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Panasonic TX-P50ST60B review

 Review: May 2013  
 

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Viera TX-P50ST60B upgrades S21's Best 50 inch TV of 2012 with even better picture quality, better audio and new Smart TV!



 

Review

We recently reviewed Panasonic's high-end 55 inch VT65 plasma TV and declared it to be the best TV we've ever reviewed. But with a price tag of £2,400 it's going to be too expensive and too big for most people. So we're really anticipating the 50-inch mid-range ST60 TV, offering most of the same features but at less than half the price. And since we awarded last year's ST50 our "Best 50 inch TV of 2012" award, we have high hopes for the 2013 model.

Design & looks

The styling of the VT50 lacks the panache of the VT65 range. It's more in the traditional style of Panasonic TVs, with a functional, rectangular stand. At the same time, it's significantly slimmer than the VT65, measuring just 43mm deep, which makes it even slimmer than many of Samsung's edgelit LED TVs, and it has a reasonably narrow bezel around the screen as well. Overall there's nothing wrong with the way the TV looks, and 50 inches of flatscreen TV always delivers plenty of impact in the average living room.

An optional extra is a pop-up camera that can be used both for Skype calls and for facial recognition, enabling different family members to have their own personalised home screen. This is not included in the basic model, however.

In addition to a standard remote control, voice guidance is available, and a novel feature is the inclusion of a Touchpen, which can be used to "draw" on the screen, although we can't really see the point - only the risk of damaging the screen.

Picture quality

Last year's ST50 series scored 10 out of 10 for picture quality, so we're expecting nothing less here. In fact, far from being content to rest on their laurels, Panasonic's engineers have been busy working to improve the already stunning image quality further.

The NeoPlasma display is now even faster then ever, with the 2,500Hz Focused Field Drive outperforming any rival except Panasonic's more costly VT65 series. It's stunningly fast, eliminating any kind of motion problems. There is a slight lag in Game Mode which hardcore gamers might detect, but for movies and sport it's unbeatable.

When it comes to colour reproduction, the ST60 can reproduce 12,288 gradation steps rather than the 30,720 shades of the VT65, but even so, it's very difficult to spot any difference.

Blacks are almost pure black on this screen - Panasonic call this "Infinite Black Pro" and the contrast ratios are benchmark perfect. The High Contrast Filter helps to eliminate reflections and keep performance at peak.

The viewing angle is ultrawide, so you get absolute colour fidelity even if you're sitting several feet to the left or right.

THX Mode is missing, which might bother some film connoisseurs, but smooth 24p playback is present, which any movie buff will welcome.

Although there are minor differences in the specification of the ST60 and the VT65, in practice the screens both perform with perfection. The only difference is the slight lag in gaming.

3D

3D performance builds on the fine 2D capability. Using active shutter technology, the TV can display full 1080p HD at smooth 24p frame rates, giving the best possible 3D experience, at least on paper.

In practice, performance is outstanding, with virtually no crosstalk or flicker, provided that background lighting in the room is dimmed. The glasses do cut out a fair bit of light, so if you plan to watch 3D content during daylight you'd probably be better off with a passive 3D LED TV. This is a fundamental limitation of active 3D rather than being a criticism of this particular television.

In any case, we're nit-picking. In optimum conditions, the ST60 produces stunning 3D content that will simply blow your socks off. Just be aware that only one pair of 3D glasses is included in the sales package, so you might need to budget for some more.

Audio quality

We're delighted to find that no compromises have been made with audio quality. The TV uses the same high-quality sound system as the VT65 flagship model. In addition to the twin front-firing speakers on either side of the screen, there's a dedicated subwoofer for added bass. This is a definite step up from typical TVs. The total power of 20W includes 5W from each side speaker and a whopping 10W from the subwoofer. You'll notice the results when playing games, watching movies and even just listening to dialogue.

In combination with the VR-Audio Pro Stage 2.1 surround sound, the TV is a match for many dedicated soundbars, although it can't match a full 5.1 or 7.1 home cinema system, which is recommended for enthusiasts.

Menus & Smart TV

Panasonic has refreshed its menu design for 2013, introducing the My Home Screen concept as the basic starting point for navigation. The home screen can be extensively customised. From the home screen you can move to other screens, the Electronic Programme Guide, access menus, launch apps or select full screen viewing. The menus are perhaps a bit sprawling, and it's not as tight as Samsung's offering, but it's not a bad system at all. In fact, we like it.

There are plenty of apps available, including the BBC iPlayer, Skype, YouTube, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, a web browser and channels like BBC News and Sport.

One difference between the ST60 and the VT65 is that the ST60 uses a slower processor to power the menus, so moving between screens and launching apps is a little slower on the cheaper model.

Connectivity

Internet connectivity is available via an ethernet cable or built-in Wi-Fi.

There are 3 HDMI connections and 3 USB ports, plus a microSD card slot, and SCART, headphone, component/composite and digital audio connectors. In addition you'll find a Common Interface (CI) slot. A Freeview HD tuner is included, but not Freesat.

DLNA support enables you to access music, videos and photos from a home network. You can also download an app to use your smartphone as a remote.

Conclusion

The 2013 ST60 range is slightly more expensive than last year's ST50 range, but the improvements in Smart TV and the bundled pair of 3D glasses justify the modest price increase. It's certainly much more reasonable than the flagship VT65 range.

There are a few features missing from this "mid-range" offering, including the slower processor (noticeable when using apps), the lack of a camera (available as an optional extra) and a few downgrades in the picture quality (noticeable by pros). Twin tuners are missing and the design is perhaps a little lacklustre. But get real - the cost saving is something like £700 and the few compromises seem worth the huge reduction in price.

If we rule out the VT65 on grounds of affordability, then the P50ST60B stands out as the best TV for picture quality for less than £1,200.


Panasonic TX-P50ST60B features include:

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Reviewed by Glenn Atkinson from England on 15th Nov 2013
Fantastic on every aspect for picture and sound quality . This tv really needs I player , 40d and five on demand to persuade others to invest
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