Panasonic TC-P55VT50 Review
55" 3D Plasma HDTV, Infinite Black Ultra, Viera Connect Smart TV
Picture and Viewing Feaures Rating: 9.3/10
First off, we have provided our calibrated picture settings for you and feel they are better than any of the preset settings on the TV. You can access them via the link below. John did a great job with his ISF calibrations on this TV. Next, following is a run-down on the Preset Picture Modes and how we feel about each:
Standard - This setting is much dimmer than you would expect. It is really an energy saving setting and will not give you much brightness or light throughput.
Cinema - The Cinema setting is pretty good and and you will immediately notice a good jump in color and radiance and warmer tones.
THX Cinema - This mode is slightly brighter and more saturated than the Cinema setting. A good choice.
THX Bright Room - We like this setting and it's the best of the preset picture modes. It's new and it was needed on many plasma TVs such as the Panasonics that needed a quick setting solution for brightly lit rooms. This or the THX Cinema setting are good options if you do not want to delve into our settings. THX Bright Room runs Contrast all the way to 100%. But it's still not as good as our settings.
Game Mode - This setting will look blown out like the Vivid setting unless you are gaming on the TV, then it is accepatble though to me it shows lots of granulation and artifacts.
Custom - Comes set to 100% of contrast and is your launch pad into our settings.
Vivid - Shows tons of pixelation and artifacts and should be avoided. There are just too many negative picture effects to name with this setting, so just avoid it.
Picture Quality Performance
There is a lot more picture quality performance in the higher end lines of Panasonic Plasma starting with the TC-P55VT50 – the very top. So do not let 3D compatibility be your guiding source to the quality of the picture. For example you get much better processing with this TV through the sub pixel controller which controls the three phosphor elements in every pixel separately. It also has a louver filter in the panel which allow better contrast in bright room conditions. All this translates to a much better picture than the lower end lineup.
The picture on the 55VT50 is very smooth and vibrant, colors rich and the image edges probably the best we have ever seen from a 1080p TV. There is great light flow from in-picture lighting similar to that found in good LED TVs – a testament to Panasonic's technology changes to combat some of LED TV advances. Flesh tones are accurate and real as well. The couple of negatives we noted were some jerky judder effects during slow panning when the camera itself is jerking, some pixelating artifacts visible on certain situation on light areas of the screen, and just again some flicker in horizontal lines when there is slow panning.
3D Performance – Excellent
This shot from the 3D BluRay of Cloudy shows great color saturation on the VT50
2D to 3D Conversion
There is a suspicious lack of focus on 2D to 3D conversion in the VT50. We found control of the feature in a button labeled 3D in an almost surreptitious position atop the standard remote control. But once we tested the feature with some good BluRay discs we were fairly impressed with how far the technology has come. The glasses dim the picture quite a bit, but in a darker room you do get some nice 3D depth with the feature. There was just a little slight crosstalk, but overall we thought the conversion was good - although light.
Black Level and Contrast
The black levels in the TC-P55VT50 are excellent and deeply saturated thanks to the Infinite Black Pro panel with the Infinite Black Ultra filter. This is the best panel Panasonic has to offer and blacks are around 20% more saturated in this model than in the next model series down (with the Infinite Black Panel but no Ultra filter in the ST50). This panel also contains more louvered filtering to allow light in from ambient in room sources, but not allow it to escape. This feature actually works well. The TC-P55VT50 displays a lot less glare off the screen than almost any other TV we have tested.
Panasonic has long been a leader in dark shadow detail and the VT50 is no exception to this rule. We could see excellent gray scale rendition in dark areas which enable us and any viewer to see fine details in clothing, or shadows of buildings. It all lends a more theater like experience to your viewing when you have this kind of detail in dark areas. I would describe dark shadow detail as almost perfect.
Infinite Black Ultra
Infinite Black Ultra Filter with 24,000 steps of grayscale gradation as opposed to around 7,000 before. This provided us with with excellent blacks and an exceptional amount of color detail throughout images. To get the best black levels imaginable Panasonic has lowered the pre-discharge to bring in the lowest voltage possible and still excite the phosphors. This process creates the exceptional black levels.
When we viewed the screen in a very dark room we could barely see any difference in the on-screen black color and the black curtain in the background.
ISFccc Calibration Mode
Advanced Calibration. This mode allows ISF or other Calibrators to adjust the detailed picture setting with the calibration software (CALMAN™)provided by SpectraCal Inc.
Side Angle Viewing
Side angle viewing on the VT50 is of course excellent and perfect as with most plasma TVs. Plasma TVs still dominate the very important and little talked about aspect of picture quality. The is an area the LED TV manufacturers are still trying to quash.
Features Rating: 8.9/10
Viera Connect Review
Viera Connect is Panasonic's online suite and it sees a significant expansion in 2012. In addition to the standard apps like Netflix, Hulu, Facebook and Twitter Panasonic has partnered with social media network MySpace and its thousands of licensed music artists for MySpace TV, a new feature that is exclusive to Panasonic televisions. Panasonic is also partnering with Disney for a Disney app and they have added a full web browser to the Viera Connect suite in 2012.
The Apps selection in Viera Connect has lots of choices, but how valuable are they? There is a bell-ding noise every time you select and App which gets a bit annoying. Some new additions to the premium Apps are WSJ Live, Vimeo, Vudu HD movies, SnagFilms, Bigflix VOD, and Daily Motion (videos). Most of the Apps have a price and some are even after a monthly fee. Though the Apps are free to download, there is more than likely some later fee associated. For instance within the 3 Apps included in the Health and Fitness section, all are connected to a device that must by purchased such as a BodyMedia FIT Armband, a Bluetooth enabled device that tracks calories.
One of the advantages and innovations for Panasonic for 2012 was to integrate the Apps portion of the TV to the cloud, thus speeding search, load times, and run times. This is especially important for the movie Apps. There is no free sample 3D material that we could access through the Apps.See this page for a full Panasonic Viera Connect Review
Social Networking and Skype
In the VT50 you can multitask your social networking or Skype while you watch TV. With the new split screen feature you can have Facebook, Twitter or even a Skype Video call on one half of the TV while your programming continues on the other. In televisions equipped with a web browser you can also surf the internet while watching TV.
Sound Quality (bit of a downer, I'm afraid)
Sound quality from the TC-P55VT50 was a bit of a disappointment with the material I tested despite recent upgrades to the 3D Real Sound system for 2012 which contains lifting drivers to create the effect of the sound coming from the center of the screen. Initially, at CES we thought this new sound system was very impressive, however upon reviewing the TV at out facility we noted a hollow, tunnel effect that was not welcomed. We adjusted the treble and bass and it was still present. No worries, if you are shelling out the money for this TV you will ultimately be using a home theater sound system.
Appearance and Design
This is Panasonic's most attractive TV ever (aside from this years WT and DT series LEDs). It has a silver metal trim strip and rich black glass going from side to side even over the black banding around the screen which is only about three quarters of an inch. The gradation on the stand is tacky but you cant see it once the TV is atop.
Touchpad Remote Control (additional to the standard remote)
The diminutive touch pad controller device which only comes with the VT50 series is pretty cool, and not bad to minimize your remote control real estate on the coffee table, but I'm not sure how much it much extra utility it brings, nor if it is really any faster than the 5-way controller on the standard very complete remote control. We tried it several times with the web browser and Apps controls and I actually felt that I was faster with the standard remote. The touchpad was fairly responsive, a fair grade.
Value Rating: 8.7/10
At around $2399 for a top end 55” TV with possibly the best picture of the year we feel the TC-P55VT50 certainly deserves a good long look. LG's top end plasma, the 60” 60PM9700 at $2000 deserves some attention. Samsung makes a top end plasma in 60” as well the PN60E8000 for $2290. While Samsung has the better feature set, Panasonic carries the day in picture quality this year. In 55' LED there is a slew of competition from LG, Samsung, and Panasonic itself – usually for slightly more money.
Overall Rating: 8.9/10