Hands On: Panasonic TC-L47WT60 LCD TV

Voice control, facial recognition and advanced picture controls make this a fun TV

It’s didn’t take long for me to notice that Panasonic’s new top-shelf LCD TV, the 2013 TC-L4WT60, is a completely different species from the company’s previous LCD models.

The design is decidedly upbeat. The minimal chrome bezel gives you an edge-to-edge picture. The back of the TV is actually painted pearly white. While that’s not a big deal, and I can’t figure out a good reason why it should be so, it does distinguish the TV a little from all the black and gray TVs on the market.

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The bottom frame of the TV is filled with a light that shines through an acrylic housing. It’s neat the first time you turn it on, and doesn’t look too bad when you’re watching TV in the daytime or in a lit room, but as soon as you turn the room lights off you realize that light is going to drive you nuts. It can be turned off, but finding the place in the onscreen menu to do that was a bit of a scavenger hunt.

The WT60 model is an edge-lit 3D LED LCD TV, which keeps it pencil thin.

Finally we get to the table mount, which is also a clear acrylic piece. The effect is to make the TV look like it’s floating somewhat, and it does look nice, but it’s also overly large for a 47 inch TV. In fact the base sticks out a full eight inches in the back, which means that if you place this TV on a stand, you won’t be able to push it up against the wall. Also the clear stand means that any cables you have hanging off the TV will be clearly visible. I know it’s a small issue, but I think it’s a poor design compromise.

Aside from the industrial design, Panasonic did a lot of other things differently with this LCD than their 2012 models. The biggest improvement is the move to in-plane switching (ISP) panels with a new phase filter. The combination greatly improves viewing angle as well as enhances contrast. Panasonic also doubled the panel’s backlight scanning which improves motion resolution. A number of smoothing processes also contribute to better pictures from lower-quality internet-based videos such as Netflix or YouTube.

In addition to the panel changes, the WT60 includes Panasonic’s latest smart TV features. The centerpiece of the company’s smart TV approach is the home screen, which includes a customizable menu and a load of streaming apps for music and videos, plus games (you can read more about Panasonic’s smart TV features in my Panasonic ZT60 plasma review here).

This TV also includes a pop-up camera. When not in use, the camera is hidden in the back to allay any fears you might have that someone is watching you 24/7 (they might be anyway, just not from this camera). The camera is used for making Skype video calls, for facial recognition and some games. The facial recognition feature may come in handy if each member of your family wants to create their own custom Home screen, but I can still see that being confusing.

With this TV you get two remotes. One is a standard wand style remote which most people will depend on because it’s what they’re accustomed to. Panasonic is hedging its bets on the future of TV control by also throwing in a small touchpad remote with a microphone for voice control. By talking into the remote’s microphone you can change inputs, channels and conduct web searches. The system works surprisingly well. The TVs dual-core processor makes web functions pretty snappy. You can also do the voice control trick with Panasonic’s smartphone app. Even though the feature works, I’m still not convinced it’s that useful, but maybe I’m just being a curmudgeon.

For connections, you get three HDMI inputs (one with an audio return channel), three USB ports, an SD card slot, an optical audio output, Ethernet and component.

When you turn the TV on, one of the first things you notice, or don’t notice, is the lack of glare. Panasonic used anti-glare filter that actually works, so glare from ambient light is much better than on other recent TVs.

The picture controls are pretty substantial on this TV. Unlike Panasonic’s top plasmas, this doesn’t get THX certification (THX is pretty frugal with its logo for LCD TVs), but there’s a Cinema mode that will get most people in the ball park. For calibrators or advanced users there’s white balance, saturation, luminance and hue adjustment for red, blue and green, plus gamma and a handful of other settings that will keep a tweaker busy. Most of the setting like Resolution Remaster and Brilliance Enhancer should be left off.

As I noted earlier, this TV is world’s better than last year’s Panasonic LCD. Mostly I was impressed with the improvements in black levels and the overall punchiness of the colors. Sometimes I’d see uneven bands in the backlighting or areas of light leakage around bright objects, but overall this is a very good looking TV. You’ll see more of those issues when watching in a dark room. If you watch TV mostly in a room with lights on, then you’re not likely to notice the lighter areas as much.

Panasonic gives you four sets of passive 3D glasses. 3D looked good. The image stayed bright, with minimal noticeable crosstalk, but if you’re too close to the screen you’ll notice the resolution drop that passive 3D produces.

The fact that Panasonic is making better looking LCD TVs is a very good thing, because while I greatly prefer their plasma TVs, we won’t see them for much longer. The company recently announced that it’s ending plasma production. If this TV is a sign of where they’re going with LCD, then Panasonic is on the right path.

Panasonic TC-L47WT60 LCD TV


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