The display reviewed is the TX-P50GT30B and the suffix denotes the UK model, although the same model may also be listed by online retailers as the TX-P50GT30E, TX-P50GT30 or TXP50GT30. In addition to the 50” model reviewed here the GT30 is also available in screen sizes of 42” and 46”.
Styling and Connections
The overall dimensions are very svelte for a 50” screen size with the bezel measuring just 3cm wide at the top and sides and 6cm at the bottom. The display is incredibly thin for a plasma and measures only 3cm deep at the top and increasing to 6cm deep at the bottom which is presumably to include room for electronics and the speakers. The front of the display is very clean with only the name Panasonic at the bottom centre and some basic controls on the bottom right hand edge. The overall build quality is excellent with the back of the chassis made of black metal and the whole display having a very solid feel. Of course all this build quality means that even with the shallow depth and narrow bezel the display still weighs in at 26kg without the stand, so bear that in mind if you are planning to wall mount it. The power cable is hard wired to the P50GT30B which is very surprising considering it is a reasonably high end display and even more surprising when you consider that the entry level C3 had a detachable kettle style power cable.
The connections have also undergone an upgrade with most of them now positioned within a recess along the bottom of the display and facing downwards. This is good to see and shows that Panasonic do listen to our feedback and are always trying to improve their displays where possible. The downward facing connections are the standard aerial socket and the satellite connector for the Freeview HD and Freesat HD as well as a LAN socket if you want to use a cable to connect the P50GT30B to the internet. There are also special connectors for SCART, composite video, component video and analogue audio (which all use provided break-out adapter cables) as well as a digital audio out and a headphone socket. Also at the back, in a recess, there are two USB sockets which can be used for recharging Panasonic's new 3D glasses. At the side there is another recess where you will find the CI (Common Interface) slot, an SD card slot and another USB socket for use with an HDD. There are also four HDMI inputs, one of which is clearly marked as the Audio Return Channel (ARC). Unfortunately these HDMI inputs are too close to the edge so unless you are using right angled HDMI connectors or adapters the cables are clearly visible at the sides. We would rather that Panasonic moved the HDMI inputs to face downwards along the bottom with all the other connections or alternatively if they are going to be facing out to the side then they need to be moved further in so that the HDMI cables can’t be seen from the front.
The remote control provided with the P50GT30B is essentially the same as the one used with last year’s displays so it would seem that Panasonic are only using the impressive new remote that we saw at their convention with the flagship VT30. Still, the basic remote is more than adequate and it is likely that a lot of people will be using a universal remote anyway. There are a few new additions to the basic Panasonic remote aside from the obvious change of colour to two tone silver and dark grey but the main addition is that of a dedicated 3D button. We also noticed that the remote still has a VIERA Cast button rather than VIERA Connect but Panasonic may have had trouble fitting the longer word into the space available. As with last year this remote is comfortable to hold and intuitive to use so whilst it might be a bit cheap and plastic it does at least do the job.
Unlike the VT30, which comes with two pairs of 3D glasses and a WiFi dongle included, the P50GT30B does not come with either. This obviously leaves the user free to either buy some 3D glasses or perhaps not bother if 3D doesn’t interest them. If the user is planning on buying 3D glasses they have two choices, either buy a universal pair such as XpanD’s X103 or buy 3D glasses made by Panasonic which retail for around £120. Panasonic launched a revised version of their 3D glasses late last year and the new design is a big improvement over their original style. The new glasses have large sides that block out ambient light, they are comfortable to wear, large enough to fit over regular glasses and they have a robust and solid feel to them. They are available in three sizes (small, medium or large) and they come in a strong plastic carry case. They are also rechargeable and can be connected to the USB sockets at the rear of the display for this purpose.
Menus and Set Up
Panasonic has updated its menu system for 2011 and overall we are very impressed with the new design. It is good to see that once again Panasonic has been listening to our feedback and addressed issues raised in previous reviews. The new look has a much more modern feel to it and gone are the blocky graphics and primary colours of the old menu to be replaced with more subtle colours and a semi transparent grey background. The menu system is also very responsive, easy to read and intuitive to navigate. The menu has four primary sub-menus Picture, Sound, Timer and Setup. 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 balance, an equaliser and the headphone volume control. Within the Timer sub-menu are controls for the Timer Programming, Off Timer and Auto Standby.
Within the Setup sub-menu there are controls for the Eco Navigation, Recording Setup, Link Settings, Child Lock, Display Settings, Network Setup, DivX VOD, System Menu and the control for turning the Advanced (ISFccc) menus on or off.
The final sub-menu is Picture and once again it is pleasing to see that Panasonic has been listening to our feedback. As opposed to last year important picture controls such as 3D Settings and 16:9 Overscan are no longer hidden away in the Setup sub-menu and now all the controls that are relevant to the picture are included in the Picture sub-menu.
The Picture sub-menu offers a series of Viewing Modes which range from an eye blistering Dynamic to a THX preset that appeared to offer very good out-of-the-box performance. There are also two ISF modes called Professional1 and Professional2 which allow access to additional Advanced Settings and can be locked. The idea is that the ISFccc controls provide a professional calibrator with the tools to accurately set the greyscale and colour gamut and then lock these settings so that they can’t be accidentally changed. The reason for two Professional modes is to allow the calibrator to create Day and Night settings, each of which is optimised for watching programmes under different viewing conditions. Once again Panasonic have been listening to our feedback and have finally included visible numbers on the picture settings but only in the Professional picture modes.
If the Professional1 or Professional2 mode is selected you will have access to the Advance Settings in which there are sub-menus for controls that had previously been included in the Setup menu such as the previously mentioned 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. 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/Mid/Max. We were pleased to see that Panasonic has finally included a Clear Cinema mode for film cadence detection, this is also something we have been asking for in our review feedback. There is also the Resolution Enhancer control which is essentially another sharpness control and is best left off and the Side Panel control which increases or decreases the brightness of the side panels. Finally the Pixel Orbiter and Scrolling Bar functions are designed to reduce image retention.
There are also sub-menus for white balance, Colour Management and gamma. The White Balance menu allows two point calibration of the greyscale, the Gamma setting allows a selection of different gamma curves and the CMS allows adjustments to be made to the Hue, Colour and Luminance of the three primaries. The CMS on previous Panasonic displays only allowed the user to adjust the Hue and Colour so once again this is another example of Panasonic making improvements based on review feedback.
Finally there is a 3D Settings sub-menu in which the 2D to 3D Depth control 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. Finally there is 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.
Measured Results Out of the BoxFor these tests we used the THX mode which should provide the best out-of-the-box setting. Since the review sample was brand new we ran the panel in for over 100 hours before actually taking any measurements.
As with the greyscale, the colour performance in the THX mode is also something of a disappointment. The CIE chartshows that the colour gamut is not quite as accurate as we would expect for a THX preset, although it might in part be due to the inaccuracies in the greyscale. You can see this inaccuracy represented on the chart by white being slightly off the D65 target and the error in the colour of white (DeltaC) and overall (DeltaE) both being over 5. However with the exception of red the luminance errors are all very small and this is important because our eyes are most sensitive to errors in the luminance (brightness) of colours. The other large errors relate to the hue of red and some over-saturation in cyan and magenta. The P50GT30B has a full CMS so we should be able to improve the accuracy of the colour gamut with calibration.
Calibrated ResultsFor the purposes of these measurements we used the Professional 1 preset which allowed us to set all the basic controls - as well as the gamma and to calibrate the white balance and the colour gamut. We were pleased to see that Panasonic had taken on board our complaints last year about the positioning of certain menus over the area the meter was reading during the calibration process. Now the central area of the screen was kept clear during calibration which made the process much easier.
The near reference greyscale performance immediately improved the overall colour accuracy and as the CIE chart shows the colour Temp. of white is now measuring spot on D65. As the CIE Chart is also showing the colour gamut is now measuring very close to the industry standard of Rec.709. The upgraded CMS allows the user to calibrate the luminance (brightness), Colour (saturation) and hue of the three primary colours which resulted in a very accurate colour gamut. Now any remaining errors are very minor and all relating to the secondary colours, unfortunately the CMS doesn't allow the user to calibrate these colours so these small errors can't be improved further. Regardless of that limitation this is an excellent set of results and a near reference level of colour accuracy.
Video ProcessingThe performance of the P50GT30B in the video processing tests was excellent overall, with just a couple of minor issues. Using both the PAL and NTSC HQV benchmark discs the SMPTE colour bar test was reproduced correctly, with the P50GT30B scaling the full 576i and 480i images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The P50GT30B also scored very highly in the jaggies tests on both discs as well as performing very well on the diagonal interpolation test, with two of the three moving bars appearing smooth and only the bottom most extreme bar showing very slight jaggies. The P50GT30B also had no problems in resolving all the fine brickwork in the detail tests on both the PAL and NTSC discs, as well as correctly displaying the waving flag footage.
As expected based on our experiences with Panasonic's VX200 and DT30, the P50GT30B managed to correctly detect 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) film cadence as long as the Clear Cinema function is on. However the P50GT30B struggled to detect 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence, it took nearly 3 seconds to lock onto 2:2 cadence at 50Hz and completely failed to lock onto 2:2 cadence at 30fps. Whilst the P50GT30B still couldn’t correctly detect 2:2 (PAL - European) cadence but it is a step in the right direction and yet another example of Panasonic listening to review feedback. Hopefully the engineers at Panasonic are reading this and the 2012 displays will finally be able to correctly detect 2:2 film cadence. The P50GT30B also performed well when displaying film material mixed with scrolling video text and correctly displayed the words without blurring or shredding.
The P50GT30B also performed extremely well in most of the tests on the HQV Blu-ray using high definition content. With the player set to 1080i the display correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests (provided the 16:9 Overscan setting is turned off) and showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as excellent resolution enhancement. The P50GT30B also had no problems in showing video text overlaid on film based material.
It is important to ensure that the Intelligent Frame Creation function is left off, unless you want film based material to look like video and for the same reason you need to ensure that the 24p Smooth Film function is also turned off when watching 24p material. Once the 24p Smooth Function has been turned off the P50GT30B reproduces 24p material superbly with no motion artefacts or judder.
Using the Spears and Munsil test disc, we checked the high and low dynamic range performance of the P50GT30B. The headroom performance of the P50GT30B was very good correctly reproducing from reference white (video level 235) up to peak white (video level 255). Whilst technically video is supposed to be between video levels 16-235 in actual fact there will be peak information between video levels 253 and 255 so it is important that a display doesn’t clip all the way up to video level 255. Conversely the P50GT30B only showed picture information down to reference black (video level 17) which is good because we want to see detail below to video level 17 but no below it.
50Hz BugLast year there was a great deal of discussion on the forum regarding issues relating to 50Hz material. It appeared that users of the 2010 Panasonic plasmas were reporting seeing red, green and blue ghosting or image breakup around fast moving objects and quick camera pans. These reports coincided with the start of the World Cup because the problem was very obvious during football matches as the camera panned across the white lines on the pitch. However, users were not experiencing the problem with Blu-rays encoded at 24p or when the Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) function was turned on. Here at AVForums we investigated the problem at length during our review of the VT20 and discovered that there was indeed a problem with Panasonic plasmas displaying 50Hz. Using the moving zone plate test (a series of concentric circles that can be moved around the display horizontally, vertically or diagonally) produced by our Sencore MP500 video test generator we were able to create 50Hz, 60Hz and 24p material in order to look for the problem. The problem manifested itself as image breakup on the leading edge of the moving white circles but was isolated to only 50Hz material and could indeed be improved by using the IFC. We discovered the same issues when we also reviewed the G20 later in the year.
Since then there appears to have been some confusion, not only amongst forum members but also on other review sites. Firstly the problem is not exclusive to football broadcasts, it is just that the constant camera pans and the white lines on the pitch make the problem more obvious. The problem is there in any 50Hz material but is obviously dependent on the amount of movement in the content and quite often it is masked by compression artefacts in standard definition broadcasts. It can however be easier to spot with PAL DVDs and especially on high definition broadcasts where the higher resolution and reduced compression make the problem more obvious. Secondly, this is not just posterisation which is a problem that affects all plasmas.
Once we had setup the P50GT30B the 50Hz bug was the first problem we looked for - we have some high definition football on the PVR for just such a purpose. We also used the 50Hz, 60Hz and 24p floating zone tests we used on the P65VT20 and P42GT20. reviews The result was that the 50Hz bug is still very much there and, although it might be slightly better than last year, we can't tell without doing a direct comparison with a 2010 Panasonic. However we can say that as before the problem only affects 50Hz material and we experienced no such problems with 60Hz games, 60Hz NTSC DVDs or 24p Blu-rays. In direct comparisons between the P50GT30 and our reference Pioneer Kuro the problem was easy to identify, especially with fast moving images or camera pans. We could also see in direct comparisons that the problem is not posterisation as has been suggested elsewhere.
In fairness to Panasonic we don't want to make a mountain out of a mole-hill because the majority of the time this problem is not obvious to see and many people won't even notice it. By turning the IFC to Mid you can reduce the problem and at Max you can almost remove the problem altogether but of course the downside is that film based material will take on a video like quality which is undesirable. However this might be an option for watching sport like football where the content is video based anyway. The problem is also dependent on the nature of the material and the size of the screen, the breakup was much more obvious on the 65" P65VT20 for example. It also depends on your viewing habits, the P50GT30B produced a spectacular image with 24p and 60Hz material so if you watch a lot of Blu-rays or NTSC DVDs then this might be the perfect display for you.
As always the problem is ultimately dependent on the user, there will be some who find the ghosting artefacts unacceptable and others that won't even notice. And as always we here at AVForums recommend that you demo the display before buying to ensure that you won't be disappointed. Personally, we were only aware of it on rare occasions and for the majority of the time we were very pleased with the performance of the P50GT30B. However given that the majority our viewing content here in Europe is 50Hz it needs to be mentioned and we will of course give our feedback to Panasonic.
Gaming PerformanceThe P50GT30B has a measured input lag of 30ms in Game mode which is slightly slower than some of Panasonic other plasmas including the recently reviewed P42C3B, - which has an impressive input lag of only 16ms. It is quite often the case that the cheaper entry level displays have lower input lags when compared to the higher end models but despite that the P50GT30B should still be fast enough for most people and will keep all but the most demanding gamers happy.
Energy ConsumptionPanasonic has placed a great deal of importance on producing energy efficient products in 2011 so it was interesting to see how the P50GT30B performed in these tests. A plasma will always use more energy than an LCD because it is a self illuminating technology which means the power consumption varies with the content shown on screen, the brighter the content the greater the amount of power used. The energy consumption was tested using 0, 50 and 100 IRE windows in the calibrated picture mode and measured 55 watts, 90 watts and 175 watts respectively. When viewing normal material in a calibrated mode the power consumption averaged 190 watts but this was on the full screen as opposed to an IRE window. Obviously in 3D mode the screen is brighter which will result in greater energy consumption but considering its size the P50GT30B is actually quite energy efficient for a plasma display.
Picture Quality - 2D
However it is with high definition material the P50GT30B really shines, producing a wonderfully accurate, detailed and colourful image. Freeview HD broadcasts looked especially nice, although unfortunately more detailed images did make it easier to spot the 50Hz bug on fast moving objects and fast camera pans. This, of course, was not a problem with Blu-rays encoded at 24p and the resulting smooth, judder free images were at times breathtaking. The combination of the higher resolution and accurate image along with the excellent blacks and dynamic range also helped to create a wonderfully film like experience.
The black levels on the P50T30B were excellent, especially after calibration and were on a par with those of last year's VT20. The updated Infinite Black Pro filter was clearly doing its job correctly, reducing screen reflections and producing deep blacks - even with ambient light. The only problem with this filter is that it reduces the vertical viewing angle but viewers are free to sit anywhere on the horizontal plane. Using our Klein K-10 meter we measured black at 0.019 cd/m2 which was very impressive but what was even more impressive was that using an ANSI checkerboard pattern the black squares measured a still impressive 0.022 cd/m2 despite being surround by white squares.
There was a lot of discussion last year about 'floating blacks', which occurred whilst displaying very dark content on the screen. The ABL (Automatic Brightness Limiting) circuity would raise the luminance of the entire picture when an object appeared on screen that raised the Average Panel Luminance (APL) level beyond a certain threshold. The reason for inclusion of the feature is power related but at least in some of the 2010 sets was implemented over aggresively leading to some quite dramatic fluctuations. Thankfully this does not appear to be a problem anymore due to a change in the way the panels are driven. Whilst scenes of very low APL are no longer affected by brightness fluctuations, it seems that those with a mid-range APL are. On the P50GT30B this effect was particulalry prominent when something bright white appeared on screen where the screen would lower the luminance of the brighter elements of the image and then go back up again. These fluctuations in brightness were more noticeable when the display was brand new and only happened very occasionally once we had run the display in for 100 hours.
There were reports last year of some people seeing flicker with Panasonic plasmas and whilst this was true it was rarely, if ever, seen when watching actual viewing material. There is no doubt that some people will be more susceptible than others but we were only really aware of it if we looked at the display from the corner of our eye. As we have come to expect from Panasonic plasmas there was very little PWM noise and in fact the images the P50GT30B were very sharp and detailed. There was a little posterisation which is a common problem with plasmas and shouldn't be confused with the 50Hz bug. However the amount of posterisation was minimal and certainly didn't detract from an otherwise superb image. Another common problem with plasmas is buzz or noise produced by the display and as with all plasmas the P50GT30B did make a very slight buzzing noise but you could only hear it if you held your head close to the display. The P50GT30B also has some cooling fans, at the bottom, but once again you couldn't hear these at a normal viewing distance. Finally, although all plasmas suffer from image retention to some degree or another, the P50GT30B was largely free of this and we only noticed it a couple times in over a week's worth of viewing.
Picture Quality - 3D
When it comes to 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 an excellent 3D performance. The newly designed glasses also seem to add to the performance and we didn’t find ourselves being distracted by flicker or loss of sync as we had on other 3D displays. The addition of THX certification, for 3D, results in bright and accurate images that further enhance 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 occasional instances of crosstalk 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.
- Excellent black levels
- Impressive contrast ratio and dynamic range
- Excellent greyscale and colour reproduction when calibrated
- CMS now has control of luminance, colour and hue
- Lack of PWM noise and clean looking images
- Very good video processing including 3:2 film cadence detection
- Impressive 3D performance
- Instances of crosstalk are limited
- Redesigned menu is a big improvement
- Attractive design and excellent build quality
- Excellent networking/streaming/internet capability
- Freeview HD and Freesat HD built-in
- Full ISFccc calibration controls
- THX Certified
- Display of 50Hz material is still a problem
- Occasional instances of brightness fluctuation
- Some users may see flicker from the image
- HDMI inputs are positioned too near the edge
- Silver trim around the inner edge of the bezel is distracting
- Still unable to correctly detect 2:2 film cadence
- Even in Game mode the input lag might be a bit high for serious gamers
- Design of EPG could be better and adverts are annoying
- No 3D glasses included and extra glasses are expensive
Panasonic GT30 (TX-P50GT30B) 50 Inch 3D Plasma TV Review
In almost every respect the TX-P50GT30B is an exceptional display that offers superb performance with both 2D and 3D material. The out-of-the-box measurements were rather disappointing considering that the display has THX certification but once calibrated the accuracy of the greyscale and colour gamut is near reference standard. The scaling and deinterlacing are also very good and the P50GT30B is capable of reproducing excellent blacks as well as delivering an impressive contrast ratio and dynamic range. This resulted in a very pleasing performance with standard definition material but it is with high definition material the P50GT30B really shows its potential, producing wonderfully accurate and detailed images.
Panasonic has invested a great deal in 3D research and development and has even gone as far as possibly optimising their display’s 3D performance at the expense of 2D performance in certain areas. However these efforts certainly pay dividends with some of the best 3D displays on the market. The P50GT30B is able to deliver bright detailed 3D images that are able to reproduce motion accurately and with very little crosstalk. The addition of THX certification also results in a more accurate greyscale and colour gamut in 3D mode. Whilst not included with the P50GT30B the redesigned 3D glasses are a big improvement on last year’s design and worked very well in conjunction with the display.
The P50GT30B also showed improvements over last year’s models in other areas too, with the new design and excellent build quality being particularly impressive. The redesigned menu system looks great, is far more intuitive than previous Panasonic menus and much easier to use when calibrating. This shows that Panasonic has clearly been listening to our feedback and as another example and additional area of improvement is with 3:2 film cadence detection. Finally the P50GT30B is also very energy efficient for a plasma, which power consumption numbers that are not much higher than some LCDs of a similar size.
It’s a shame then that all this good work is slightly let down by the continuing problems with 50Hz material. This issue has been somewhat misunderstood or misreported in the past but there is no doubt that it is an artefact that relates solely to 50Hz material and is not present when watching 60Hz or 24p content. The aretfacts present with 50Hz material should also not be confused with posterisation which is an artefact that is present on all plasma displays and is a limitation of the technology. The problem does seem less pronounced than it was last year but it is definitely still an issue so if you think it might bother you we would - as always - recommend that you demo before buying.
There are other minor issues with the P50GT30B such as the occasional instances of brightness fluctuation and image retention but both were rare and didn’t detract from the overall performance. The P50GT30B is reasonably free of PWM noise but as with last year’s Panasonic plasmas there is some minor posterisation and banding visible. We are happy to see that Panasonic is using downward facing or recessed inputs to aid wall mounting but unfortunately the HDMI inputs are too close to the edge which can result in untidy cable management. Finally the redesign of the menu system is not extended to the EPG which remains one of the less attractive designs and is still blighted by unwanted adverts.
Overall the Panasonic TX-P50GT30B is an excellent display that produces superb black levels and an impressive contrast ratio and dynamic range. The greyscale and colour gamut are very accurate after calibration and the video processing is also excellent. The 3D performance is also exemplary with bright detailed images that are largely free of crosstalk. Despite the ongoing problems with 50Hz material we would still recommend taking a look at the TX-P50GT30B if you are thinking of buying a new plasma or 3D display
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3D Picture Quality
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