Panasonic TX-P50ST50B review
|Review: December 2012|
In a nutshell: The Viera TX-P50ST50B represents exceptional value for money. A 50 inch plasma screen with outstanding 2D and 3D performance, plus Smart TV and good sound, and all for around £1000.
Design & looks
There's definitely something about the Viera range of plasma TVs that harks back to the Cold War. Is it the gunmetal grey finish or the rectangular, utilitarian stand? Whatever it is, you'll find it here in abundance in Panasonic's highly affordable 50 inch plasma TV.
Top marks for design? We don't think so. But with a 50 inch black panel staring back at you from the corner of the living room, who cares about details like the thick bezel or the plain stand? It's a Panasonic, get over it.
It doesn't help that Panasonic seems to have its supporting documentation written by Japanese work experience students. Old-fashioned onscreen menus and a chunky remote control also fail to add any charm.
But to finish on a positive note, it's a lot slimmer than older plasma screens, and not significantly thicker than most LED TVs.
Don't allow yourself to be bamboozled by Panasonic's infuriating use of marketing babble when describing their display technology. Is a NeoPlasma panel different to an ordinary plasma panel? Is a Focused Field Drive something used to power interstellar spacecraft or is it a fancy name for the TV's refresh rate? Let's cut through the hype and see what this machine is truly capable of.
The basic response time for this panel is an astonishing 0.001 msec and it has a native contrast ratio of 5,500,000:1. These are numbers that an LED TV would die for. The fast response time means that there is never any lag or ghosting effect when the action starts. The high contrast ratio means that black means black. There's nothing wishy washy about the contrast, and you can see every detail, even in shadowy areas or in dark, moody scenes that LED TVs struggle with.
The viewing angle is ultrawide, so you get absolute colour fidelity even if you're sitting several feet to the left or right.
The bugbear of plasma screens is image retention (sometimes incorrectly referred to as screen burn), which is when an image like a channel logo persists for a short time after being on screen for several minutes. Image retention is definitely here, but it fades in a matter of seconds, and really isn't a problem.
We can't really fault this screen. If you force us to say something bad, we'll mumble that this isn't the brightest display on offer, but unless you insist on watching TV with all the lights on full, it simply isn't an issue.
Can we give 10 out of 10 when this isn't even Panasonic's most expensive plasma screen? I think we can.
As with all plasma TVs, the ST50B series uses active shutter technology. This has the benefit of delivering full HD images to both eyes (in contrast to passive 3D), but it does dim the image, so we'd recommend watching 3D movies in a darkened room for maximum effect. It's always more fun that way in any case. Especially for scary movies. If you watch a lot of 3D content during the hours of daylight (Jeremy Kyle in 3D?), you might prefer an LED TV instead.
Some active 3D displays suffer from flicker or crosstalk, but we saw no evidence of either effect here. 3D images are very real and solid, and on a 50 inch screen are really quite stunning.
We do have one complaint however, and it's that no 3D glasses are included in the sales package, so you'll have to budget for buying some glasses to go with the TV.
This TV has 2 front speakers and a subwoofer, and it certainly delivers more bass than most other TVs. Mid-range tones are reproduced with some gusto, so you'll have no problem following dialogue, and for general TV viewing the built-in speakers should prove adequate. However, if explosions and loud music are your kind of thing, you'd be wise to add a dedicated 5.1 home cinema kit to your shopping list.
Panasonic's VIERA Connect is quite comprehensive, with support for youtube, the BBC iPlayer, facebook, twitter and Netflix. There's also a web browser with HTML5 support.
Connectivity isn't a problem with this TV. With Wi-Fi and an ethernet cable socket, you can easily connect to the internet, and DLNA support allows you to stream movies and music from a PC or tablet. 3 HDMI connections are provided, as well as a combined component/composite connection for your AV equipment. There are two USB ports for memory sticks, cameras, etc, and even a microSD card slot. Audio connectors include an audio input, a digital audio output and a headphone jack.
A Freeview HD tuner is included, although not Freesat.
Conclusion - we're loving it
Being a plasma, it's a bit of a gas guzzler when it comes to power consumption, using around twice as much electricity as the most efficient LED screens. However, that's really the only reason not to buy this TV. Compared with similarly-priced LED TVs, this offers a bigger screen and better picture quality, which is surely the whole point of a TV.
We frankly can't think of any reason not to buy the TX-P50ST50B. It's not 100% perfect (no TV ever is), but in the £800 - £1200 price bracket, this TV comes closer to perfection than any other.
Panasonic TX-P50ST50B features include:
- 50 inch plasma screen
- 1920 x 1080 resolution
- Infinite Black Pro
- Smart VIERA Engine Pro
- 2000Hz Focused Field Drive
- 3D Ready (Active 3D)
- Game Mode
- Freeview HD
- VIERA Connect with web browser
- Audio: Dolby Digital Plus/DolbyPulse/DTS 2.0+Digital Out, V-Audio ProSurround 2.1, front speaker (8 train speakers) x 2, woofer x 1
- Connectivity: Wi-Fi, Ethernet (LAN) x 1, HDMI x 3, USB x 2, SD card, headphone x 1, component in (Y/Pb/Pr) / composite in (AV) x 1, digital audio out (optical) x 1, Audio In x 1, RF In (Terrestrial / Cable input) x 1
- Energy efficiency class: C
- Typical power consumption: 180W
- Size without stand (WxHxD): 1180 x 709 x 50 mm
- Size with stand (WxHxD): 1180 x 757 x 335 mm
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