Panasonic GT50 (TX-P50GT50B) 50 Inch Full HD 3D Plasma TV Review
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Steve Withers takes a look at Panasonic's elusive GT50
The model we have for review is the Panasonic P50GT50B 50 inch Full HD 3D Plasma TV with a Freeview HD tuner and full UK specifications. Also available is the Panasonic P42GT50B 42 inch Full HD 3D Plasma TV which has not been reviewed here but should offer the same features and a similar performance.
Last year's GT30 was a very good and very successful TV for Panasonic, perhaps a little too good and too successful. Throughout 2011 the display won a boat load of awards and sold like hot cakes to consumers looking for high-end performance, without the high-end price. The reason for this was that the GT30 offered almost identical performance to the VT30, with the exception of the more expensive TV's black filter, and at a reduced price. Yes the GT30 didn't come with the single sheet of glass facia, the snazzy remote or two pairs of glasses but in terms of performance there was little to differentiate the two displays. The result of this was that the GT30 took sales away from the higher end VT30 and probably cost Panasonic in terms of lost margin in an already highly competitive market.
This left Panasonic with something of a dilemma in 2012 and their solution appears to involve reducing the number of screen sizes for the GT50, so as not to compete directly with the VT50. This year the GT50 only comes in two screen sizes, a 42" and a 50" and since there's no 42" VT50, that means anyone looking for a TV with that screen size should be adding the GT50 to their short list. However, anyone looking for high end performance from a screen size larger than 50" will have to go straight to the VT50. That leaves the 50" screen size as the only area where consumers can choose between the GT50 and the VT50, although the lack of a price for the GT50 on Panasonic's website means the P50GT50 might have a more limited availability. Panasonic have taken an interesting approach to their pricing this year and are offering substantial discounts to retailers with actual stores rather than those online. This means that whilst the P50GT50 might be difficult to come by, there are some incredible deals on offer from those 'brick and mortar' retailers that do stock it.
In terms of specifications, the GT50 certainly seems to mirror the reference VT50 quite closely. It includes the same new G15 NeoPlasma Panel, 2,500Hz Focused Field Drive, dual core processor and 24,576 shades of gradation as per the VT50. It also has the same comprehensive set of calibration controls, 3D capability, THX certification and an impressive array of connections, all wrapped up in an attractive design. What's missing? Well the VT50 has the Infinite Black Ultra filter which might give it the edge in terms of black levels and of course it includes the single sheet of glass design. Otherwise the only differences are that the GT50 doesn't come with any 3D glasses or the touch pad remote but that's no great loss. So on paper the GT50 appears to offer the promise of first class performance, assuming you can get hold of one of course, but let's see how it does in reality.
The full in-depth review follows after the summary and scoring and the Test Results are under the tab above.
Panasonic's incredible year continues, and the P50GT50B is yet another fantastic offering to join the ranks of the excellent P50ST50B and the reference award winning P50VT50B. The similarities between the specifications of the VT50 and the GT50 are obvious and whilst the VT50 has the edge, especially in terms of blacks, the GT50 does give it a run for its money. The P50GT50B may not have a facia made of a single sheet of glass but it's a very attractive TV nonetheless. The black bezel with its silver trim on the outer edge is elegant and sets off the screen nicely and the angle of the two tone stand gives the impression that the panel is floating above it. Despite the 50" screen size, the whole display is only 3cm deep and it has a solid and well-built feel that signifies a high quality product. There is a very comprehensive set of connections at the rear, with four side facing HDMI inputs and three USB ports but as always the HDMI inputs are too close to the edge.
The new glossy black remote is easy to use and well laid out and if you want to watch 3D, Panasonic's new RF glasses are incredibly light and work very well. The menu system is essentially the same as last year but Panasonic have added another sub-menu called Network, which is dedicated to setting up the built-in WiFI and the VIERA Connect platform. The P50GT50B also has built-in Freesat HD and Freeview HD and you can connect a HDD via USB and use the programming timer in the menu system to record and store programming. The P50GT50B is THX certified for both daytime and night time viewing and on top of all that, the isf certified calibration controls on the P50GT50B are excellent, with a parametric Gamma control, a ten point White Balance Control and a full six axis Colour Management System.
Whilst not as impressive as the VT50, the out-of-the-box performance of the P50GT50B was excellent and the greyscale measurements had errors that were on the limit of what the human eye can perceive. There were some slightly more noticeable errors in terms of the colour gamut but, even here, the overall performance was very good and for a factory preset the THX Cinema mode delivered what it promised. Thanks to the superb isf controls, the calibrated performance was absolutely reference in terms of greyscale and colour gamut. The gamma was also spot on and unlike last year, the parametric controls didn't cause any artefacts when used. The video processing has been improving each year and is now excellent, passing all our tests and delivering fantastic standard definition images and some wonderful high definition pictures, especially from Blu-ray.
As a result of the incredibly accurate picture and the excellent video processing, the resulting 2D images were spectacular. The P50GT50B could deliver lovely images from any source but when fed a 1080p/24 Blu-ray the results were incredible, with a staggering level of detail from a picture that was clean and largely free of PWM noise. The black levels were deep and imposing but there was still plenty of detail in the shadows and these wonderful blacks resulted in an excellent contrast ratio and an impressive dynamic range, although we would like to see more brightness in the Professional modes. The motion handling was also excellent, especially on Blu-ray content, where images had a smooth film-like quality that was free from judder.
There were no problems with floating blacks or brightness pops and we used test patterns to check the uniformity of the screen itself, which was very good with no signs of the dreaded green 'blobs' that were reported on some of last year's Panasonic plasmas. We also had absolutely no problems with image retention and whilst there was still some occasional false contouring, that's more of a limitation of the technology. The same goes for flicker which some people might notice but we only saw occasionally with bright static test patterns. We didn't see any line bleed, nor did we experience any colour flashes although people who are susceptible to rainbows might. Whilst could still occasionally see evidence of the 50Hz bug, we generally didn't notice it unless we went looking and it certainly didn't detract meaningfully from the wonderful images that the P50GT50B was producing.
The 3D images produced by the P50GT50B were excellent, with well defined depth and a sense of solidity to the objects on screen. Whether the 3D content was provided by a frame sequential Blu-ray, a side-by-side TV broadcast or a 3D game, the P50GT50B was able to detect and correctly display the 3D images. There is a dedicated 3D menu for users to customise their 3D experience and the 3D picture modes can be calibrated separately from the 2D modes, although THX Cinema seemed to offer the best compromise in 3D. Overall, when it comes to native 3D content, the P50GT50B is another great plasma from Panasonic that can deliver a wonderfully engaging 3D experience.
The P50GT50B is DLNA certified which means it can connect with other such devices and stream content over your home network. You can also access content via USB or SD card and from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Whilst the VIERA Connect internet platform looks basically the same as last year, Panasonic have added a number of new applications to their platform and their VIERA Connect Market. The P50GT50B has dual core processing which makes VIERA Connect far more responsive than previously. We also tried out the VIERA Remote app which was easy to connect and simple to use, providing an effective way of controlling and communicating with the P50GT50B. Finally, the P50GT50B had a measured input lag of 30ms in Game mode and is very energy efficient of a plasma of this size.
If you're in the market for a 42inch television, then there is currently nothing out there to compete with the GT50 and it should be on your short list. If you're looking for a 50" screen then there is the option of the VT50 but depending on your budget, and assuming you can find one, the GT50 could give you almost all the flagship's incredible picture performance and features at a very attractive price. Highly Recommended.
Styling and Design
The P50GT50B follows Panasonic's new 'metal and glass' design philosophy for this year, although it doesn't look wildly different from last year's GT30. The most obvious difference is that the P50GT50B has the silver trim along the outside of the bezel, rather than along the inside. This is a sensible move from Panasonic and we would like to think it's because they have been listening to our feedback. A black bezel gives the eye a point of reference that sets off the actual image better, this is one of the reasons we aren't so keen on the recent trend for silver bezels. The inner silver trim on last year's model ruined this effect and distracted the eye but on the outer edge it looks very attractive. The bezel itself is a glossy black and measures 2.5cm at the top and sides and 4cm at the bottom. Along the centre bottom of the bezel is the Panasonic logo, which thankfully doesn't illuminate, to the right of that there is the infra-red receiver for the remote control and on the right hand edge there are some basic controls.
The 50" screen itself is obviously made of glass but perhaps thanks to the filter designed to reject ambient light, it wasn't as reflective as some displays and we never had a problem with reflections during daytime viewing. Incredibly, despite having a 50" screen the entire chassis is only 3cm deep and one wonders how Panasonic manage to cram so much into such a small space. The back plate is made of black metal and the whole display has the well engineered and solid finish that we have come to expect from Panasonic. Whilst there are numerous vents on the back of the panel for cooling, the P50GT50B doesn't use any fans, so there is no fan noise during operation. There is a very slight buzz from the power supply but this can only be heard when you hold your head a few centimetres from the back of the panel, which is hardly the ideal position for watching TV. The P50GT50B weighs 23kg without its stand and there are the standard fixing points for wall mounting. The stand itself is equally attractive and is square in shape with a two-tone finish and a silver trim. When mounted on the stand the P50GT50B appears to be floating above it, which is a nice effect and the panel can be swivelled by a 10 degree angle to either side. The overall design of the P50GT50B is both contemporary and tasteful, with a solid build quality that gives you the feeling you have bought a high quality product.
To accommodate the new sleek proportions, the rear connections are downwards and sideways facing, to make wall mounting easier and inputs for legacy connections use supplied adapters. The AV2 connection doubles up for component and composite video and the AV selection menu lets you manually select which type of signal is being sent, whilst the AV1 input is exclusively for SCART sources. The connections for these breakout adaptors are facing downwards, along with the aerial and satellite inputs, a SPDIF digital out and a LAN socket for those without a wireless network. Facing sideways we have four HDMI inputs of which HDMI 2 is marked as the Audio Return Channel (ARC) but will only take Stereo back to your AV receiver from anything other than the internal tuner. Also facing sideways there are three USB sockets, with USB 1 designated for HDD recording, a headphone socket, a SD card slot and a Common Interface (CI) slot. All in all a very comprehensive set of connections and our only comment would be that the absence of a RS232 serial connector might cause problems for custom installers. Our only real complaint is that the HDMI inputs are just 9cm from the edge, which is far too close if you use heavy duty HDMI cables. This is a common problem with modern TVs and your only choice if you don't want HDMI cables poking out the sides, is to either use right angled adaptors or to stop wasting your money on big thick expensive cables. It is good to see that unlike certain other manufacturers, such as Samsung, the power cable on the P50GT50B uses a three pin plug that can be detached. In fact this is the only connection that faces rearwards but sensibly Panasonic have provided a cable with a right angled connector to aid in wall mounting.
Along with the ST50 and VT50, the P50GT50B uses the same upgraded remote control, which whilst still made of plastic, has a rather attractive gloss black finish and feels very comfortable in the hand. It is well made, sensibly laid out and easy to use, it even includes a backlight for use in the dark. All the main buttons are present and correct, including On/Off, Menu, 3D, Inputs, Internet (for VIERA Connect), VIERA Tools (for accessing different media content) and Guide (Electronic Programme Guide). Overall we rather like the new look Panasonic remote control and our only complaint is that the glossy finish does rather show up greasy fingerprints. The P50GT50B does not include the Touch Pad remote that ships with the VT50 but based on our findings this is no great loss.
Unlike the VT50 the P50GT50B does not ship with any 3D glasses, as standard, but frankly almost no TV does these days because 3D is now just regarded as another feature. However, for the purposes of this review, we were able to test out a pair of Panasonic's newest active shutter 3D glasses (TY-ER3D4MU), which have only just been released. These new glasses use RF (radio frequency) rather than IR (infra-red) to sync with the TV and in that sense they are similar to the glasses that Samsung use. A number of the manufacturers are working together to create a standardised pair of active shutter glasses, which is a good idea but you can't help thinking they should have done that from the start. Thanks to the use of RF, the glasses never had any problems syncing to the P50GT50B and we never lost the connection once. That's the good news, the bad news is that the P50GT50B doesn't have an IR emitter built into it, so should you have any of Panasonic's three previous generations of glasses lying around, you can't use them with the P50GT50B or any of Panasonic's other 2012 3D TVs for that matter.
Aside from the use of RF instead of IR, the new glasses share the same general design as the earlier TY-EW3D3ME glasses and as such they are incredibly light - at 26g - and so comfortable to wear that you quickly forget you've got them on. The glasses themselves have quite large lenses that fit over regular glasses, provide a suitably wide field of view and are very neutral in tint. There is a switch at the top of the frames above the bridge of the nose where you turn on the glasses, they sync automatically and will switch off if they don't receive a sync signal for 5 minutes. You can fully charge the glasses in a couple of hours but a 3 minute charge should give you enough battery life to get through a film.
Menus and Set Up
The P50GT50B uses essentially the same menu system as last year and we remain very impressed with the overall design, which has a very modern feel to it, with subtle use of colours against a black background. The menu system is also very responsive, easy to read and intuitive to navigate. The menu now has five primary sub-menus Picture, Sound, Timer, Setup and a new one called Network.
The Sound sub-menu has three modes - Speech, Music and User - and allows control over various aspects of the display’s built-in sound including the bass, treble and balance, as well as the headphone volume control. If you select User mode, there is an Equaliser and there are also controls for the Surround mode, the Auto Gain, the Volume Correction and for setting the distance from the speakers to the wall. There is a control for Audio Description for use with the Freesat and Freeview tuners and you can elect to turn on or off NICAM, whilst the SPDIF selection allows for either sound to be sent as PCM or decoded to Dolby Digital Bitstream. There are also controls for setting the Voice Guidance for the visually impaired. Given how thin the P50GT50B is, we weren't expecting the sound to be great and it wasn't. It was good enough for basic television watching and the 24 hour news channels but for anything more critical we strongly recommend using a sound bar or, better still, connecting to an AV amplifier.
The next sub-menu is new for Panasonic's 2012 TVs and allows the user to setup the Network. The inclusion of this menu obviously reflects the addition of built-in WiFi and it allows the user access to Connection Test, Network Connection, Wireless Network Settings, IP/DNS Settings, Network Link Settings, Software Update, New Software Message and Network Status. Next there is the Timer sub-menu where the user has access to the controls for the Timer Programming, Off Timer and Auto Standby.
Within the Setup sub-menu there are controls for the TV Guide Settings, Eco Navigation, Recording Setup, Bluetooth Setup, Link Settings, Child Lock, Freesat Tuning Menu, DVB Tuning Menu, Display Settings, DivX VOD, System Menu and Other Settings (power settings and USB charging). Finally, there is a control called Advanced (isfccc), by selecting On you unlock the isf calibration controls in the Advanced Settings of the Picture sub-menu.
Finally there is the Picture sub-menu, which offers a series of Viewing Modes including Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, THX Cinema, THX Bright Room, Game, Professional1 and Professional2. This sub-menu also includes all the usual picture controls such as Contrast for adjusting the luminance of the video signal, Brightness for adjusting the black level, Colour control and Sharpness. There is Vivid Colour which boosts the saturation of the colours and C.A.T.S. (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) which is designed to adjust the Contrast setting from scene to scene in order to boost the contrast ratio numbers, this can cause fluctuations in the image and is best left off. There is also a P-NR (Noise Reduction) function that is designed to reduce compression artefacts but we found this control to be of no real benefit so turned it off. Finally there is a Colour Gamut option that gives the user the choice of Remaster (a wider colour gamut) or three industry standards - Rec.709, SMPTE-C and EBU.
Also within the Picture sub-menu there are the Advanced Settings where you will find the 16:9 Overscan. It is important to ensure that the 16:9 Overscan function is set to Off, otherwise the display will scale high definition content which will reduce the resolution of the material you are watching. Here you will also find a new control called 1080p Pure Direct that promises to pass a full 4:4:4 video signal over HDMI, allowing for slightly enhanced chromatic resolution. The acceptance of 4:4:4 is new ground for Panasonic PDP and another sign they’re taking the enthusiast market seriously. There is also a control for Intelligent Frame Creation or 24p Smooth Film (when the content is encoded at 24p) which can be set to Off/Min/Mid/Max. Then there is the Clear Cinema mode for film cadence detection and the Resolution Enhancer control which is essentially another sharpness control and is best left off. The DVI Input can be set to either Normal or Full, where Normal represents video levels (16-235) and Full corresponds to PC levels (0-255) but if the input is straight HDMI – rather than a HDMI to DVI connection – the GT50 will automatically operate in Normal mode. There is also a 3D Refresh Rate control, which we will cover later in the review. Finally the Side Panel control increases or decreases the brightness of the side panels, whilst the Pixel Orbiter and Scrolling Bar functions are designed to reduce image retention.
The P50GT50B has an extensive selection of calibration controls that have been certified by the isf and include two and ten point White Balance controls, a full six axis Colour Management System and a ten point parametric Gamma control. This Gamma control allows for selection of a specific curve of 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4 or 2.6, as well as an S curve. There is also a parametric control for fine tuning the gamma curve at specific IRE points. Last year this control introduced artefacts when used, so hopeful things have improved this year.
Then there is a two point White Balance control for a basic calibration of the greyscale. However thee is also a far more accurate ten point control, which should allow a professional calibrator to fine tune the greyscale at specific IRE points, which will hopefully result in a reference performance.
Finally and for the first time, Panasonic have included a full six axis Colour Management System (CMS) which will allow the user or a professional calibrator to adjust the luminance, saturation and hue of the three primary colours (red, green and blue) and the three secondary colours (cyan, magenta and yellow). This level of control should also promises that the colour gamut on the P50GT50B can be brought to a reference standard.
The last important menu is the 3D Settings sub-menu where you will find the 2D to 3D Depth control which allows you to select the 3D image depth on 2D to 3D conversion as well as a 3D Adjustment for controlling the depth on actual 3D material. There is a control called Picture Sequence which reverses the 3D image and an Edge Smoother function that is presumably designed to work with lower resolution side-by-side material. There is also a 3D Detection mode that when on will automatically detect the 3D signal (frame sequential, side-by-side or top and bottom) and display it correctly. Finally there is a control for turning off the 3D Signal Message and there are some Safety Precautions.
As you would expect from a modern TV, the P50GT50B comes with an impressive array of features including Freesat HD and Freeview HD but in order to utilise this and other features, the display needs to be set up correctly first. This process is fairly painless and when you first turn the P50GT50B on, you will be asked if you want to tune in all the digital channels. This only takes a few minutes and the resulting Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) is a big improvement on last year as Panasonic appear to have dropped all the unwanted adverts, leaving a guide that is easy to read and use. As an added feature, you can also connect a HDD via USB and use the programming timer in the menu system to record and store programming.
The P50GT50B comes with WiFi built-in, so you can connect directly to your wireless network but if you don't have one then you can connect to your router or network using a LAN cable. Once you have set up your network connection, you can then begin using the P50GT50B's Smart TV capabilities, which Panasonic call VIERA Connect. Whilst it looks basically the same as last year, Panasonic have added a number of new applications to their platform. Obviously the ubiquitous BBC iPlayer is present and correct and, of course, there's Skype (although you'll need the camera and microphone attachment to use it), as well as Twitter and Facebook. In addition you get BBC News, Euro Sport, YouTube, AceTrax, CineTrailer, Dailymotion, Euronews and new additions like Netflix, where you can watch movies and TV shows on demand. Another addition is the VIERA Connect Market, where you can buy and download additional apps and games, in much the same way that you can from Apple's App Store and Android's Marketplace.
Besides having a wide choice of apps, the other important elements of an internet platform are that it is easy to access and responsive. In this sense VIERA Connect was a success because it was simple to launch, you just press the Internet button on the remote, and it was very quick to navigate. Our only complaint about Panasonic's internet platform is that in order to move from one page to the next, you have to select MORE or BACK, rather than just going directly to the next page but this is a minor quibble. The inclusion of dual core processing certainly made VIERA Connect very responsive and we found navigating the pages and accessing apps was quick and easy. We downloaded the VIERA Remote app and found it was easy to connect and simple to use, providing an effective way of controlling and communicating with the P50GT50B. The VIERA Remote app also meant that you had a keyboard, which made typing things on VIERA Connect much easier and was useful for the web browser. Strangely the P50GT50B doesn't come with the new Web Browser already included and you need to download the web browser app from VIERA Connect Market. You will find the app in the News and Lifestyle section and you don't actually need to create a VIERA Connect account to download it. Once we had found the web browser app and downloaded it, we found that it worked quite well and was reasonably fast but ultimately we're more inclined to do our web surfing on a tablet.
As far as connectivity goes, the P50GT50B is fully DLNA certified which means it can connect with other such devices and stream content over you home network. You can also access content via USB or SD card and from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. To access content such as photos, music and videos, as well as any recordings on an external HDD or a media server, you just use the VIERA Tools button on the remote. We found sharing content between a tablet device and the P50GT50B to be very easy using Panasonic's 'swiping' technology. Quite simply if something is playing on the tablet, if you hold your finger down and move it upwards, the content will begin playing on the P50GT50B. Conversely you can also move content playing on the P50GT50B to the tablet device using a similar approach. In terms of file support the P50GT50B is fairly comprehensive and can handle AVCHD, MPEG, DivX HD, WMV, MKV, AVI, MP4, MOV, MP3, AAC, WMA, FLAC, JPEG and MPO, which should cover most people's needs.
2D Picture Quality
Thanks to the incredibly accurate greyscale and colour gamut, plus the excellent video processing, the P50GT50B delivered some spectacular 2D images. The overall picture quality was just superb and the P50GT50B produced some of the best images we have seen, regardless of whether they were from standard or high definition sources. Standard definition content looked good but it was with high definition content that the P50GT50B could really impress, delivering a wonderfully detailed and natural image. This detailed image was in part due to the incredibly clean picture that was largely free of PWM noise and when we put on a Blu-ray, the P50GT50B was able to show what it was really capable of, delivering incredibly detailed and film-like pictures with smooth judder free motion.
Panasonic have been busy refining their plasma technology in the last year and both the VT50 and GT50 range share a lot of the same innovations. They both incorporate the new 2500Hz Focused Field Drive which uses an ultra-fast panel response time of 1/2500th of a second from which the technology gets its name. This allows for a much reduced pixel address time, compared to previous Panasonic plasmas, and a more even distribution of light through the sub-field phases, which should result in cleaner and sharper looking motion. It should also deliver the added benefits of deeper blacks and a brighter appearing image, as well as the ability to produce more gradations in darker portions of the picture. Panasonic claim an effective 24,576 equivalent steps of gradation, which is four times that of the previous generations, so it should result in some benefits to shadow detail.
What were the results of all this innovation? Well the blacks looked spectacular and were in fact some of the best we have seen. The Infinite Black Pro filter was certainly doing its job during the day and when we put out the lights at night, the resulting blacks were incredible. They were very deep and inky, the kind of blacks that provide a solid base to the image and result in an impressive contrast ratio and a suitably wide dynamic range. We measured a 0 IRE screen at between 0.015 and 0.008 cd/m2 in a completely black room, which gives you an idea of how unreliable these measurements can be. However, using a ANSI checkerboard pattern we measured black at 0.011 cd/m2, which isn't as good as the VT50 but is still very impressive. What was even more impressive about these backs, was that there was still plenty of shadow detail, although there was some noise just above black but you would need to be very close to the screen to see it.
Last year's Panasonic's struggled to deliver very bright images in the Professional modes and this year, Panasonic claim that energy savings have been used to generate greater levels of brightness. We found that a calibrated night setting in Professional2 could deliver about 32 fL and a calibrated day mode in Professional1 could deliver about 40 fL. Whilst not blisteringly bright, they are brighter than last year and we always found the image to have sufficient brightness, even when watching a calibrated night time mode during the day. Conversely we measured the THX Cinema mode at 40 fL and the THX Bright Room mode at 65 fL, which frankly are probably a bit too bright.
As far as other reported issues on Panasonic plasmas are concerned we had absolutely no problems with image retention, even when we left static test screens up for a prolonged period of time during calibration. Like all plasmas however, if you do subject a panel to static images over a long time and in bright picture modes, IR can be an issue. There was still some occasional posterisation and the odd phosphor trail but that is just a limitation of the technology. The same goes for flicker which some people might notice but we only saw occasionally with bright static test patterns. If you suffer from rainbows there is a chance that you could see flashes of colour from the panel but again we didn’t experience this problem. Last year there were problems with fluctuating brightness but this appears to have been eliminated as we didn’t see this once on the P50GT50B. We ran the P50GT50B in for over 100 hours before we began testing and using various patterns to check the uniformity of the screen, we could see no sign of the dreaded green 'blobs' that were reported on some of last year's Panasonic plasmas. Of course we obviously cannot give 100% assurances that this will stay the same over a longer period of time.
The two biggest problems with Panasonic plasmas, and the ones that have generated the most comment over the last two years, are the 50Hz bug and dynamic false contouring. The first problem, which only manifests on 50Hz material and is therefore not just a limitation of plasma technology, in general, is best described as breakup or fringing on the edges of moving objects. This problem has gradually been reduced by Panasonic over the last two years and we could barely see the problem on the P50GT50B, in fact the majority of the time we didn't see it at all, but every now and then it would manifest around the edges of a moving object or camera pan. However if you do find it to be an issue, setting IFC to max can eliminate it entirely. The other problem of false contouring is also occasionally visible, usually when someone's face moves across the screen and you see their skin tones break up into red and green contours. This problem also seems to mostly manifest with 50Hz and once again setting IFC to max can eliminate the issue. Personally we never found either issue to be a major problem and they certainly didn't detract in a big way from what was a marvellous picture overall. Of course, if you feel that either of these issues will be a problem, as always we suggest you demo a P50GT50B.
3D Picture Quality
It is no secret that Panasonic have put a lot of their resources behind 3D and its relative failure has been a disappointment to them but they continue to deliver some of the best performance in this area. The P50GT50B continues this trend by delivering some of the best 3D that we have seen. When it comes to active shutter Full HD 3D we have found that Panasonic’s displays have the edge over the competition in terms of both handling motion and crosstalk and their use of high speed drive technology, high speed illumination and fast decay phosphors has clearly paid dividends and resulted in excellent 3D images.
Thanks to the inclusion of the THX 3D mode the P50GT50B delivers a wonderfully accurate 3D picture, with an image that appears bright and colours that appear natural. There is a dedicated 3D menu that allows users to customise their 3D experience and there are separate settings for the calibration controls which means you can also calibrate the 3D picture mode if you so desire. The new glasses also helped with the performance because they're so light and comfortable that you forget that you're wearing them, there is no noticeable flicker to distract you or cause fatigue and the tint free lenses don't cause discolouration. Thanks to their use of RF instead of IR, there were also no problems with losing sync or any other issue that might take you out of the 3D experience.
A screen size of 50" is probably the limit for an immersive 3D experience, any smaller and the effect becomes more akin to looking through a window. The immersive nature of the experience was also improved by the general lack of crosstalk which meant we never found ourselves being drawn out of the movie. There were very occasional instances but you really had to look for them and they were never distracting. The display was able to handle fast movement without ghosting or artefacts which was especially obvious when playing fast moving 3D games, although they can often contribute their own set of problems through poor implementation from the developers.
The 3D images produced by the P50GT50B were excellent, with well defined depth and a sense of solidity to the objects on screen. Whether the 3D content was provided by a frame sequential Blu-ray, a side-by-side TV broadcast or a 3D game, the P50GT50B was able to detect and correctly display the 3D images. The P50GT50B includes a 2D to 3D conversion function but whilst this worked to a degree, it remains nothing more than a gimmick feature that is best avoided. Overall, however, when it comes to native 3D content, the P50GT50B is another winner from Panasonic that can deliver a wonderfully engaging 3D experience.
We measured an input lag of 30ms with the P50GT30B in Game mode, which is comparable with last year's GT30 and this year's VT50 but more than we measured in our review of the ST50. It is interesting that quite often the lower range TVs do have lower input lags but 30ms is a respectable number and we were certainly not aware of any lag during gaming. Of course more serious players might notice it but we feel that the majority of people will be happy with an input lag of 30ms.
Despite that fact that plasma tends to use more energy than LCD due to the inherent nature of the technology, Panasonic have taken great strides in making their plasmas as efficient as possible. In fact this year they decided that since their plasmas were already delivering an excellent degree of efficiency, they would use any energy savings to boost the brightness of the 2012 models. The P50GT50B measured an average calibrated draw of about 180W in Professional mode for 2D viewing and for 3D material it drew around 220W in THX mode. In standby, the P50GT50B was drawing less than 0.5W, so overall the P50GT50B is very efficient for a plasma of this screen size.
Imaging Science Foundation
The organistion which created standards for calibrating displays
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ISF CCC controls
Special controls which allow precise calibration of the display, usually by an ISF certified calibrator.
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THX Certification and THX mode
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8,034 word review viewed 107,214 times.
Full HD 3D Plasma TV
Size: 50 inch television
Suggested price: £1,299
Reviewed 4th April, 2012 by Stephen Withers
Supplied for review by
To get the best out of your TV or projector, consider getting it calibrated.
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