review, be sure check out my Photo Profile and Video Performance Tests.

 

Panasonic TC-L42ET5 Product Overview

Features of the Panasonic TC-L42ET5 include:

1. 42-Inch, 16x9, 3D capable LCD Television with 1920x1080 (1080p) native pixel resolution, and 120Hz Screen Refresh Rate augmented by Backlight Scanning which yields a 360Hz refresh-like effect.

2. 1080p video upscaling/processing for all non-1080p input sources as well as native 1080p input capability.

3. IPS panel technology with LED Edge-Lighting System. The LEDs are placed along the outside edges of the screen and light is then dispersed behind the screen.

For more details on how LED technology is used in televisions, refer to my article: The Truth About "LED" Televisions

4. The TC-L42ET5 employs Passive Polarized Glasses for viewing 3D images. Four pairs are included with the TV. The glasses require no batteries, and do not need to be charged.

5. High Definition Compatible Inputs: Four HDMI, One Component (via supplied adapter cable), One VGA PC Monitor input.

6. Standard Definition-Only Inputs: One Composite video input accessible via provided adapter.

7. One set of Analog stereo inputs (paired with the component and composite video inputs).

8 Audio Outputs: One Digital Optical. Also, HDMI input 1 can also output audio via the Audio Return Channel feature.

9. Built-in stereo speaker system (10 watts x 2) for use in lieu of the outputting audio to an external audio system (However, connecting to an external audio system is highly recommended).

10. 2 USB ports and 1 SD Card slot for access to audio, video, and still image files stored on flash drives. DLNA certification allows access to audio, video, and still image content stored on network connected devices, such as PC or media server.

11. On-board Ethernet port for wired internet/home network connection. Built-in WiFi connection option.

12. ATSC/NTSC/QAM tuners for reception of over-the-air and unscrambled high definition/standard definition digital cable signals.

13. Link for remote control via HDMI of HDMI-CEC compatible devices.

14. Wireless Infrared Remote Control included.

15. Energy Star rated.

For a closer look at the features and functions of the TC-L42ET5, check out my supplementary Photo Profile

 

Hardware Used

The additional home theater hardware used in this review included:

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

Home Theater Receiver: Onkyo TX-SR705 (used in 5.1 channel mode)

Loudspeaker/Subwoofer System (5.1 channels): EMP Tek E5Ci center channel speaker, four E5Bi compact bookshelf speakers for left and right main and surrounds, and an ES10i 100 watt powered subwoofer.

DVDO EDGE Video Scaler used for baseline video upscaling comparisons.

Audio/Video connections made with Accell, Interconnect cables. 16 Gauge Speaker Wire used. High Speed HDMI Cables provided by Atlona for this review.

 

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Adventures of Tintin, Drive Angry, Hugo, Immortals, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Underworld: Awakening, and Wrath of the Titans.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Art of Flight,Ben Hur,Cowboys and Aliens, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind, Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol, and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

 

Video Performance

The Panasonic TC-L42ET5 is an overall good performer.

First up, despite the use of LED Edge Lighting, the black levels were pretty even across the screen, even in dark scenes, although not as dark as you would get on a Panasonic Plasma TV.

Color saturation and detail were excellent with 2D high definition source material, especially Blu-ray Discs, and the IPS LCD panel provides a fairly wide viewing angle for 2D viewing. However, as you move farther from either side of the center viewing area the intensity of the black level decreases. It must also be noted that just as with all 3D TVs, the effective viewing angle is reduced when viewing 3D content. In addition, if you have a room with a lot of ambient light, the TC-L42ET5's screen does exhibit some glare, but not as much as you might encounter with most Plasma TVs or an LCD TV with an extra glass layer covering the screen.

The 120Hz Screen Refresh Rate refresh rate, supported by blacklight scanning, provides smooth motion response in 2D, although the "Motion Picture Setting" does result in the "Soap Opera Effect", which is distracting when viewing film-based content. However, this can be disabled, which is preferable for film-based content. I would suggest that you experiment with the "Motion Picture Setting" with different types of content and see what setting works best for your viewing preferences.

One thing I noticed is that with standard definition content, especially internet streamed content, that artifacts were sometimes noticeable. When I conducted a series of tests to find out how well the TC-L42ET5 processes and scales standard definition source content, the TC-L42ET5 actually did well extracting detail, as well as dinterlacing and processing when faced with moving objects against still backgrounds, but did not as well suppressing video noise, exhibited some instability when objects were moving in both the foreground and background, and also had some difficulty recognizing differing film and video frame cadences. For a closer look at the standard definition video processing capabilities of the Panasonic TC-L42ET5, check out a sampling of Video Performance Test Results.

 

3D Viewing Performance

The default settings for 3D viewing were OK, but do need some tweaking for an optimal viewing experience. The main issue is that the contrast and brightness are a little too low to reproduce optimum 3D depth. When viewing 3D material, I found that it was best to use the preset Game setting or employ the Custom setting option, as the maximization of Backlight level and Contrast made the 3D images more defined and compensated well for loss of brightness when viewing through 3D glasses. On the other hand, the Vivid setting was a little too intense, exhibiting too-hot whites. For some non-technician required tips on tweaking TV settings for 3D viewing, refer to my article: How to Adjust a 3D TV For Best Viewing Results.

When viewing 3D content on the TC-L42ET5, the depth rendering was very good, with no significant flicker, ghosting, or motion lag that can be known to occur with 3D viewing. Some 3D Blu-ray discs that I thought provided a good viewing experience were Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Resident Evil: Afterlife and Underworld Awakening. Also, I found that 3D content, such as the film Hugo and the IMAX-produced documentary Space Station, that can exhibit some haloing issues on an Active Shutter Glasses-required 3D TV, exhibited very minimal ghosting on the TC-L42ET5. For information on other 3D films I use in my 3D product reviews, refer to my listing of Best 3D Blu-ray Discs.

Some of the additional observations on 3D viewing that I noticed on this set were two factors that it has in common with other passive 3D TVs I have reviewed or used. One factor with the Passive 3D viewing system is that there is noticeable is a thin horizontal line structure that is present in 3D images, the second factor is the periodic presence of stairstepping or interlace-type artifacts on some objects. These artifacts are most noticeable on text and objects with straight edges. Also, the closer you sit to the screen, the more noticeable these factors can become.

In addition, although the TC-L42ET5 incorporates real-time 2D-to-3D conversion, the results are not nearly as good as when viewing native 3D content. The conversion process does add depth to a 2D image, but the depth and perspective is not always accurate. "Folding" effects are prominent, and objects can seem out place within viewing space. You can use the provided 3D depth control, which enables users to tweak the 2D-to-3D conversion effect. In my opinion, the 2D-to-3D conversion feature should be limited to sporting events or live concert performance broadcasts.

Taking all of the 3D capabilities and limitations of the TC-L42ET5 into consideration, I found the 3D viewing experience on this set to be both comfortable to watch and effective in execution.

Proceed to Page 2: Audio Performance, Internet Streaming, Media Player Functions, Final Take.

Audio Performance

The Panasonic TC-L42ET5 provides several audio settings, but the sound quality of the TC-L42ET5 is not that great. However, it is on par with other LCD and Plasma TVs I have reviewed. Despite the audio settings that are provided, the built-in amplifier and speakers are no substitute for a separate audio system. I found that I had to up the volume quite a bit in order to get a listenable sound level in my 15x20 foot room.

I would suggest considering even a modest sound bar, paired with small subwoofer to get a better audio listening result.

VieraConnect

The TC-L42ET5 also offers VieraConnect internet streaming features. Using the VieraConnect menu, you can access an abundance of internet streaming content. Some of the accessible services and sites include: Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Pandora, Vudu, HuluPlus, YouTube.

As a supplement to the VieraConnect features, Panasonic also includes its Skype, Facebook and Twitter, and VieraConnect Market. The market provides more content choices and apps that you can add to your streaming access options. Some are free, and some require a small fee and/or require an ongoing service subscription.

With regards to video streaming, there is a lot of variation in the video quality of the streamed content, ranging from low-res compressed video that is hard to watch on a large screen to high-def video feeds that look more like DVD quality or slightly better.

Even 1080p content streamed from the internet will not look quite as detailed as 1080p content played directly from a Blu-ray Disc.

To obtain the best quality viewing experience from streamed content, you need a good high-speed internet connection. In addition, although the TC-L42ET5 provides both wired (ethernet) and wireless (WiFi) internet connection options, depending on the stability of your wireless router signal, the ethernet option may work best, especially for streaming video.

In my testing, I actually found the TC-L42ET5's wireless option was actually better than some of the other similarily-equipped TVs and Blu-ray Disc players I have used, but if you find that you are getting a lot breakup, or non-connection issues when trying to use the Wireless option, then wired ethernet may be your best option - the downside, however, is that if your router is some distance away from the TV, that means using a long ethernet cable.

DLNA and USB

In addition to internet streaming, the TC-L42ET5 can also access content from DLNA compatible media servers and PCs connected in the same home network. This inlucdes access to audio, video, and still image files as well as some additional Internet Radio content.

In addition to DLNA functions, you can also access audio, video, and still image files from SD Cards or USB flash drive-type devices. Other devices you can connect to the TC-L42ET5 via USB include a Windows USB Keyboard and a Compatible Skype Camera, such as the Panasonic TY-CC20W (compare prices) or the Logitech TV Cam for Skype (read review) .

What I Liked About The Panasonic TC-L42ET5

1. Very Good Color and detail, fairly even black level response for an LED Edge-lit LCD TV.

2. 3D works well provided contrast and backlight settings are set appropriately and the content is produced well for 3D viewing. No noticeable 3D ghosting or motion lag as sometimes is encountered on active 3D sets.

3. VieraConnect provides good selection of internet streaming options.

4. Very good motion response on 2D and 3D material.

5. Four Pairs of Passive 3D Glasses are included.

6. Passive 3D glasses are very comfortable and lightweight - as comfortable as wearing a pair of sunglasses.

7. Very well designed remote control - combination of large buttons and backlight function makes it easier to use in a darkened room.

8. Picture setting parameters can be set independently for each input source.

What I Didn't Like About The Panasonic TC-L42ET5

1. 2D to 3D real time conversion does not provide a good viewing experience.

2. Passive 3D system exhibits thin horizontal lines and edge artifacts if viewed too closely - noticeable on text and objects with straight lines.

3. Very limited analog AV connection options.

4. Some brightness decrease when viewing 3D content. Contrast and Backlight settings should set high or the TV set in game mode or use the custom mode option for best 3D effect.

5. "Soap Opera" effect when engaging motion processing features can be distracting.

Final Take

The Panasonic TC-L42ET5 was in my setup for over a month and I found it to be very easy to setup and use (especially the remote control), and enjoyed watching a wide variety of both 2D and 3D content on the set.

Panasonic TC-L42ET5 provides a very good viewing experience for HD content, but I did find that viewing standard definition content although good room DVD sources, did exhibit visible artifacts on analog cable and internet streamed content.

On the other hand, 3D viewing quality was very good, although the horizontal line and interlace-type artifacts may be distracting for some. When shopping, definitely do some 3D viewing comparisons with both active and passive 3D TVs and see what looks best to you.

Even excluding the 3D feature, the Panasonic TC-L42ET5 definitely packs a lot of other features in for the price. If you don't want to watch 3D, you don't have to, but if you do, it comes packed with four pairs of 3D glasses and extra ones are a lot less expensive that the active shutter glasses required on some other sets, including the ones required for Panasonic's own Plasma sets.

While Panasonic Plasma TVs have a reputation of being great performers, their increasingly growing LCD TV lineup also deserves consideration, and the TC-L42ET5 is definitely an LCD TV to consider.

For a closer look at the Panasonic TC-L42ET5, also check out my Photo Profile and Video Performance Test Results.

Compare Prices for the TC-L42ET5

Also, if you are looking for a set larger than 42-inches, also consider the other two sets in Panasonic's ET series, the 47-inch TC-L47ET5 (Compare Prices), and the TC-L55ET5 (Compare Prices).

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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