Styling, Connections and Menus
The XT50 comes with the older style Panasonic remote control but retains, almost exactly, the button layout of the recently reviewed higher tier products. Not in the box but necessary for testing the 3D aspect we had 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.
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, in 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 XT50 in Normal mode is slightly overblowing the blue channel and green channels but we’ve seen far worse.
Calibrated ResultsSince we’ve no advanced calibration controls to play with, all we had to use was Contrast, Brightness and Colour to right the wrongs shown above. Of course the native abilities of True Cinema would play a major part in the eventual result. The outcome wasn’t up to the standards we’ve seen from the 1080p TVs from Panasonic but probably better than we could have hoped for.
Colour performance was vastly improved from the factory default and a couple of clicks down on the Colour control saw a fantastic result at the traditional 75% luminance/100% saturation point measure. If you look to the right of the charts above, you’ll see the colour luminance is generally a bit high but this was done deliberately. Look below and you’ll see a representation on how the colours track at lower saturation levels – i.e. when they’re paler – and we found that reducing the Colour control too much had quite an adverse effect on the less saturated colours, especially noticeable with skin tones. Calibration is a balancing job, most of the time, and these new charts really arm the calibrator with a lot more useful data. Overall colour tracking is very good but not quite to the standards of the higher-end plasmas.
Video ProcessingPanasonic’s video processing has been a major strong point this year. The XT50, however, was a bit of a mixed bag. As we would expect, scaling of standard definition signals presented no issues but the lack of a film mode meant the XT50 was unable to 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 XT50 struggled a little here too with, again, some obvious scaling artefcats present. So Blu-rays are displayed with nothing like the pristineness of the 1080p Panasonics.
Contrast and Black LevelThe XT50 doesn’t possess the same black levels or dynamic range of the 1080p TVs, in fact it’s quite a way off but it would still give almost every LED TV more than a run for its money and has the advantage of perfect screen uniformity, where for most LED’s that’s an unobtainable goal. The filer isn’t great – if there's one at all – so the averaged 0.054cd/m2 black readings from the ANSI checkerboard pattern will look considerably weaker in bright conditions. Turn the lights down and it’s a different story so we’d suggest some consideration over how, where and when its used is necessary. On the flip side, the XT50 was capable of hitting a searing 170 cd/m2 in True Cinema but since we target around 120cd/m2, on a window pattern, ANSI contrast was restricted to around 1,700:1, which is good but not great.
Gaming PerformanceThe XT50 doesn’t particularly cover itself glory in terms of input latency, registering around 50 milliseconds in Game Mode, putting it toward the lower mid-tier of sets we’ve tested this year. In consolation, most console games run at the native resolution of the XT50, i.e. 720p, so at least there’s not often scaling to worry about if you set your console to output that signal.
Picture Quality – 2D
Other big bonuses were a better handling of 50Hz content under panning than the 1080p Panasonic plasma line-up, with only a hint of break up with fast movements, and an almost complete absence of that other failing of the higher-end TVs, dynamic false contouring. Clearly the driving of the TVs is a little different. Further evidence of that came through the diminished contrast and black levels of the XT50 when compared to the ‘big boys’ and whilst dynamic range is still impressive, it’s not even close to that of the likes of the VT50 when in a dimly lit viewing environment. Colour accuracy was very good, however, and although the XT50 does have some shortcomings we still found it better to watch than many 1080p TVs we’ve had in for testing. It’s good but not great.
Picture Quality – 3D
- Excellent SD scaling
- Solid blacks and contrast
- Very accurate colours
- Very good feature set
- Noticeable resolution loss and scaling artefacts with 1080 content
- Brightness fluctuations with 3D
- Lack of 2:2 cadence detection
- No Calibration controls
Panasonic XT50 (TX-P50XT50) 50 Inch 3D Plasma TV Review
Despite that lack of controls once we’d optimised the available basic settings we were able to extract a very convincing palette. Video processing was lacking, when compared to the 1080p Panasonic’s, and the inability to correctly detect film cadences will mean your DVD collection will be best passed through a scaling player rather than leaving it to the TV to cope with the demands. We could certainly notice a loss of resolution with 2D and 3D Blu-rays and some slight scaling artefacts around the edges of both. There were also some brightness fluctuations with 3D Blu-ray that could be a touch distracting. Whilst contrast performance and black levels were good, again they don’t touch the likes of the ST, GT and VT50’s and an ineffective (or missing) filter means the XT50 doesn’t handle brighter environments particularly well. What the XT50 does do very well, is scale standard definition signals so if your TV diet is a fairly even split of the two, or with a heavier emphasis on SD, then the XT50 is worthy of consideration. The Panasonic XT50 will not suit those that watch a lot of HD and 3D content and gamers seeking low latency thrills are also best directed elsewhere.
The Panasonic XT50 is a decent TV but definitely a long way off the greatness of the higher end plasmas from the manufacturer. You could certainly do worse but we’d probably steer you toward Panasonic’s UT50 as an alternative for only a little more outlay.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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