Despite reports just in that Panasonic have had quite a major year-on-year drop in global plasma sales, we’re not panicking that it’s the end for plasma - not yet at least. Given the extremely high quality of the NeoPlasma Generation 15 panels we’ve seen so far in 2012, it doesn’t look like Panasonic are quite ready to bail on PDP technology. In fact we hope there’s a good few years left to refine and improve the existing technology and build upon the solid platform they’ve made for themselves.
So here we are again, with something new from Panasonic - a truly large screen plasma that isn’t their top tier product. The Panasonic TX-P65ST50B will in fact be going toe-to-toe with its own stable-mate, the 65VT50, but at around £1,200 less it will be considerably more in reach for a lot of people. Perhaps a more relevant comparison would be with the Samsung PS64E8000 which has a quoted price of just £300 above the P65ST50. The ST range has had quite a makeover this year and there’s a whole new design and remote, added calibration controls, built-in WiFi, Smart VIERA features as well as the picture improvements Steve Withers noticed in the review of the 50inch version. It’s a lot of screen for the money but can the P65ST50 punch its not inconsiderable weight?
Styling, Connections and Menus
Don’t, you could hurt yourself and, even worse, damage the TV!
Come on Panasonic, you could easily have put an extra HDMI port in and given us the (more or less) standard 4 inputs, instead of the 3 side facing ones provided. Furthermore, whilst we’re complaining, given the vastness of the 65ST50 we’re sure you could have recessed them further back. Also sideways facing there are two USB sockets, with USB 1 designated for HDD recording, a headphone socket, a SD card slot and a Common Interface (CI) slot. Running along the bottom, and downward facing, are the legacy composite and component video connections that use breakout adaptors, along with the aerial input, an optical digital out and a LAN socket.
Duplicated from almost every other 2012 Panasonic is the new, and much shinier, remote control which is conveniently backlit as well as being sensibly designed with most of the ‘important’ buttons ergonomically placed for one-handed operation. It does show up greasy fingerprints more readily than the outgoing design so make the kids wear cotton gloves around the house. Not in the box but necessary for testing the 3D aspect are a pair of Panasonic's USB rechargeable TY-ER3D4MU glasses. As we’ve said previously we’re big fans of the new specs with them weighing in at just 26g and being very neutral in tint.
The Menu has five primary sub-menus - Picture, Sound, Network, Timer and Setup but we’re just going to give you a rundown of the picture options here, having given chapter and verse in previous reviews. If menus are your thing, you could always download the manual for a read. We’re not mocking there, it’s what we do!
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.
The most exciting new items in the Advanced Settings, as far as we’re concerned are the new (for the ST range) calibration controls. There is a two point white balance control which allows you to calibrate the greyscale plus, if you use the True Cinema Viewing Mode, a 3-axis 3D CMS.
Out of Box MeasurementsHaving established that the True Cinema mode was the closest to the industry standards and optimised Contrast and Brightness to suit the environment, we took the following measurements for greyscale and gamma:
Moving on to the colour gamut performance against the HDTV Rec. 709 standard, and the out of box performance was very good, as demonstrated below:
Calibrated ResultsThe RGB balance graph might not be as flat and tidy as those we achieved with the higher end Panasonics, but more importantly, real world content has lost the green tinge. Side-by-side, a P42GT50 took the edge for its more even tones as a result of the ruler flat gamma tracking but you would need to view them that way to see it, and let’s face it, that doesn’t happen in most people's homes
Picture ProcessingAs with all the Panasonics we’ve seen in 2012 - and to be fair most modern TVs - the P65ST50 coped with standard definition signals well, with all the detail in the SMPTE 133 pattern revealed without haloing. Video deinterlacing tests were handled capably with jaggies only appearing when the line was at an acute angle in the first test on the HQV disc and, in the second test, the motion adaptive deinterlacing was also competent with only slight jaggies appearing on the bottom bar of the three moving bars.
With our Blu-ray player set to 1080i the P65ST50 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests with 16:9 overscan set to off in the Picture Menu. The P65ST50 is capable of showing up to peak white but clips, even in True Cinema mode, with contrast pushed too high. Not a huge concern, really, but ideally we like to preserve all the signal, even if it's rarely all there. The most common PAL film cadence, 2:2 sometimes caused difficulties with real world material but the NTSC 2:3 cadence detection was flawless. Unsurprisingly, 24p Blu-ray material proved no issue and was displayed without telecine judder or unwanted artefacting, provided 24p Smooth Film was disengaged in the Advanced Settings in the Picture Menu.
Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC), the name given to frame interpolation when not from a 24p source, showed a little noticeable artefacting, even when set to minimum although but given the (slight) issue with handling motion at 50Hz, we can see the need. We’ll discuss the 50Hz problems in the Picture Quality section but we wouldn’t want to engage it any higher and the 24p Smooth Film settings are best left off all together
Gaming PerformanceAs with the P42GT50, gaming lag was actually higher than expected when measured with our new LagTest device and came in at 47.9 milliseconds in Game mode. Other modes were quite a bit higher so the competitive gamer might just find themselves compromised by the ST50’s latency. It was good enough for most of our single player exploits but noticeably less responsive than a 2010 Panasonic we have here and some adjustment was needed.
Energy ConsumptionAs we would expect from a leviathan such as the P65ST50 we got much higher than normal readings but, considering the size, very respectable ones. In the calibrated True Cinema 2D mode the P65ST50 was taking an averaged 290W and in 3D 370wW Please bear in mind due to the nature of PDP technology consumption varies greatly, dependent on the brightness of on-screen content.
Picture Quality – 2D
One thing that we would like Panasonic to change in the ST range is the inclusion of another accurate mode to give a little more flexibility, just a simple True Cinema 1/2 combination would be great and allow the storing of set ups for bright and darker viewing conditions. As is the case now, users will need to go in and make multiple adjustments to achieve punchy pictures for both day and night viewing. If it was a one off adjustment, it would be no trouble, but as it is most will end up putting up with flat images in brighter rooms rather than be constantly altering Contrast, Colour and Gamma, as a minimum. Speaking of daytime use, the 65ST50 is capped at 103cd/m2 in True Cinema mode which, whilst enough for us most of the time, might be prohibitive to others. That the 65 inch ST50 is far more heavily capped than the 50 inch model we reviewed is, no doubt, in relation to EU power consumption regulations.
Perhaps it’s a result of the larger screen size but the ‘traditional’ issue with object edges breaking up and multiplying seemed more prominent than the GT50 and VT50 we’ve had in for testing. Watching the FA Cup final on a 65inch TV is nothing to grumble about really, but we did find ourselves sometimes distracted. The only sure-fire way of eliminating it was by putting IFC at Max but then you risk seeing the singular ball turning in to 5 as it gets hoofed down the field. In terms of dynamic false contouring, it’s there but it’s more a case of having to go look for it than it smacking you around the chops with this year’s Panasonic’s. Most will likely never see it.
Minor niggles aside, for around £2,500 the P65ST50 is delivering truly large screen pictures of an extremely high quality with a price-tag that would have been unthinkable even five years ago. The only ‘problem’ we foresee for Panasonic is that it’s so good that it might take away sales from their 65inch VT50.
Picture Quality - 3D
- Excellent black levels
- Impressive contrast ratio and dynamic range
- Very good out-of-the-box colour accuracy
- Reference colour gamut after calibration
- Super 3D performance
- VIERA Connect is plentiful in content
- Good calibration controls
- Built-in WiFi and Freeview HD
- Some 50Hz break-up with fast pans
- Occasional dynamic false contouring
- Lack of flexible picture options
- Only 3 HDMI Inputs
- Gaming Lag is a bit high
Panasonic ST50 (TX-P65ST50B) 3D Plasma TV Review
The Panasonic TX-P65ST50B is a tremendous amount of screen real estate for the asking price but, not only that, it delivers big in all the areas in which Panasonic’s typically excel – deep black levels, excellent contrast and accurate colours. Had it not been for the 64inch Samsung E8000 lurking just around the corner, the P65ST50 would have undoubtedly been awarded Best Buy status. As it is, Panasonic will have to ‘make do’ with a well earned Highly Recommended badge. At around £2,500 and with a summer of top class sport ahead, we can see many a punter being tempted by the big screen delights that the P65ST50 provides. And we couldn’t blame them.
We’ll forgive Panasonic borrowing the ST50’s styling from a certain prominent Korean manufacturer's design books and at least they’ve gone with a charcoal colour scheme to give it distinction. We don’t really find the fact they’ve skimped on the HDMI inputs in providing only three quite so excusable, however, and considering the size of the panel, they surely didn’t need placing so close to the edge of the bezel. The remote is as easy to use as the menus and we never found ourselves seeking out important menu options in obscure places. The Viera Connect platform goes from strength to strength and offers a good mixture of video on demand content, games and applications. The new HTML5 web browser now comes loaded from the off and it’s certainly the best one we’ve tried in a TV so far, even if it’s a long way from being a replacement to your usual browsing device.
Picture quality is excellent, thanks in large part to the superb black levels and contrast allied with the convincing colour palette. We do wish there was at least one more accurate picture mode aboard the P65ST50 as it makes having set-ups for both day and night viewing environments either cumbersome or a compromise. The only real niggles to the picture came in the shape of those traditional Panasonic weaknesses with 50Hz content, edge break up and dynamic false contouring but at least the latter is definitely showing signs of being beaten into retreat by the new FFD technology. The 3D picture quality is just as pleasing as the 2D and the 65ST50 delivers deep and enveloping images; but don’t sit too close or you’ll think you’re falling in to the screen. Video processing was of the calibre we’ve come to recently expect from Panasonic, i.e. excellent, but gaming lag is higher than first thought, at nearly 48milliseconds. It’s not going to put off most people but for those competitive gamers out there who want to do it on the big screen, the P65ST50 may not be the best choice.
All in all, the Panasonic 65ST50 is as brilliant as it is big. The question is, can you squeeze one in?
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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