Panasonic X50 (TX-P42X50) 42 Inch Plasma TV Review
It might not be fashionable but Panasonic's 720p Plasma does still impress
IntroductionThe 42 inch Panasonic X50B is a far more understandable product than the recently reviewed XT50B which featured the baffling inclusion of low res 3D and, at 50 inches, obvious loss of resolution with 1080 content. We can certainly see a place for this TV for those that just require something not ‘too big’ and aren’t bothered about all the latest features but would welcome plasma’s traditional strengths of natural colours, deep contrast levels and generous viewing angles. Let’s see if the Panasonic TX-P42X50B manages to be a relevant TV in this world of ever increasing resolution.
Styling, Connections and MenusThe X50 is a fairly unassuming customer, it’s all black and rectangular, bar the ‘cut-off’ corners at the bottom, and not particularly svelte, measuring around 8.5cm in depth at its deepest points. We’ve absolutely no problems with this approach and in typical Panasonic fashion, the chassis feels as though it’s engineered with solidity. The base-stand feels a little more lightweight, however, and looks as though it’s emerged from a few years back with its rather bland, rectangular design. More disappointingly, it doesn’t swivel.
The Panasonic X50B isn’t ideally suited to wall mounting, considering the girth and the fact the two HDMI connections are out-facing to the rear of the panel. Also on the rear connections panel are legacy SCART, Component and Composite analogue inputs; stereo audio jacks; the aerial connection and a LAN port. On the side is the CAM module interface, a SD card slot, 2 USB ports and the headphone jack. The X50 comes with the older style Panasonic remote control but retains, almost exactly, the button layout of the recently reviewed higher tier products but of course there’s no Internet or 3D Button.
The Picture menu contains a choice of Viewing Modes including Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, True Cinema and Game. 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 luminance of the colours and C.A.T.S. (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) which is designed to adjust picture contrast according to ambient light in the room but this can cause fluctuations in the image and is best left off. Finally there is 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.
Also in the Picture Menu there are the Advanced Settings where you will find the 16:9 Overscan option. 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 and eliminate image retention, respectively. Options we don’t have present are any calibration controls, IFC or a Clear Cinema setting. The former will almost certainly impinge on the ultimate image accuracy of the X50 whilst the latter may result in sub-par handling of some film based content. The lack of frame creation isn’t a huge loss and especially not the, 1080p based, 24p Smooth Film variant of Panasonic’s interpolation engine.
AudioThe X50 features the same 2 x 10w down-firing speakers as the XT50 which don’t really set the world on fire but they’re just about passable. Dialogue is clear enough and you have to push them quite hard to get them to distort but that’s about all we can say for them.
FeaturesIn a ‘Bullseyeesque’, ‘look at what you could have won’ kind of way we’d invite owners of the X50 to read our review of the Panasonic Smart TV in the knowledge that ‘all’ you have to play with is the facility to record programmes from the built-in tuners to an external USB hard drive and (fairly generous) support for playing back media files from a USB device. File support is listed as AVCHD, AVI, MKV and MP4, ASF, FLV, 3GPP, PS, MOV and TS containers for video but there’s no FLAC audio support, as per the higher tier models, with just MP3, AAC and WMA and, for photos, it’s jpeg only.
Out-of-the-Box MeasurementsTypically out-of-the-box Standard or Normal modes provide an image awash with blue energy, partly as a measure to combat a bright living room but more to fool the eye in to thinking whites are somehow ‘whiter’ than is the reality. In actual fact, there’s an industry standard for the colour and temperature of white that’s nothing like what is represented below via the RGB Balance Graph, which gives an indication of the relative amount of Red, Blue and Green in the greyscale, i.e from black to white. If we can get this mix correct, we’ll be providing a neutral background on which the colour signal(s) can be portrayed correctly. The X50 is, true to form, accentuating the blue energy to a very large degree which brings a highly unpalatable washed-out aspect to on-screen images. There was so much blue, in fact, that we had to rescale the RGB and DeltaE charts to display the full story. During a calibration we’d usually aim to bring Delta Errors to below 3 across the board to make them indistinguishable to the human eye, so the fact that some are as high as 12 tells its own story.
As with the XT50, we’re almost tempted to give Panasonic a pat on the back for managing to produce a colour Gamut so wide in the X50. Alas they’re nothing like the colours dictated by the Rec.709 standard used in the production of HD TV content so everything is overblown but unusually colours are actually under illuminated which gives a strange mix of over-saturated and a bit dim.
Since the X50 doesn’t possess any fine calibration controls in the user menus it gives us chance to evaluate what the typical viewer will be seeing, provided they have the knowledge and/or sense to switch in to the most accurate, True Cinema, picture mode. By comparison to the Normal mode, greyscale tracking is now far more acceptable. Forced to choose having an excess of anything it wouldn’t be green as it’s more noticeable to the eye but the excess here is toward the acceptable side. We could certainly sense a slight cast to pictures but nothing intolerable and because of the accuracy of the colours (see below) content was generally now looking very good.
As with all the 2012 Panasonics, colour accuracy is very impressive and it only took one notch on the global Colour slider to bring overall Delta Errors to below 3 and switching to some familiar test clips bore testament to the faithfulness of the colour palette. The CIE chart above shows performance at full saturation but the one below takes it a little further by showing the results at lower levels of stimulation and the X50 wasn’t found wanting here to any great degree either. Had we had White Balance controls and a CMS we could have no doubt improved further but we’re certainly not complaining given the price-point.
Video ProcessingThe X50 displayed all the same strengths and shortcomings we saw in the XT50. Scaling of standard definition signals was excellent but the lack of a film mode meant it couldn’t pick up on film content sent in an interlaced signal, so if you’re still using a DVD player connected (likely) by Scart, you might notice some unnecessary deinterlacing steps and resultant moire type patterns and break up of solid lines. The actual deinterlacing of video content was sub-par also, at 1080i, with some visible scaling artefacts around edges. One of the major challenges for a 720p panel is to display a 1080p24 signal cleanly and correctly and the X50 also struggled a little here too with, again, some scaling artefacts present but with a screen this size they are difficult to detect from average viewing distances.
Contrast and Black LevelThe Panasonic TX-P42X50 proved a very good performer in this test and whilst it couldn’t quite scale the heights the 1080p Viera’s are capable of reaching, an averaged black level of 0.03 cd/m2 , derived from an ANSI checkerboard pattern, is no cause for embarrassment and will leave almost all LED LCD TVs for dead. Shadow detailing is also impressive but the filter isn’t quite so good and those blacks will wash out in brighter viewing environments.
Gaming PerformanceThe 2012 Panasonic’s have been noticeably more sluggish than in years gone by when it comes to gaming latency; until now. The X50 would make an excellent console companion with its 720p resolution matching that of most of the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii U’s catalogue and an input lag below 30 milliseconds – less than 1 frame of a typical title.
- Standby: 0.0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 182W
- Calibrated – True Cinema Mode: 184W
Picture QualityWith its very accurate native colour reproduction and reasonably neutral greyscale performance, the X50 was well set to provide us with some rewarding viewing. Naturally our biggest concern is the loss of resolution with material with a higher native pixel count than the panel but unless we got closer than most would (around 6ft), we couldn’t really perceive much of a downgrade with images; as we got in to the ‘unsafe’ zone the limitations of the HD Ready panel became more evident with some scaling artefacts present – especially around the edges of objects – and a bit more blurriness than we’ve became accustomed to on our largely 1080p diet. Contrast levels were pleasingly superior to those of the otherwise ostensibly identical XT50, albeit only a little, but the increase in dynamic range was noticeable as the lights came down and this unfashionable little (by our standards) TV certainly packs a punch, even in the most accurate True Cinema picture mode.
Plasmas generally have a nice sense of fluidity to motion and the X50 furthers this reputation; sure if you scrutinise it’s possible to see a double imaging around edges but, again, at typical viewing distances with a screen of this size they were very hard to detect and the X50 makes itself suitable as an all-purpose TV, catering to sports and movie viewers with equal grace. Of course, unlike most LED/LCD TVs, viewing angles aren’t a consideration with TX-P42X50B able to keep both contrast levels and colours intact, even at the most acute and the fact that the panel resolution is closer to SD than it is full HD means it’s able to handle low rent standard definition with more aplomb than most of its Full HD cousins. If you’re restricted to a television no bigger than 42 inches and you don’t sit very close then the Panasonic TX-P42X50B is certainly worth a look.
- Great blacks
- Believable colours
- Impressive scaling with SD content
- Low latency for gamers
- Some visible scaling artefacts and loss of resolution up close
- Not the best in bright lights
- Not even a 2 point white balance control
- No 2:2 cadence detection
Panasonic X50 (TX-P42X50) 42 Inch Plasma TV Review
The Panasonic X50 may not be at the cutting-edge, stylistically speaking, but then again it’s plain, black appearance could surely not offend many, even if it won’t set the pulses racing. Connectivity options are quite limited, with only 2 HDMI inputs but we’d have thought for the intended market it’s probably enough. Menus are simple and well planned but we ended up missing the calibration controls and the feature-set is quite skimpy by 2012 standards, with only USB PVR recording and media playback, also via USB storage, the only real things of note. At least file support is strong via the USB Media Player.
The aforementioned lack of calibration options meant we had to settle for whatever the True Cinema picture mode could provide. Fortunately, the X50 proved quite accurate to the industry standards, especially with colours, and a minor green cast was the only real noticeable anomaly. Generally picture quality was quite striking, helped in no small part by excellent black levels and strong dynamic range and it was only when very close up that any scaling artefacts or loss of resolution were visible with 1080p content. Console gamers would also be very well served by the Panasonic X50 with its low input latency and resolution match for most games.
The Panasonic X50 has no delusions of grandeur. It doesn’t try to squeeze in 3D or pack a load of features its target audience will probably never use but it does cope with both high definition and standard content very well, with a satisfying mixture of rich, believable colours and great contrast levels. No frills? That’s for sure but that doesn’t stop it from gaining a deserved AVForums Recommended Award.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £598.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level8
Ease Of Use7
Value for Money7
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