Pros: Excellent picture quality, streams content from Hulu Plus, Netflix, etc.
Cons: Requires separate WiFi adapter
My experience using this product thus far? I purchased this Panasonic E5 series to replace an older LCD model TV set. I was originally looking for a large monitor to connect to my computer. I currently have been watching TV through Hulu Plus, so when I saw the E5, capable of streaming Hulu Plus content directly to the TV without connecting a computer to the TV, I was very excited.
The 42" E5 is quite large, weights about 45 pounds, and is rather easy to assemble. I was able to pick up the box myself, but enlised the help of my significant other when unpacking the TV, just to be safe. The back of this particular Panasonic, the E5, is all smooth, shiny, beautiful metal. This is nice, having seen some flimsy looking television sets, this has some substance, despite it being very thin.
Assembling the base required a screwdriver, and some patience. Make sure to take the time to really slowly and evenly tighten all 8 screws. After setting up the TV, make certain that all the screws are good and tight. On my 42" E5, the screws needed some time to properly seat themselves, and then needed to be tightened again.
With the built in Hulu Plus integrated into this Panasonic E5 television set, I'm able to control my Hulu content using a remote control, which is very convenient. Before watching, though, the E5 recognized that it needed to update it's software, and that took about 5 minutes or so, but required little effort on my part.
The television set, out of the box, requires an internet connection via a CAT5 network cable. The TV set is WiFi ready, but at the time of this review, and after recieving the TV, the WiFi adapter is sold separately, and is currently pre-ordered. For now, I have run a long cable from my router to the TV set, and there were no problems getting the TV to connect.
If ordering the WiFi adapter, as there are WiFi adapter models out there that work with last years Panasonic sets, but not with this years E5 series TV, and vice-versa. Check the model numbers carefully, and as of writing this review, expect about to pay about and extra $75 for the Wi-Fi adapter.
As I mentioned earlier, this Panasonic E5 series TV set utilizes a light-emitting-diode (L.E.D.) backlit, liquid crystal display (L.C.D.). LCD displays have been around for a while now, but the older TV models were backlit using a compact fluorescent backlight. In a nutshell, the new Panasonic utilizes the LED technology, which makes the TV extremely energy efficient: I removed a energy star sticker from the front of my set, and it is estimated to cost about $9 a year to operate.
Some models in my size class, (I ordered the 42" model), can cost up to $48 a year to operate. Keep in mind, that if you live in an area where air conditioning is essential, the extra energy used by the competition could wind up increasing your A/C bill as well as increasing the bill directly. Part of the savings comes from the so called C.A.T.S. feature: this is enabled by default. When the room darkens, the E5 senses this, and adjusts the backlight accordingly. This saves power, and makes viewing more pleasant when the lights are dimmed.
The set does come loaded up with 4 HDMI ports: this is nice. HDMI ports are the new standard. Video games, video disc players, computers, etc., all utilize the new HDMI cable to deliver high quality pictures, and the cable carries sound information as well. HDMI cables are sold separately, and start at about $20 retail, from what I have seen. I have yet to utilize the HDMI cable connection, but have still enjoyed the beautiful HD display that the E5 has been graced with.
I am currently utilizing the network CAT 5 input in order to stream Hulu Plus content, and my DVD player is connected utilizing the component video inputs. With this particular set, the component inputs have a proprietary adapter. The RCA & component cables transition into a little jumper with a double headphone-jack-like connector on one end. Odd, I had never seen anything like it in 30 years of experience with electronics, but it seems to work well.
The VGA input is an important feature: not all HDTVs have this feature. Previous to owning the E5, I utilized a somewhat older netbook PC, and had connected that to my even older HDTV that had the VGA port on the back. The VGA picture quality is about middle of the road: it is an older technology, but some older PCs have nothing other than the VGA output: it is nice that the E5 has a VGA input so that I can use my PC with the E5.
One drawback to the Hulu Plus content on the Panasonic E5, is that currently, certain shows and content are only available on the web. Technically, at least according to Hulu, the Panasonic E5 cannot play some content on Hulu due to licensing restrictions. Fortunately, I have my netbook for backup, but I think this is worth mentioning.
I currently do not have a Netflix account open, so I'm not sure if their content has licensing restrictions, but be sure to inquire about this before purchasing, or be prepared to still use your PC in order to watch certain shows on Hulu Plus. This is not really a problem with the E5, but more of a problem with the content licensure.
The sound quality on this particular set is good. I would not say excellent. The bass is somewhat lacking, but the speakers are capable of playing and reproducing voices very well. I have not been able to find a headphone jack on the set, at least not yet. I don't know if this was an afterthought, or what. Perhaps there is a headphone jack, but I have yet to find it.
Since I do not have high definition TV content delivered through traditional means, I decided to purchase an antenna at the local retail department store. I get about 25 channels, and the quality of the picture is very good. This was an approximately $40 antenna. The TV requires programming, then after programming you must select "save changes," and I was actually surprised at the numbers of channels that came in with just a small antenna.
The impressive number of channels might be due to the fact that I programmed the TV set, and let it know that I was utilizing an antenna (it actually asked). It will also tell you the signal strength, if you care to know (just go to menu, then setup). The picture quality with broadcast signals is very good with the E5.
In conclusion, I highly recommend the E5. I purchased the 42" size, but the competition reviews the E5, and combines reviews for the E5 series. As far as I know, the only difference is the picture size. The 42" is quite large, and with my poor vision, anything larger than the 19" set I was using is much easier to see. The bright, crisp, clear picture from the E5 is very nice, and it can be seen from nearly a 180 degree angle. I am very satified with my purchase so far.