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Panasonic LED TVs are on the rise

Panasonic has always been a force when it's come to its plasma TVs, but a bit of an also-ran when it comes to its LCD TV products. Not anymore, at least judging by initial reports on its 2013 sets. Feedback is still a little too limited to vault these LED TVs to the top of our Best Reviewed charts, but there's enough to indicate that some Panasonic TVs give equivalent models from manufacturers such as Samsung, Sony and LG a run for their money, and makes them worth considering for certain buyers. Speaking of which, unlike those companies, and others, Panasonic has thus far resisted implementing a unilateral pricing policy, which means careful shoppers might find some bargains.

Panasonic's flagship WT60 series gets an average rating from TelevisionInfo.com's Lee Neikirk, but his words express more admiration than the raw numbers would indicate. He calls it "beautifully designed" and says it "performs admirably." While most reviewers give their highest marks to sets that tend to look their best in dark rooms, this LED TV is an outstanding performer -- "impressive," even -- in a well-lit room. The flip side is that it's a poor choice for use in a darkened home theater. There are no quibbles when it comes to color performance; it is perfect, or near enough to perfect to please even perfectionists. It's also a good set for large families because of its very wide horizontal viewing angle. However, its vertical viewing angle isn't as very wide -- something those who want to wall-mount their TV should keep in mind.

The WT60 also comes well equipped. Panasonic has joined the movement to passive 3D, and that's what you'll find on the WT60, along with four pairs of glasses in the box. Yet it's Panasonic's smart TV suite that draws the most kudos.

VieraConnect has been extensively revamped, with useful perks such as the ability to create a home screen that mirrors how you want to use the smart features and that contains only the apps that matter to you. Different users can create specific home screens and face detection technology can be used to automatically sign on. One negative is that default settings push pop-up ads when using VieraConnect, but Amazon.com owners say it's pretty simple to turn them off -- even though Panasonic doesn't make it easy to learn how. There's no gesture control here, but a voice control feature comes via a microphone in the remote. These LED TVs come in two screen sizes: the 47-inch Panasonci Viera TC-L47WT60 (Est. $2,500) and 55-inch Panasonic Viera TC-L55WT60 (Est. $3,000) .

Further down the line, we see impressive feedback for Panasonic's ET60 series. Professional reviewers give the set good to great ratings, including an Editors' Choice award at PCMag.com. This is a mid-tier TV that splits the difference between the best possible performance and the most attractive pricing. Black levels are far from the deepest around, says PCMag.com, but brightness is high and screen reflections are reasonably well controlled, making the ET60 a good choice for rooms with moderate or even high ambient lighting. Some experts grumble about color performance, with LCDTVBuyingGuide.com calling it "accurate and realistic, but certainly not superb." PCMag.com says color performance is good but not ideal, but the consensus is that it's more than good enough to please all but the pickiest of videophiles. Like the WT60, the set has better than average horizontal viewing angles yet worse than average vertical ones.

Panasonic has cut a few corners in terms of features, but only a few. The VieraConnect smart platform found on the WT60 is included, as are voice-control features, but face detection is missing and only two pairs of passive 3D glasses are included. The refresh rate is reduced from 240 Hz to 120 Hz (native) but reports say motion performance is excellent. Available models include the 55-inch Panasonic Viera TC-L55ET60 (Est. $1,600) and 50-inch Viera TC-L50ET60 (Est. $1,270) .

The least expensive Panasonic LED TVs to get much professional feedback are those in its E60 series. About.com calls the set it tests a great example of how much TV you can get for a relatively modest price. Picture quality, especially color performance, is excellent, and blacks are decent. However, while About.com credits the TV with good uniformity, others note the kind of uneven screen brightness that's typical of edge-lit LED TVs (and most often seen in only the darkest scenes). Viewing angles smaller than the Panasonic WT60 and ET60, and at least one review calls them only decent, falling short of what's exhibited by the best LED TVs. VieraConnect is included, but there's no 3D support. Available sets -- all of which should perform similarly -- include the 42-inch Panasonic Viera TC-L42E60 (Est. $600) , 50-inch Panasonic Viera TC-L50E60 (Est. $700) , 58-inch Panasonic Viera TC-L58E60 (Est. $1,000) and 65-inch Panasonic Panasonic Viera TC-L65E60 (Est. $2,525) .

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