The L55ET60's pictures are startlingly good at times, especially with 3D. But they also suffer a fairly significant flaw that serious film fans in particular will find hard to ignore.
Starting with the good stuff, the L55ET60's brightness levels are intense, delivering levels of instantly appealing punch that it's hard to believe are being produced from an edge-LED lighting system tucked behind such a puny bezel.
This extreme brightness proves extremely handy when it comes to the L55ET60's colour reproduction, too, driving tones across an agreeably wide spectrum right out of the screen without, critically, allowing the picture to lose tonal subtlety or become gaudy and unnatural.
The L55ET60's core colour tone is a touch warmer than that of the Panasonic L42E6 and other VA-type panel TVs. But far from being a bad thing, the L55ET60's slightly redder tone actually ends up sitting quite nicely with the sort of calibrated tones generally best suited to Blu-ray and DVD playback.
Another excellent aspect of the L55ET60's performance is its motion handling. The backlight scanning system manages to greatly reduce both the judder and resolution loss complaints usually suffered by LCD screens, and it does so without causing the image to look unstable or over-processed - so long, at least, as you keep the set's motion control options on a relatively low power setting.
Even if you don't want to use the motion processing at all the L55ET60 remains more accomplished with motion than most - a fact which also helps it deliver images of good - though not quite outstanding - clarity and sharpness. It's important to stress, mind you, that this clarity isn't pushed so hard by the L55ET60 that pictures break down into grittiness or other types of 'harsh' noise.
The efficacy of the L55ET60's processing engine can be seen in its reproduction of standard definition pictures too, as they're re-rendered up to the screen's native full HD resolution very pleasantly. We've seen some rival TVs make standard def sources look sharper, perhaps, but the L55ET60 sensibly works within its limitations by taking a gentler approach to adding detail that takes care not to add too much picture noise to proceedings.
Strong 3D playback
The L55ET60's single strongest area, though, has to be its 3D playback. Its 3D pictures suffer with practically zero crosstalk ghosting noise and enjoy extreme levels of colour punch and brightness - the latter being achieved, crucially, without dark 3D images being afflicted by the sort of backlight clouding woes still painfully common with edge-LED LCD TVs.
The lack of crosstalk helps 3D pictures on the L55ET60 enjoy a real crispness despite the fact that resolution levels aren't as high as those you get with good-quality active 3D TVs. The sense of space in the L55ET60's 3D images is deftly handled and credible too, and as we've often found before, the passive 3D format is generally more relaxing to watch for extended periods of time than the active format - especially if your room is routinely quite bright.
The L55ET60 isn't immune to passive 3D's weaknesses, though. In fact, its relatively large screen rather emphasises them. So it is that you can sometimes see faint traces of horizontal line structure from the polarising filter over very bright parts of the image, as well as jaggedness over small objects or contoured edges. For many people, though - especially families - the relative simplicity and affordability (given the provision of four free pairs of glasses) of the passive format makes perfect sense.
You're probably starting to wonder at this point about the the flaw in the L55ET60's picture make up mentioned earlier. So let's get into that now, as we put Panasonic's 55-inch mid-ranger through its paces with dark scenes.
The problem is that the L55ET60 just can't render the colour black with as much richness and authenticity as some of its rival TVs. Dark scenes thus tend to appear rather grey and misty, which inevitably prevents them from looking as natural and authentic as bright scenes.
Panasonic has provided a solid set of tools with which you can try to tackle the set's black level shortcomings. Engaging the adaptive backlight system can result in a generally more satisfyingly deep black tone, and we'd also recommend splurging down the backlight setting to as little as a third of its maximum value.
Taking these measures does result, though, in a significant reduction in the image's previously attractive brightness - as well as leading to a loss of detail in dark areas. Furthermore, no matter what we tried, dark scenes still looked a little grey compared with the best LCD and especially plasma TVs out there.
To put all this in perspective, the L55ET60's black level averageness isn't a big problem for much of your viewing time, given normal broadcast TV's preference for bright, colourful images. It's worth adding, too, that the L55ET60's contrast holds up better from wide viewing angles than that of many of its peers.
All the same, the L55ET60's contrast flaws could certainly could become an irritation to people who like to dim their lights for intense movie experiences from time to time.
The average black levels could also be a concern for serious gamers - as, sadly, will the the L55ET60's rather high input lag figure. Our tests produced a lag reading of 65ms on average, which is certainly high enough to reduce your abilities with timing- and speed-sensitive games.