Panasonic’s mid-range ET5A is a cheap passive 3D TV

Panasonic VIERA ET5A
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5


  • Bright enough for daylight viewing
  • Decent picture quality
  • Good 3D, four 3D glasses included


  • Picture quality isn’t especially accurate
  • Occasionally sluggish interface

Bottom Line

Panasonic’s ET5A is a reasonably cheap TV, with solid but unspectacular picture quality. It’s got Panasonic’s VIERA Connect Smart TV service, which is OK but not great, although it is sometimes slow to operate.

Would you buy this?

  • Price

    $ 1,749.00 (AUD)

The Panasonic VIERA sits in the mid-to-low end of Panasonic’s 2012 television line-up. It’s a passive 3D LED-edge-lit LCD TV, with Smart TV features built-in. It’s cheaper than other Panasonic LED TVs like the WT50A, ET50A and DT50A, and cheaper than the top plasma VT50A, but is in roughly the same price bracket as the excellent ST50A.

Panasonic VIERA ET5A: Design and setup

Panasonic has pushed its design envelope somewhat with the WT50A LED and VT50A plasma TVs, but the ET5A stays true to the company’s traditionally conservative styling. This isn’t a bad thing — it’ll suit a wider range of decors, and look less garish in an office boardroom — and we like the overall finish.

The comparatively thick, dark grey bezel surrounding the VIERA ET5A’s screen is itself surrounded by a thin strip of translucent plastic. Panasonic calls this a ‘premium crystal frame’ — we wouldn’t go that far, but it’s a nice enough design accent.

There’s a Panasonic company logo in the centre of the lower bezel, and a VIERA branding logo in the top left. Neither of these logos light up like they do on more expensive models from different brands.

The stand of the ET5A is, like Panasonic’s other televisions, solid and simple. It’s well-engineered, includes a swivel range of around 30 degrees, and is held to the TV itself with a total of eight screws. A nylon strap can also be attached to the TV and the stand for extra reassurance.

The amount and range of connections on the rear and side of the Panasonic ET5A are standard for a television of its price and specification: there’s nothing in particular missing. The inclusion of four HDMI ports is good — better than the three of mid-range models from Samsung and LG — and adapters are included for analog composite and component inputs. There’s also a 15-pin VGA port for connecting an older PC, although most modern machines and laptops will be better served with HDMI.

Three USB 2.0 ports are on the TV’s side, easily accessible to connect external hard drives, USB drives, external keyboards or Panasonic’s Skype webcam. Panasonic also includes an SDXC card slot on all of its TVs — all the better for viewing photos off your Panasonic compact or mirrorless camera, although any JPG and other supported media files will work. The ET5A can play AVCHD/MJPEG/WMV/MKV/AVI/MP4/MOV video files, MP3/AAC/WMA/FLAC audio files, and JPG/MPO image files.

Network connection is handled by the Panasonic ET5A’s inbuilt Ethernet wired and Wi-Fi wireless adapters. 802.11 b/g/n wireless is supported, and the TV can both function as a DLNA client (to play media stored on other networked devices) and server (to share media from a connected hard drive to other devices).

The setup process for the Panasonic VIERA ET5A is as easy as any other Panasonic TV: snap together and screw on the stand, hook up power, antenna and optionally a network cable, hit the power button and you’re almost ready to go. A three-minute channel scan, a quick network setup — push-button wireless is supported, as is entering a password manually — and you’re ready to go.

Panasonic VIERA ET5A: Picture quality and performance

Panasonic’s plasma TVs and its top WT50A can extract plenty of detail out of a scene, with displays that are calibrated to look neutral and accurate. The ET5A, like most other mid-range LED TVs, goes for punchy contrast and over-saturated colours in its default Standard mode.

This is a picture profile that looks impressive — whether it’s in the store or in a home setting — but does rob some detail from highlights, shadow areas and areas of intense colour. We changed the TV to True Cinema for slightly more accurate rendition, although Cinema is also good despite its cooler white balance.

You’re not going to get the same picture-perfect results from the ET5A as from the WT50A or ST50A, but the television is certainly acceptable enough for all but the most discerning viewers. There was a bit of outright detail missing from our viewing session of Avatar, but the film itself still looked excellent.

The ET5A is a passive 3D TV, using polarised cinema-style glasses instead of the active kind that Panasonic has traditionally used. Passive 3D is our favourite of the two systems for its low cost of entry, lack of flicker under fluorescent light, and subjectively ‘better’ 3D quality — we’re happy Panasonic’s used it in the ET5A. Our viewing of Avatar 3D and the London 2012 Opening Ceremony, broadcast on a temporary Channel Nine station, looked good, with virtually no cross-talk from the high quality Blu-ray source.

Being an edge-lit TV without local dimming, the black level of the Panasonic VIERA ET5A is acceptable but not great, especially when you’re watching particularly high-contrast video with lots of bright whites alongside dark blacks — movie credits, for example, or some night-time scenes in The Dark Knight and Batman Begins. In these situations the TV tends towards blooming whites and greyish blacks — it’s a problem that can’t be avoided without an LED-backlit (not edge-lit) LCD or a high-end plasma.

During normal viewing of the VIERA ET5A we weren’t able to notice any troublesome spotlighting or cloudiness from the edge-mounted LEDs — this points to good build quality and some level-headed default picture profiles. You can bump the TV’s backlight brightness up by a large amount on the ET5A, making it a good choice for a bright daylight viewing area like a living room or boardroom.

The screen of the VIERA ET5A is moderately reflective, without the painfully glossy finish of high-end fashionable TVs like the Samsung Series 8 or LG LM9600. If you shine a bright light source from directly in front of the TV, you’ll see it, but the coating does a decent job of diffusing light from a less bright source like a curtain-covered window.

Our biggest bugbear with the VIERA ET5A was that it was occasionally slow to respond to inputs or to load content when browsing the VIERA Connect streaming video service. It’s not a major problem, but there were a few instances where we hit a button two or three times while waiting for an action to complete — like opening the ABC iView app, for example — and then once the TV completed that action, it would jump ahead of where we were expecting to be. When you’re using the VIERA ET5A, sometimes you have to just be patient and precise with the remote control.

Speaking of VIERA Connect, it’s the same service as we’ve tested in the VIERA ST50A, VIERA VT50A and DMR-PWT520. With direct streaming access to ABC iView, YouTube, Quickflix and others, it has access to the best Australian TV and movie on demand services but doesn’t have the diversity of Samsung or LG’s Smart TV suites.

Panasonic VIERA ET5A: Conclusion

The Panasonic VIERA ET5A doesn’t have the same excellent picture quality as the other Panasonic TVs we’ve tested this year — it’s merely good instead of great. Its styling is similarly acceptable, as is its Smart TV implementation. It’s a solid choice, but the ET5A does little to distinguish itself from a crowd of similar models from competing brands.

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