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Panasonic TX-P50VT50B review

 Review: December 2012  
 

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Viera TX-P50VT50B must be the ultimate TV, with almost perfect 2D and 3D performance, and with an enormous 50 inch screen.



 

Design & looks

Design isn't Panasonic's strong point, although they've made a bit more of an effort with the flagship VT50 range, giving it a relatively narrow bezel and a very slim overall design. The boxy stand doesn't do it any favours though, and for such an expensive purchase you might have expected a little more finesse.

Still, you choose a Panasonic TV for what it's capable of when switched on, not as a piece of furniture, so let's move on. We'll just comment that having a 50 inch glass panel sitting in your TV room is bound to introduce a certain amount of awe, regardless of the design details. It's a hint at the delights that are to come when we push that "on" button. Are you ready? Then let's do it ...

Picture quality

It's hard to review a product that's this close to perfection. Any faults we point out will be nit-picking at best, and would give a false impression that the display is anything but perfect.

We'll start with the incredibly fast 0.001 millisecond response time of the plasma panel. This is orders of magnitude faster than any LED screen, and means that there will never be any lag or ghosting on this screen. Panasonic claims that the panel runs at an effective 2,500 Hz refresh rate, which is their fastest ever, although once you reach this kind of speed any further improvements will have negligible effect on the viewing experience. Let's consider the "response speed" box well and truly ticked.

Next we'll examine the contrast levels. Although the brightness of the display isn't a match for most LED TVs, when it comes to black, nothing compares. With a native contrast ratio of 6,000,000:1, black pixels are rendered truly black, and there's no risk of backlighting bleeding into the scene as so often happens in edgelit LED TVs. With this level of contrast, every detail can be discerned in the images and image fidelity is almost perfect.

Panasonic's new generation plasmas are capable of displaying 24,576 equivalent steps of gradation and colours look very natural on the screen. The Infinite Black Ultra filter reduces reflections to a minimum too.

The ultra-wide viewing angle of the screen means that you can watch from anywhere in your TV room, and the picture stays absolutely the same with no discernible colour shifts.

If you're new to plasma screens, you might be worried about the phenomenon of "screen burn", where a persistent image, like a TV channel's logo stays on screen afterwards. Rest assured, you can forget about screen burn, because it doesn't happen. There might be a ghostly image apparent for a few seconds after prolonged viewing, but it fades very quickly, does no lasting damage and only happens in cases where there is a static image displayed for many minutes at a time.

Now, you might be curious about the THX certification of this TV. THX certification is like one of those ISO 9001 logos that double glazing companies put on the sides of their vans. It isn't a kind of technology, it's just a test certificate. What it means is that the TV has been tested by THX engineers and calibrated to ensure that colour standards are adhered to and the image quality as tuned to its best.

We can say without any hesitation that the VT50 is Panasonic's best plasma TV. It's probably better than any other TV we've tested. But is it noticeably better than the cheaper ST50 series? The differences are very minor, and the majority of people really wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

3D

3D performance is as perfect as 2D. Like all plasmas, the VT50 uses active shutter 3D, guaranteeing that the picture resolution is full HD.

Two pairs of 3D glasses are included, and they are quite comfortable to wear, although heavier than normal glasses and slightly heavier than passive 3D glasses.

There are practically no problems with crosstalk here, and only very occasional flickering from the glasses. The quality of the display ensures that 3D images are rich and detailed. We found the experience to be totally immersive, with the 50 inch display generating a truly awesome 3D experience.

The only problem is that the glasses do cut out around 50% of the light, and since the plasma screen isn't that bright to begin with, we'd strongly suggest watching 3D TV with the curtains closed and room lights dimmed. Of course, if you're a serious movie buff, this is already how you watch TV.

Audio quality

By equipping the VT50 with a small subwoofer as well as left and right stereo speakers, Panasonic are making an effort to get it to do something most flatscreen TVs fail to do - inject some bass into the audio experience.

There is certainly more bass here than usual, but dare we say it, perhaps too much, or of the wrong sort. There's a tendency for lower frequencies to drown out the mid range, so voices are sometimes masked by background booms.

With the majority of TVs the problem is the opposite - insufficient bass, so the fact that Panasonic is trying to do something about it is to be welcomed. Still, we'll repeat the advice that we give for almost every other TV we've reviewed - buy a 5.1 home cinema kit to accompany this TV, if you want to get the best out of it.

Smart TV

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

As you'd expect for a flagship TV, pretty much every connectivity option is available. Both Wi-Fi and ethernet internet connections are built in, as well as DLNA support so you can stream movies and music from a PC or other compatible device. There are 4 HDMI ports in addition to a combined component/composite AV connection. Two USB ports are available for plugging in memory sticks and cameras, and there's also a handy microSD card slot. Audio options include an audio input, a digital audio output and a headphone jack.

In addition you'll find that both Freeview HD and Freesat HD are included.

Conclusion - the best

So you're looking for the ultimate TV? Stop here - you've arrived at your destination.

This plasma TV is the best home cinema experience you can fit into 50 inches! if you want better, you'll need the 55 or 65 inch model. Both 2D and 3D performance are as close to perfection as you'll find anywhere. The design may not be to everyone's taste, and the energy efficiency is rated at a rather poor "C", but everything else about this TV is good.

A more difficult question to answer is - "is it worth the money?" After all, it costs close to twice as much as the TX-P50ST50B and the same as the 65 inch ST50 model. It does include 2 pairs of 3D glasses, worth about £200, but the ST50 Series TVs are so good, we don't think it's worth paying the extra for the VT50. If you really want the ultimate and are willing to pay for it, then choose the VT50. Otherwise, choose the ST50 and save yourself nearly a grand!


Panasonic TX-P50VT50B features include:

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