- Review Date: 05/22/2012
- Bottom line: The Panasonic DT50 series is a beautifully designed, full-featured 3D LED HDTV, but if you're willing to compromise on looks, you can get a screen that works just as well for less money.
- Pros: Beautiful metal-and-glass design. An abundance of online features. Accurate colors. Built-in Wi-Fi. Powerful audio.
- Cons: Doesn't get quite as dark as similarly equipped HDTVs. 3D glasses not included.
Good HDTVs aren't always good-looking. You can have a bright and colorful screen capable of reaching inky blacks while not being visually stunning in its design. As more features become available in less-expensive HDTVs, it's design flourishes that become part of the justification for premium prices. The Panasonic TC-L47DT50 is an ideal example of this premise. At $1,899.99 (direct), this 47-inch, LED-edgelit LCD HDTV is more expensive than our budget Editors' Choice, the 55-inch Vizio M3D550KD ($1,429.99, 4 stars), but offers a similar feature set. What you get for the extra $500: active-shutter 3D, a better-than-average sound system, and one of the prettiest bezels we've seen on an HDTV yet.
Simply stated: The L47DT50 is gorgeous. Its bezel is constructed of metal with a glass overhang on the bottom edge that houses a glowing Panasonic logo in the middle its transparent surface. The design is clean and a refreshing change from the usual black bezels on most HDTVs. Behind the bezel, the right edge holds the standard power, input, channel up/down, and volume up/down buttons, and four HDMI inputs and two USB ports are lined up behind the left edge. The composite, component, cable, Ethernet, and optical audio ports face down on bottom edge, and all are easily accessible even if the HDTV is mounted on a wall.
You can connect to online services and apps through Panasonic's Viera Connect service, which accesses the Internet through the HDTV's built-in Wi-Fi or Ethernet port. It supports Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube, and several other streaming video and music services. You can download apps and set up additional services through the Viera Connect store. It even includes a Web browser that supports HTML5, and you can make video calls with Skype if you purchase the optional $130 TY-CC20W Webcam. The browser loaded PCMag.com almost perfectly, though the font looks slightly different than it typically does on computers.
We test HDTVs with the Konica-Minolta CS-200 chromameter and DisplayMate test patterns, and we analyze color accuracy with Spectracal's CalMAN software. We perform basic brightness, contrast, and color temperature adjustments pretest, but don't otherwise calibrate the screen. Based on our tests, the L47DT50 reached a satisfying but not record-breaking peak white level of 275.58 cd/m2 and a black level of 0.03 cd/m2, for a contrast ratio of 9,186:1. The Vizio M3D550KD, on the other hand, reached respective levels of 364.75 cd/m2 and 0.02 cd/m2, for a nearly double contrast ratio of 18,237:1. Color levels were very accurate, with red and blue spot-on and green edging just slightly toward blue as seen in the chart below. The color squares are the ideal red, green, and blue values, and the colored circles are the screen's measured red, green, and blue values.
I watched the Piranha Blu-ray on the L47DT50, and was suitably impressed by the color balance and contrast. While the dark colors of the deep don't get quite as inky and black as the high-end Editors' Choice Sharp Elite Pro-60X5FD ($5,999.99, 4 stars), it gets satisfyingly dark. The edge lighting resulted in some slight bloom on the left edge of the screen, but not significantly more than similar edge-lit LCD HDTVs.
While the L47DT50 supports 3D, it doesn't come with any glasses. You need to get a pair of active shutter glasses from Panasonic for $80 each, adding to the cost of the HDTV if you want to use it as a 3D TV. I watched a demonstration video of Gran Turismo 5 for the PlayStation 3 in 3D, and the HDTV showed noticeable depth and little crosstalk, but the picture didn't quite pop off the screen like the Pro-60X5FD.
We don't usually consider HDTVs for their sound, because generally even very good HDTV speakers pale in comparison to add-on speakers or even an inexpensive soundbar. However, the L47DT50 is notable for its "8-Train" speaker system, a row of eight dome speakers and a subwoofer mounted on the back of the screen. It can't replace a high-end soundbar and it doesn't offer surround sound, but it's markedly louder and clearer than most other HDTV speakers, with the exception of the Bose VideoWave ($5,349, 4 stars), which is known for its audio prowess.
The L47DT50 consumes an average of 96 watts with no energy saving features enabled and an average of 83 watts with energy saving set to "Standard," which slightly dims the screen but is otherwise very watchable. This is a solid showing, but it doesn't quite hit the 66- and 48-watt levels of the 46-inch Sony KDL-46EX620 ($809.99, 3.5 stars) or the 55-inch LG 55LM6700 ($2,299.99, 4 stars), both LED-backlit LCD HDTVs like the Panasonic.
Sure, there are more impressive HDTVs than the $1,900 Panasonic TC-L47DT50. The LG 55LM6700, for one, offers up glasses-included passive 3D and a cool motion-controlled remote, or there's the Sharp Elite Pro-60X5FD with its best-in-class picture, but they're both more expensive. You'll need to add to the L47DT50's price if you want 3D glasses, and it doesn't get quite as bright or dark as the larger, less expensive passive-3D Vizio M3D550KD. Still, if you value design and high-quality build, but don't want to spend more than $2,000, the L47DT50 is definitely worth considering. But if your main concern is getting more screen for less money, the Vizio stands as the best low-cost, big-screen option we've tested.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.