Panasonic TC-L42D2 LED LCD TV Review
Panasonic is well known for making some of the world’s finest plasma TVs. What you may not know is Panasonic also makes their own LCD TVs, which include a proprietary panel technology. In 2010 Panasonic introduced its first LED backlit LCD HDTV called the D2 series. They are available in the 37Ã¢â‚¬Â and 42Ã¢â‚¬Â screen sizes.
The TC-L42D2 is its top of the line, Full HD 1920 x1080 resolution, LCD.Ã‚Â Unlike many of its competitorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s designs, it’s not razor thin. Instead, it comes in at a very reasonable 1.5Ã¢â‚¬Â thickness (sans the bottom section which widens to 3-inches).
What sets this TV apart is the type of LCD panel used. This technology, called in-plane switching (IPS), is renowned for its very wide viewing angle. A similar technology is found on select LG LCD TVs, but Sony, Samsung, Sharp and most others use a different type of LCD technology.
How does this tech stack up? More important, how does the TV perform? Let’s take a look.
Aside from LED backlighting (technically, top and bottom edge lighting), the D2 has theÃ‚Â usual set of features found other HDTVs. There’s an integral SD card reader for viewing photos and HDMI link (called VIERA Link) for connecting and controlling other Panasonic products like their top performing Blu-ray players. Panasonic also includes an external iPod dock for playing songs and videos from your player directly into the D2.Ã‚Â Strangely, they omit VIERA Cast, PanasonicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s suite of Internet connected sources for streaming video from providers like Netflix and Vudu.
Fortunately for potential buyers, Panasonic includes this feature in many of its inexpensive Blu-ray players, making an unnecessary feature for anyone that plans to add a player to their home theater.
The D2 graphical user interface menu system is easy to control and requires few keystrokes to arrive at the picture control settings. Unlike the current Sony TVs, Panasonic continues to offer a thick, well-designed, paper ownerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s manual that covers the set’s functions very well. The styling is classic Panasonic, what we would call “traditional,” and not anywhere near the ultra modern looks as seen on select LG and Samsung models.
The remote control is standard Panasonic as well, with good size buttons and easy navigation, but breaks no new ground in control or lighting (or in this case, the lack there of).
The D2 contains a wide array of inputs including two composite video, one component video (all with associated stereo analog audio), three HDMI inputs, a 15-pin D-sub connector for a PC, the iPod dock jack, an SD card slot, and an optical digital audio output. There is one RF input to connect an antenna to the setÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s built-in HDTV digital tuner.
Here is where the IPS LCD panel and LED edge-lighting come into play. The TC-L42D2Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s IPS LCD panel produces a viewing angle that is wider than most of the competition. When standing up or changing viewing position off to either side, image quality remained quite constant, maintaining high contrast and minimal color shift, a welcome departure from other makersÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ designs.
We ran our usual battery of video tests and the Panasonic did exceptionally well with standard definition (SD) sources. It aced the HQV tests for noise reduction, film conversion known as 3-2 pulldown, and maintaining fine detail. This places its SD performance in the top range of 2010 models tested.
The TC-L42D2 performed with equal aplomb in the battery of HQV high definition tests, also acing noise reduction, de-interlacing and 3:2 film conversion.
We moved on to image uniformity and gray scale testing. Like other LED LCDs we’ve tested the D2 has some issues with uniformity when viewing a full raster white screen. There was some intensity drop off in the four corners, however, this was never was noticed with regular program material.
The D2 is a 120 Hz LED LCD design.Ã‚Â We sampled all the three of its Motion Picture Pro 4 modes using our FPD motion resolution test disk. In the Ã¢â‚¬Å“OffÃ¢â‚¬Â position the D2 scored a typical 320 lines (per picture height). The Ã¢â‚¬Å“WeakÃ¢â‚¬Â mode kicks in PanasonicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s motion estimation/motion compensation circuits, producing 600 lines (PPH), exactly the same resolution as other 120 Hz brands we have tested in the past. For reasons unknown to us, the Ã¢â‚¬Å“StrongÃ¢â‚¬Â mode produced 360 lines (PPH) of picture resolution. We kept the TV in weak mode of all our image evaluations, although we are at a loss to explain the resolution drop off in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“StrongÃ¢â‚¬Â position.
Black level on an LCD is always the toughest to measure, as it is affected by both the backlight control and the brightness control. The Panasonic has excellent range in the controls and as we have recommended in the past, setting the black level at the lowest point possibleÃ‚Â (Ã¢â‚¬Å“0Ã¢â‚¬Â) produces the deepest inky blacks this LCD is capable of making.
Using our trusty Minolta LS-100 meter, black level clocked in at a dark 0.013 foot-Lamberts, however, this lowered maximum viewing brightness to a 14 foot-Lamberts, a figure that requires Movie Theater like room lighting for viewing. We compromised by kicking up the backlight control to Ã¢â‚¬Å“8Ã¢â‚¬Â which slightly raised the black level to 0.018 ft-L while increasing maximum brightness to a reasonable 22 ft-L, a very acceptable level for subdued room lighting conditions. If you are doing a lot of daytime viewing without adequate window shades, there is plenty of range in the control the allows the set to crank out a blazing 59 ft-L using the factory default Ã¢â‚¬Å“CustomÃ¢â‚¬Â picture mode.
If you enable A.I. Picture, which is off by default in Cinema mode, the LEDs ramp up an down with the image. So a black image results in the screen going completely dark, but a white image is bright. The on-screen contrast ratio though, (that is, the difference between the brightest and darkest portion of any given image), doesn’t change. Instead you get fairly dim looking dark scenes, and really bright, bright scenes.Ã‚Â Even though the dynamic contrast ratio is infinitely higher with A.I. Picture turned on, we left this feature off for our testing finding the set looked better with it off.
Low power consumption set a new Ã¢â‚¬Å“GreenÃ¢â‚¬Â record at HD Guru with the D2 using only 78 watts of power with the backlight at Custom Default setting, and just 50 watts with the backlight dialed to the number Ã¢â‚¬Å“8Ã¢â‚¬Â position.
Unlike a number of its competitors, the Panasonic TC-L42D2 lacks color management and user accessible gray scale control. This was not a problem as the factory preset color points are near the industry Rec. 709 standard. For the geeks out there the numbers are: Red x0.641 y0.333/Green x0.311 y0.600/ Blue x0.153 y0.060.
Gray scale was very good out of the box at the Ã¢â‚¬Å“WarmÃ¢â‚¬Â color temperature setting with a reading 6365 Kelvin @20 IRE (x0.315 y0.327) and 6532 K @80 IRE (x0.313, y0.325).Ã‚Â We would recommend an experienced and qualified ISF calibrator if you want to tweak the set any better, as it must be done in the non-user accessible service menu. However, we highly doubt if any viewers would notice any improvement over these near-ideal factory default settings.
We put the D2 through its paces with a variety of satellite, cable and Blu-ray content. The combination of outstanding viewing angle, great color and deep blacks provided a very satisfying LCD viewing experience.
The Panasonic TC-L42D2 has the right picture controls and features to thrill most any potential LED LCD buyer. Priced on Amazon at just $914.51, the TC-L42D2’s fine signal processing and out of the box color and gray scale earns a position near the top of any list of LED TVs.
The HD Guru awards the Panasonic TC-L42D2 a four hearts Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥ recommended rating.
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