For many the announcement at CES, and later confirmation at the Panasonic European Convention, that their top-tier VT50 plasma wouldn’t be making an appearance in a screen size below 50inches came as a bit of a blow. Not all homes have space for a display of that size or, if they do, not everyone/everyone’s other half wants such an imposing TV but still demand the upmost quality. Step forward the slightly curious Panasonic TX-P42GT50 only available through authorised Panasonic dealerships or direct from their own eShop.
On paper the GT50 offers almost everything the VT50 does in terms of picture quality, including 2,500Hz Focused Field Drive, dual core processing and 24,576 shades of gradation and only lacks the Infinite Black Ultra filter of the Flagship product. Of course you won’t get the accessories the Flagship TV comes with but then you may not want or need the Touch Pad Remote Control or 3D eyewear so it’s not likely many will be put off by that. What really counts is what happens on-screen and given the excellence of the 2012 Panasonic Plasmas so far, we’ve high expectations once again. Can the Panasonic 42GT50 appease the videophiles that can’t go truly large screen? Step right up…
Styling, Connections and Menus
The 42GT50 is equipped with the usual 4 HDMI connections that all run down the side connections panel, just a little too close for guaranteed concealment of the cables behind the bezel. Above the HDMI inputs are 3 USB ports, the headphone jack and SD Card slot. Recessed slightly further back is the CAM interface for premium digital services. Along the bottom, and down facing, are legacy Scart and Component connections (via adapters); a LAN port, D-SUB PC (+ audio) as well as terminals for the aerial (Freeview HD) and satellite (Freesat HD) feeds. Completing the connections is the S/PDIF digital audio out.
Unlike the VT50 the P50GT50B does not ship with any 3D eyewear, as standard, however, for the purposes of this review we were supplied with a pair of Panasonic's USB rechargeable TY-ER3D4MU glasses. As we’ve said previously we’re big fans of the new specs which, with them weighing in at just 26g, mean you can easily forget you've got them on. The glasses themselves have quite large lenses that (Steve Withers tells me) fit over regular glasses 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.
We’ll make no apologies for the brevity of attention we pay to the menus contained in the Panasonic GT50 here, they are identical to those in the VT50 and we gave those in-depth coverage in that particular review, so if you’re of that persuasion, please follow the link.
Out of Box PerformanceThe performance of the VT50 here was simply staggering and probably had many a calibrator shaking in their boots. Fortunately, for them, the Panasonic GT50B wasn’t quite so impressive and thanks to the excess of green, in the RGB Balance chart below, even though Delta Errors are at a near tolerable level, we would expect to see a worthwhile improvement post calibration. Green is the most noticeable of colours to the human eye and therefore any problems with it are more readily perceived.
Calibrated ResultsWith a couple of iterations of the 2 point white balance controls and a fine tune with the 10 point controls, we were able to bring the GT50 to absolute reference standards in fairly swift order. We’ll say it again, the new controls equipped in the dual core plasma’s are truly excellent and way beyond the capabilities of the Panasonic’s of years gone by. Most importantly, on screen it was easy to see the reduction of the green tint in virtually all material.
Picture ProcessingAs with the menus, this area of evaluation provided very little in the way of surprises. Scaling of standard definition signals was crisp and clear, video deinteralcing of SD was also excellent, and the same applied to 1080i signals as well. In actual fact, the GT50 did perform a little better than the VT50 in picking up the PAL 2:2 cadence, at least with test patterns and well used test footage, but it’s not totally infallible and slips off the lock from time to time. Hardly likely to be deal-breaker for most. Motion adaptive deinterlacing was also very good with only slight jaggies appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars on the test from the HQV disc.
Like the VT50, Blu-ray material at 1080p24 was handled near flawlessly and the wedge test from the Spears and Munsil disc ran incredibly smoothly. Semi-interestingly, we noted that the usual 4:4 pull down resulting in a 96Hz screen refresh sometimes dropped down to 48Hz in Blu-ray menus. The Panasonic GT50 displayed absolutely excellent dynamic range in being able to produce the brightest whites with the deepest shades of grey, and the same applied to the full range of colours. Panasonic’s 1080p Pure Direct mode hasn’t proved to be exactly what some PC owners were hoping for and only accepts the full 4:4:4 chromatic resolution for video sources, where its merits are questionable given the best source material it will get will be encoded as 4:2:0. We’ll look at the merits of Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) in the Picture Quality Section but, please for the love of all that is good, make sure 24p Smooth Film is deactivated when playing your Blu-rays!
Gaming PerformanceIn most of our recent TV reviews we’ve been using our new LagTest device to get you gamers a more accurate handle on input lag figures and here it threw up its first surprise result. We found the GT50 to lag by around 45 milliseconds, which is higher than previously thought, and just goes to show the inconsistencies and pitfalls of using the camera method. In this reviewers eyes (or should that be hands) a number like this is fairly easy to adjust to for most single player games but competitive gamers might well not be satisfied and, again, we’d urge a demo if gaming use is of major importance to you.
Energy ConsumptionIn out-of-the-box Normal mode, we measured the Panasonic TX-P42GT50 to draw an average of 163W compared to 172W in calibrated Professional Mode. It’s a reflection of how the manufacturers are being pushed to be more eco-friendly out of the box and, in contrast to years gone by, provides a rather dull, washed out image that is worth changing for the miniscule added electricity costs the calibrated picture gives. In the THX 3D mode, we noted an average of 202W.
Picture Quality – 2D
Even if it isn’t quite as ‘contrast blessed’ as the VT, the TX-P42GT50 still produces superb pictures as the impressive dynamic range blends with the stunning colour reproduction to produce staggering life-like images. Like the VT50, the GT is also equipped with a one-touch solution for coping with brighter viewing environments in the THX Bright Room Viewing Mode. As any calibrator worth their salt will tell you, setting up a display for challenging environments is as much about the art as the science and it’s not a case of simply upping the contrast to give more light; at a minimum to get anything like a good set up alterations to colour saturation and luminance, the gamma curve, as well as contrast, would be needed from the calibrated settings for a more ideal viewing environment. It’s an area where the more budget (but still excellent) ST50 is more hampered as has only one mode we’d regards as an accurate starting point, True Cinema, which means an awful lot of toing and froing with settings to get them right for different ambient conditions.
The one real thorn in the side of the GT50, and it also relates to the other Panasonic plasmas, is in the continued issues in handling motion with 50Hz content. Under certain circumstances, some may notice the edges of objects breaking up and multiplying under panning. It would see that 2500 FFD (Focused Field Drive) has improved matters from previous generations of NeoPlasma (NeoPDP) but it is still there. In the situations if does occur, some relief can be found by engaging IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) at Min but only the Max setting will eradicate it totally, and that’s not a configuration we like, or recommend, owing to the awful cheap soap opera look it gives. The same can be said about the Panasonic’s tendency to show up the traditional plasma Dynamic False Contouring (DFC) issues. In fact we’d say that the Generation 15 Panasonic’s have seen a big leap forward here and we only saw one instance of the green and red striped faces (an easy way to spot DFC) in all our time with the GT50. Again, engaging the Max setting of IFC did get rid of it as the panel switches to operate in 60Hz mode where more subfield processing is available. Looking through our Owners Thread’s on the Forum, it would seem next to nobody has actually picked up on either of these slight issues and it’s probably as a result of us being so tuned in to it, plus watching for evaluation rather than sheer pleasure, that we saw them. Let’s make no bones about it, the Panasonic GT50 produces absolutely gorgeous pictures for almost all of the time.
Picture Quality – 3D
- Fantastic black Levels
- Excellent dynamic range
- Very good out-of-the-box colour gamut
- Reference calibrated colour gamut
- Reference calibrated greyscale
- Superb 3D
- Comprehensive and highly effective calibration controls
- THX Bright Room does what it says on the tin
- Built-in WiFi, Freesat HD and Freeview HD
- Still some 50Hz niggles
- Gaming lag is a touch higher than we'd like
- HDMI ports too close to the edge for comfort
Panasonic GT50 (TX-P42GT50B) 3D Plasma TV Review
In its class the Panasonic TX-P42GT50 provides a peerless combination of outstanding black levels, flexible options and downright excellent picture quality, in both two and three dimensions. Added to those qualities we have a pleasing contemporary design and a whole host of features that typify the Smart TV experience. In the 40-42inch category there’s currently only Panasonic’s own ST50 to give it a run for its money but having run the two side by side we would give a very slight edge to the GT50 in terms of clarity of image in darker scenes where its better gamma response and (perhaps) added levels of gradation do the trick. There is still a persisting problem with 50Hz material under panning and although it can be remedied, to an extent, using the IFC controls, we expect that other than the flicker some suffer with Panasonic PDP’s this is likely the only potential deal breaker on the table.
Design wise, the GT50 is contemporary enough and we’re pleased the metallic trim has been moved to the outside of the bezel. The new remote controls is a lot more shiny than previous incarnations but button layout remains sensible and it’s easy to operate with one hand. Menus remain easy to navigate, although you could get rid of the Timer Menu, as far as we’re concerned. It’s very pleasing that the slightly less heralded GT range features the same excellent suite of calibration controls as the Flagship VT50 and through it we were able to nail absolutely reference performance. When we combined the calibrated picture with the already stunning black levels and dynamic range images were truly staggering, at times, and save for the occasional problem with 50Hz content, utterly engaging. We might recommend hardcore gamers to look away from the Panasonic plasma’s this year as they are exhibiting more latency than in years gone by, with the 42GT50 measuring around 45milliseconds but we’d imagine the average single player gamer will be able to re-adjust.
For the serious videophile looking for a TV under 50 inches, the Panasonic TX-P42GT50 is currently the hottest ticket in town.
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
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