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Panasonic Th-L55Et50A

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I went into Myer Maroochydore today to see some of the current Panasonic HD TV sets in use. They had a L55ET50A which I persuaded a salesman to let me try out for a while. Unfortunately all these stores tend to daisy chain their sets to broadcast SD commercial TV through some antiquated and tortuous video plumbing with poor quality amplifiers and cables (probably hangovers from the analogue era), so any assessment of picture quality can only be comparative between the various brands and models so lumbered with such poor quality source imagery.

To get around this I brought along a portable USB HDD with a range of different video files and still images to try out. My USB powered HDD required 2 USB ports to boot up (using supplemental power as I expected) but was then recognised by the TV. Both my FAT32 and NTFS partitions worked ok.

As I use a Mac computer, I tried out a few MOV H264 files that I had made myself. A P&S 640x480 file was pretty well unwatchable scaled up to full screen (as expected but worth a try), although there is the option to view at original size - so best seen on a PC screen anyway. A bunch of 720p H264 MP4s played OK, but as these had been down sampled from 1080p to upload to YouTube, they did not look that great either. I had a 1080p MOV straight out of Final Cut Pro X, but the TV would not recognise this. A shame, as that was the equal of broadcast HD.

I then tried out a variety of older AVI format DIVX and XVID type movie encodes from DVD. As long as the bit rate was up there (i.e. video file of at least 1.5Gb or bigger) they were acceptable to watch at armchair distance, although some macro blocking and artefacts were seen.

Finally I tried out a few 720p MKV files at 4Gb or bigger encoded from blu ray. These all looked great on the screen and upscaled quite well. I imagine a good quality blue ray player with original disc would produce stunning results on this set but I was unable to try this out. I did not try out the 3D capability either.

The menu file navigation system on the set was able to move about a bunch of folders within folders and then the files within those ok. I then tried out viewing photos on the TV. I was immediately disappointed to find that when viewing JPG images, the file structure is totally ignored. The display just dumped thumbs of every JPG image found on the HDD with no way to discriminate and only see a small collection in one folder. This is a severe limitation as I had hoped to be able to have my entire photo library available to selectively view, maybe there are options to deal with this, does anyone know? (The inelegant solution is to load up a thumb drive with those pics desired to be seen).

When viewing the JPG files however, the results were exceptionally good. The source images were all well over the 1920x1080 size (many were 21MP from my Canon DSLR) and these downscaled for the screen and displayed extremely well. I am a photographer and being able to view my photos on such a large screen is actually quite important to me. So thumbs up for this, if only the folders containing the images were respected by the TV viewer firmware.

I have been looking more into these sets and now will probably wait until June for the release here of another model, which has even better specs, although a slightly smaller screen size. The Panasonic TH-L47WT50A looks to be my choice.

Anyone have comments on the above?

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I went into Myer Maroochydore today to see some of the current Panasonic HD TV sets in use. They had a L55ET50A which I persuaded a salesman to let me try out for a while. Unfortunately all these stores tend to daisy chain their sets to broadcast SD commercial TV through some antiquated and tortuous video plumbing with poor quality amplifiers and cables (probably hangovers from the analogue era), so any assessment of picture quality can only be comparative between the various brands and models so lumbered with such poor quality source imagery.

To get around this I brought along a portable USB HDD with a range of different video files and still images to try out. My USB powered HDD required 2 USB ports to boot up (using supplemental power as I expected) but was then recognised by the TV. Both my FAT32 and NTFS partitions worked ok.

As I use a Mac computer, I tried out a few MOV H264 files that I had made myself. A P&S 640x480 file was pretty well unwatchable scaled up to full screen (as expected but worth a try), although there is the option to view at original size - so best seen on a PC screen anyway. A bunch of 720p H264 MP4s played OK, but as these had been down sampled from 1080p to upload to YouTube, they did not look that great either. I had a 1080p MOV straight out of Final Cut Pro X, but the TV would not recognise this. A shame, as that was the equal of broadcast HD.

I then tried out a variety of older AVI format DIVX and XVID type movie encodes from DVD. As long as the bit rate was up there (i.e. video file of at least 1.5Gb or bigger) they were acceptable to watch at armchair distance, although some macro blocking and artefacts were seen.

Finally I tried out a few 720p MKV files at 4Gb or bigger encoded from blu ray. These all looked great on the screen and upscaled quite well. I imagine a good quality blue ray player with original disc would produce stunning results on this set but I was unable to try this out. I did not try out the 3D capability either.

The menu file navigation system on the set was able to move about a bunch of folders within folders and then the files within those ok. I then tried out viewing photos on the TV. I was immediately disappointed to find that when viewing JPG images, the file structure is totally ignored. The display just dumped thumbs of every JPG image found on the HDD with no way to discriminate and only see a small collection in one folder. This is a severe limitation as I had hoped to be able to have my entire photo library available to selectively view, maybe there are options to deal with this, does anyone know? (The inelegant solution is to load up a thumb drive with those pics desired to be seen).

When viewing the JPG files however, the results were exceptionally good. The source images were all well over the 1920x1080 size (many were 21MP from my Canon DSLR) and these downscaled for the screen and displayed extremely well. I am a photographer and being able to view my photos on such a large screen is actually quite important to me. So thumbs up for this, if only the folders containing the images were respected by the TV viewer firmware.

I have been looking more into these sets and now will probably wait until June for the release here of another model, which has even better specs, although a slightly smaller screen size. The Panasonic TH-L47WT50A looks to be my choice.

Anyone have comments on the above?

One HUGE problem as far as I'm concerned, it's NOT plasma and I have no intention of downgrading. Interesting that theyy have one, they aren't supposed to be available until June.

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Panasonic are using IPS LCD panels, native contrast is at least 6 times lower than a mid range Panasonic Plasma.

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That's where I have been having problems, trying to work out the relative merits of plasma vs LCD. I realise the equivalent plasma screens are way cheaper than LCD due to production costs. Is plasma that superior? I cannot find much on the internet during my research. I have been using an iMac 27inch LED lit LCD screen for 2 years and it is terrific in my view. Why do the manufacturers offer both plasma and LCD? I can't work that one out.

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That's where I have been having problems, trying to work out the relative merits of plasma vs LCD. I realise the equivalent plasma screens are way cheaper than LCD due to production costs. Is plasma that superior? I cannot find much on the internet during my research. I have been using an iMac 27inch LED lit LCD screen for 2 years and it is terrific in my view. Why do the manufacturers offer both plasma and LCD? I can't work that one out.

Many just prefer the picture of plasma......at the end of the day it is what you think looks the best.

I tend to think Blu-ray looks good on most mid-high end sets.

But really what do you watch the most? With me it is FTA, and on most screens of this size FTA looks crap.

I prefer plasma and looked at the lower end S and U Panasonic before going for the GT model. I think it looks much crisper on FTA.

But again just my preference......

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i just purchased myself a thl42et5for my bedroom, and while i absolutely love it and all its new cool features(usb media player,veira connectslim etc.), it imho doesnt have as great a picture as my hd th50px80 plasma does or even the previous th42px70 plasma did in the bedroom. my next upgrade will be a bigger plasma in the lounge to replace the 50in. i will always go plasma from now on

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One final question for the regulars:

If plasma sets are so much better than comparably sized LCD sets, why are the LCD sets selling at all - especially when they are usually at around $1,000 more for the same size at 50" plus?

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The answer is simple, most people are not very discerning as far as picture “quality” goes, probably because they have never seen a high quality accurate picture and don’t know what to look for. They seem to like over bright, over colourful and oversharp TV pictures. LCD and LED illuminated LCD in particular deliver what people think they want.

In the showroom LED LCD's turned up super bright attract consumers like moths to a flame, but at home when they are dimed down to a level suitable for a modestly lit and especial a dark viewing environment LCD does not stack up well at all for those who appreciate a high “quality” natural looking image.

The best flat panel TV’s ever made when out of production years ago, not because they were not good but because people were not prepared to pay for them and in most cases did not appreciate the performance they offered compared to the competition. Mediocrity rules with most products, TV’s are no exception.

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Thanks for that Owen. I would have 'liked' what you said, but a glitch in this forum seems to give me a quota of positive votes of zero...

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