What is the Panasonic TX-P50GT60?
At the recent Panasonic European Convention, the new ZT65 series captured the limelight with its claims of “beyond reference” performance and pundits referring to this enthusiast model as a “KURO Killer”. However the entire Panasonic plasma line-up looked impressive, from the entry level ST60 to the VT65, whose flagship status has been usurped by the ZT65. Sandwiched between the ST60 and the VT65 is the GT60, a series that has been dropped entirely in the States but given a stay of execution here in Europe. Since the cheaper but almost identically specified GT series had a tendency to draw sales away from the VT series, we were surprised that Panasonic kept it but they clearly feel there is sufficient demand on this side of the pond. The GT60 certainly has an eye-catching list of features and at £1,099 for the 42” model and £1,399 for the 50” version, it has an equally tempting price. In their marketing literature Panasonic promise that the GT60 will be a high-class all-rounder, let’s find out.
Styling and Design
We really can’t see any reason to include this feature, aside from the fact that Panasonic simply can, and whilst it might be useful in a school or office we can’t see it being used much in the home. The feature is clearly aimed at children but would you want your kids writing all over the screen of your lovely new P50GT60?
The menu system itself is familiar from last year’s ranges with a two-tone blue and gold colour scheme and sharp, easy to read text in white. The Menus are split in to six submenus, Picture, Sound, Network, Timer, Setup and a new Help section which, amongst other things, includes an ‘eHELP’ interactive menu. This is similar to the iManuals we’ve seen offered by other manufacturers and provides excellent assistance to neophytes amongst you, although the user-friendly nature of most of the menus shouldn’t require much in the way of further explanation.
Moving on to the second page there are controls for the Ambient Sensor, Noise Reduction, MPEG Remaster, Resolution Remaster, Caption Smoother, Brilliance Enhancer and Intelligent Frame Creation - all of which should be turned off if image fidelity is important to you. Don’t forget that Intelligent Frame Creation becomes 24p Smooth Film when you’re watching 24p content and in some of the modes it defaults to maximum, so make sure that is off as well. Also on this page you can access the Advanced Settings, Option Settings, Screen Settings and 3D Settings submenus.
The last submenu is 3D Settings and here you can make adjustments to the 3D performance, although generally you shouldn’t need to make any changes when watching 3D content. However should you need to the options include 3D Detection, 3D Signal Message, 3D Refresh Rate, 2D to 3D Depth, 3D Adjustment, L/R Picture Swap, Edge Smoother and Safety Precautions.
The P50GT60 includes Panasonic’s Hexa-Processing Engine, which promises a better image performance and a faster Smart TV platform. This certainly proved to be the case and from the EPG, to the Apps to the My Home Screen, the P50GT60 delivered a smooth and responsive performance. This year Panasonic have given their Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) a slight make-over and introduced a window showing the channel you are currently on, along with a choice of the guide itself, a list of the channel and a search feature.
The app also includes the Smart Calibration function which allows full access to the calibration controls without calling up the user interface. This is great news because on Panasonic TVs not only do the menus time out too quickly but their presence at the bottom of the screen can affect the measurements very slightly. We found the Smart Calibration feature only works in conjunction with the Custom Mode but it does work really well. However it’s best used with larger tablets because on smaller devices and especially smartphones, the interface can get a bit fiddly.
The Media Player and Media Server also worked flawlessly, connecting easily with our home network and a number of devices and providing extensive file support. Overall we found the 2013 version of Panasonic's Smart TV System to be very effective, offering plenty of content in an easy to use and intuitive platform.
Basic SetupThe P50GT60 includes a THX Cinema mode which is designed to offer a level of accuracy that as closely matches the Industry Standards as possible from a factory preset. If you decide to use the THX Cinema mode, all you really need to do is make sure the aspect ratio is set to 16:9, set the brightness and contrast controls to best suit your viewing environment, turn the sharpness down to zero, make sure the Colour Temp. is set to warm and turn everything else off. As a general rule if a TV has a THX mode, we would always recommend using it unless you plan on getting a professional calibration. However the THX mode on the Panasonic plasmas turns off the Pixel Orbiter feature and some users have reported occasional image retention as a result. The measurements below were taken in the THX Cinema mode but we will discuss more detailed settings for the Custom or Professional modes in the Calibrated Results section.
Calibrated ResultsFor the calibrated measurements we used the Custom mode so that we could try out the Smart Calibration feature on the remote app but we could just as easily have used the Professional modes. It should be stressed that the Smart Calibration feature just provides an alternative method of accessing the picture controls, it isn’t a form of auto-calibration. The Professional modes can be used by an ISF trained professional to create calibrated Day and Night modes that can be locked so they can’t be altered accidentally. For these measurements we used the same basic setup recommended for the THX Cinema mode but we also set the gamma to 2.2 and selected the Rec.709 colour gamut. We then used the white balance and CMS to accurately set the greyscale and colour gamut.
Contrast and Black LevelsSince a certain manufacturer packed up shop and left the plasma market, Panasonic has been the undisputed kings when it comes to black levels. Each year their performance in this area has gradually improved and with their latest generation of panels it might well have reached its zenith. Panasonic has made further enhancements to their NeoPlasma Black 3000 panel and specifically to the cells in order to deliver deeper blacks than ever before. In fact the blacks on the P50GT60 were so low that we were reaching the limit of accuracy for even our Klein K-10s and measured them at 0.002cd/m2. That’s a seriously impressive number and you really have to wonder just how much further Panasonic, or anyone else, can really go. The P50GT60 was also able to maintain highly effective shadow detail just above black, so these impressive numbers weren't being achieved simply by crushing the blacks in the image. These incredible black levels were maintained even when measured on an ANSI checker board, as shown below, and as an aside the measurements also showed how consistent the P50GT60 was across its entire screen.
Update: We originally ran the P50GT60 in for 30 hours before taking the measurements and as you can see on the ANSI chart above, there were variations in the levels of the black squares. Now that we have put over 100 hours on the P50GT60, in the interests of completeness, we ran the black level measurement again. After a longer period of run-in we found that the panel had settled into a consistent black level of 0.004 cd/m2, which remains one of the lowest measurements we have recorded.
Video ProcessingThe performance of the P50GT60 in the video processing tests was excellent and it certainly benefited from the new Hexa-Processing Engine. The detail and resolution tests were all reproduced correctly, with the P50GT60 scaling the images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The Panasonic 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 P50GT60 had no problems correctly detecting both 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) film cadence, as long as the Film Cadence Mode is turned on. The P50GT60 also performed well when displaying film material mixed with scrolling video text and correctly displayed the words without blurring or shredding.When it came to 1080i material the P50GT60 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests provided 16:9 Overscan was set to off in the Screen settings.
The P50GT60 also showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as extremely impressive resolution enhancement capabilities. When it came to 1080p24 content, the P50GT60 delivered incredibly smooth movement and even on the torturous moving wedge tests on the Spears and Munsil disc were reproduced with little sign of moire or flicker. This year Panasonic have upgraded the 1080p Pixel Direct mode to the new 1080p Pure Direct which is compatible with a YUV 4:4:4 1080p 30bit signal. There have been reports of the 1080p Pure Direct mode causing chroma aberrations but when sending a 4:4:4 signal to the P50GT60 using our pattern generator there was a slight improvement in colour reproduction, so we would still recommend turning it on when appropriate. The P50GT60 was comfortably capable of hitting reference white and, even more impressively, was able to show 1% black simultaneously. This resulted in a truly impressive dynamic range that delivered an excellent contrast ratio that was free of any clipping, which was evidenced by the six concentric squares in the white, red and green patterns on the Spears and Munsil test disc all being visible simultaneously, there was a touch of clipping with the blue but nothing likely perceivable with real world content.
The P50GT60 includes the latest 3000Hz Focused Field Drive and overall the motion handling was quite superb. This was evidenced using the FPD Benchmark disc, where the full 1080 lines of resolution were clearly visible on the moving tests. The P50GT60 comes with Intelligent Frame Creation, which is a frame interpolation feature that offers a choice of Off/Min/Mid/Max. The Min setting had little to no affect in testing, with the motion just appearing slightly clearer on the FPD Benchmark disc with no obvious artefacts being introduced. With the Mid and Max settings the impact was much more pronounced and whilst you could use IFC in conjunction with fast paced and video based sporting material, it should never be used with film based content. For exactly the same reasons you need to ensure that the 24p Smooth Film function is also turned off when watching 24p material. The reality is that with Blu-ray content encoded at 24p, the P50GT60 didn't need any additional processing and the results looked spectacular.
We measured the input lag of the P50GT60 at 42ms when in Game mode, which is comparable with measurements we have made on other TVs this year and, encouragingly, lower than last year’s numbers. It seems the extra processing grunt is being put to some good use but there’s still a little room for improvement. Whilst a lag of 42ms might be a little high for the serious gamer, it is certainly good enough for most people and when gaming we were never really aware of any lag. If you’re a hard core gamer there are better options but for most people who are looking for a compromise between input lag and picture quality, the P50GT60 is a perfect choice.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 153W
- Calibrated – Custom Mode: 183W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 208W
Panasonic TX-P50GT60 Picture Quality 2D
However the biggest factor in terms of the P50GT60’s picture quality was the dynamic range and there’s a reason why we place so much emphasis on it. Whilst deep blacks are important, it’s actually the range between the blacks and the peak whites that give an image its impact. The wider the dynamic range, the better the perceived picture quality. However it isn’t just how black the screen can get or how bright, it’s how well these two factors are combined within the same image. This is why the ANSI contrast ratio is so important because it shows the dynamic range within a scene rather than between them. The P50GT60 native backs, combined with its inherent brightness and the Infinite Black Pro and High Contrast Filter resulted in images that had incredible punch to them. Scene after scene just had the kind of visceral impact that only images with this level of dynamic range can deliver. Once you combined this with the accuracy, the detail and the fantastic motion handling, the results could be breath-taking.
As for all the issues that have been reported about Panasonic plasmas in previous years, almost none were in evidence. Problems like floating blacks, brightness pops and green blobs can all be consigned to history, as can the 50Hz bug of which we saw no evidence. Screen uniformity was also excellent, as evidenced by the ANSI measurements and confirmed using full screen rasters.
There were also no problems with image retention, line bleed or dirty screen effect. There was some very minor noise in parts of the picture just above black but these were impossible to see from any sensible viewing distance. In fact the only issue that we had the P50GT60's image was that very occasionally we saw some dynamic false contouring. This tended to be on handheld footage where peoples' faces were filling the screen and you would see some contouring on their cheeks or foreheads. We noticed it occasionally in Argo for example which has a very handheld documentary look. However with most of the content that we watched, from broadcast TV to Netflix and especially to Blu-rays such as Lincoln and Les Miserables, the results were just stunning. If this is to be plasma's last days, they've never looked better.
Panasonic TX-P50GT60 Picture Quality 3D
There were other factors too that helped create an enjoyable 3D experience, starting with glasses that were comfortably light and free of flicker and, thanks to the use of RF, synced easily and never lost the connection. The THX Cinema 3D setting was a reasonably accurate preset, although if you prefer a professional calibrator will be able to get a genuinely accurate 3D image. All of these factors combined to create a hugely enjoyable, comfortable and enveloping 3D experience. We started off with Planet Dinosaur which was broadcast in side-by-side 3D by the BBC at Christmas and the P50GT60 delivered a bright and accurate image, with plenty of depth and not a hint of crosstalk. Moving on, we broke out an old favourite and watched Avatar and were startled to discover elements we hadn't noticed before. There was no doubt that the superior dynamic range of the P50GT60 brought out amazing levels of detail, such as the fireflies in the air during the night scenes. Finally we finished off with some Dredd and Wreck-It Ralph and thoroughly enjoyed the depth and solidity of the 3D images.
- Reference black levels
- Incredible contrast ratio and dynamic range
- Lack of PWM noise and clean looking images
- Very good out-of-the-box greyscale
- Reference greyscale after calibration
- Excellent out-of-the-box colour gamut
- Reference color gamut after calibration
- Reference level 3D performance
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Wonderful motion handling
- Excellent video processing
- Built-in WiFi, Freesat HD and Freeview HD
- Excellent Smart TV platform
- Highly effective remote app
- Well designed menus and remote control
- Attractive design and excellent build quality
- Occasional dynamic false contouring
- Some dither noise in darker elements of the picture
- HDMI inputs are too close to the edge
Panasonic TX-P50GT60 (GT60) Plasma TV Review
The P50GT60 uses the latest iteration of Panasonic’s menu system and, as always, it’s well laid out, intuitive and easy to navigate. There are a bewildering array of new picture controls, most of which are best left off, but we Europeans finally get a panel brightness feature which is good news. There is also a new Custom mode as well as all the usual calibration controls, including a ten-point white balance and a full colour management system. The new My Home Screen smart platform is excellent, with loads of apps, a web browser, extensive media support and a superb remote app for iOS and Androis. The new Swipe & Share 2.0 is very effective and the Smart Calibration feature is an absolute boon for calibrators.
The out-of-the-box performance is reasonable but thanks to the excellent calibration controls the P50GT60 is capable of a reference greyscale and colour gamut performance. The video processing is also excellent meaning that even standard definition content will look good and, as always, motion handling is sublime. The black levels were superb on the P50GT60 and the brightness far better than last year, resulting in a stunning dynamic range. All of this combines to deliver some of the best 2D and 3D images we have seen to date and aside from some occasional dynamic false contouring, we really could find nothing else on which to fault the P50GT60.
Well all we can say is that if these really are plasma’s last days then it’s going out with a bang! The Panasonic P50GT60 delivers the kind of stunning image quality that reminds us just why we love this particular television technology so much. Plasma remains the preeminent display technology and, until OLED is ready for primetime, nothing else comes close. Panasonic promised us a classy all-rounder and that’s what they’ve delivered, from its design to its features to its performance to its price, the P50GT60 doesn’t put a foot wrong - Best Buy!
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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