Panasonic Viera TC-P50X1 Plasma Review

 

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review

Model: Panasonic TC-P50X1
Description: 720p resolution HD plasma TV
Resolution: 1366 X 768
Reviewer: Jack Burden and Robert Wiley
Date: Summer 2009

Test and Optimum Viewing Distance: 13 feet

Calibration: Follow the following picture settings to dial in the TC-P50X1 very close to D6500.

Picture Settings: Starting from the Warm picture setting option:

Picture: +80
Brightness: +68
Color: +47
Tint: -4
Sharpness: +15

HQV Processor Testing: The TC-P50X1 didn't fare well with the HQV benchmarking, click the picture to the right to see the full results.

Up conversion from 480i and 480p: As reflected in our HQV processing testing results the Panasonic had a difficult time adequately up converting from 480i source material. Scenes from Risky Business appeared grainy and the dark scenes just did not have enough brightness to come through well. Blacks were washed out.

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review
The 50X1 struggles here to provide ample contrast in the background and hair. Flesh tones were subdued.

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review
Top and bottom bars show lack of depth in blacks while the overall picture was grainy in this scene from Risky Business.

720p/1080i/1080p Picture Quality: Blacks continued to struggle even with HD material. There was a "milky" appearance to them as one reviewer commented. Color information was adequate and realistic with HD material, but we were disappointed overall with even HD picture presentation from the 50X1. It's as if Panasonic took all their old stocks of phosphor and used it up on the X1 series. Colors do not have any pop, contrast is weak, and there is nothing rich about the picture.

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review
The scene from the new Blu Ray release of The Road Warrior shows a vibrant background blue and good definition in the faces of Mel Gibson and accomplice.

Black Level/Contrast Ratio: This was a shocker. We were underwhelmed by the black levels and brightness on the TC-P50X1 from the start. Black bars top and bottom on DVDs were the first tell tale signs that there might be something unpleasant occurring here. Indeed, the black levels were milky and hazy with much of the material. What happened to those great Panasonic black levels on this model? Post Calibration contrast ratio measured a total of 871:1 resulting from 23.60 X-axis brightness and .14 Y-axis darkness – a very weak result for a plasma TV (would be an average result for an LCD TV).

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review
Blacks appear washed out in this shot of Shawn Young in a scene from Blade Runner

Dark Shadow Detail: There was insufficient dark shadow detail in many scenes from Risky Business and Rocky. Scenes appeared darker than they should have, blacks were washed out and detail was lacking.

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review
Notice the lack of detail in Mel Gibson's hair from the new Blu Ray version of The Road Warrior

Color Rendition/Color Accuracy: The X1 calibrated well enough to D6500. See full calibration information here. The TV does a good job with HD material but color is too soft with lower content.

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review
This scene shows a realistic but not overwhelming color rendition from The Road Warrior

Viewing Angle/Off Axis Viewing: Plasma TVs rarely have any problem with side angle viewing and the X1 plasma TV is no exception.

Motion Lag: There is no motion lag to note.

False Contouring/ Mapping: There was lots of grain with 480i content and as our HQV processing tests showed there was mapping and moire patterns evident in stadium seating and other content until the internal processors caught up. The X1 was very average in this area.

Video Aspect Ratio Sizing: Panasonic has renamed the button on the remote control "format" but left it as a discrete functioning control. The TV did a nice job of scaling and sizing from varying DVD sources.

Inputs: 3 HDMI inputs (one of the side), no computer input, SD card slot, component slot on side.

Aesthetic Considerations: The black gloss framed TV is attractive but not stunning. I like the tapered corners of the TV. There is one thin line of silver across the bottom of the panel. The TV is a nice depth at 3.7". However, the non-swivel table top stand is 15" deep, lightweight, flimsy, and of a blockish design.

Panasonic TC-P50X1 Review

Remote Control/Menu Funtionality: The menu system in the 50X1 is slightly improved from last years models and allows the user to know where the previous picture setting was by way of a small pointer. It's a nice little improvement. The menu options for calibration are barely adequate to dial the unit in to D6500. The non-backlit remote does contain an aspect ratio control labeled format. It's generally a simple and easy TV to use.

Audio Output: Max volume was not overwhelming even from 12 feet. Sound was a bit tinny and hollow even with Dolby Digital content.

Features: The 50X1 does contains discretely independent picture settings per input which is a high end feature for a budget TV.

We accurately predicted back in March 2009 that the price on the X1 720p models would be extremely compelling. We were right on that count for sure. The TC-P50X1 can be purchased for around $899 at Best Buy or Amazon as of June 2009. That is a stunner of a price when comparing with LCD TV models. The Samsung PN50B550 is $400 to $500 more but contains a 1080p screen and better processing. An LG 50PS80 sells for a couple hundred more than the 50X1 but also has 1080p and better processing. Therefore, Panasonic is on an island with this 720p model. There are no direct comparisons in the market place. And while we totally endorse the 720p concept if it saves us money on the purchase price, we cant endorse the cuts in quality that we find in this plasma model. We expect much more from a plasma than this. We expected this model to roll in with incredible value offering with a top rating. Instead the quality consideration just takes too much away.

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Rating scale from 70 (denoting poorest quality) to 100 (signifying the very best quality). A rating in the 60s for any particular category of a product review indicates a serious defect which causes the product not to operate properly. Picture quality is double-weighted in the Overall Rating Score calculation.

 

Review Equipment Used: Sony Blu Ray BDP-S1 High Definition DVD player, Sony DVP-S50 DVD player (480i), Digital Broadcast Television, Sencore Color Pro 5000, Sencore Auto Cal Pro TWC6500, Sencore signal generator.

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