The Panasonic Viera TH-P50VT20A is a 50in 3D plasma television with excellent image quality. It sits at the top of Panasonic's 2010 plasma television line-up. As well as displaying 3D Blu-ray movies and TV broadcasts, it can access the Internet with integrated Twitter, YouTube and Skype video calling. If you want to buy a television that does (almost) everything, this is the one to get.
- Good 2D and 3D picture quality, useful Viera Cast Internet features
- Less attractive than Samsung's Series 7
Panasonic's TH-P50VT20A 3D-ready plasma television is an excellent performer. It has exceptionally good contrast and detail levels, making it an easy choice if you want the absolute best image quality from your television.
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Panasonic TH-P50VT20A: Design and connectivity
We think that Panasonic has dropped the ball slightly with the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A's design. It's an evolution from the company's 2009 plasma televisions like the TH-P50G15A, TH-L32G10A and TH-P58V10A, but it's a step backward from the excellent Panasonic TH-P54Z1A. It looks good, but it's definitely a case of function before form. A glossy black bezel with a few polished silver accents is standard fare — to be honest, we were hoping for something a little more awe-inspiring. We do appreciate the fact that the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A's base swivels, though. We'd go so far as to say this should be a mandatory on all future TVs, as 3D becomes more popular and sitting at the optimum viewing angle becomes even more important.
The Panasonic TH-P50VT20A 3D plasma television has all the connection options you'd expect from a top-end TV. A swathe of audio/video ports including four HDMI inputs are on offer, and two USB ports and an Ethernet jack allow media to be played off flash drives, your home network or via the TH-P50VT20A's Viera Cast Internet access functions. We can't think of anything that the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A is missing — it would make the perfect centrepiece for an enthusiast's home theatre.
The range of content available on Viera Cast is excellent. Integration of Skype and Twitter is useful (though we were unable to test the former as we lacked a camera), and YouTube access is a good way to dial up some entertainment if there's nothing on TV. The on-screen interface for accessing these features isn't particularly quick, and remote control input isn't flawless, but unless you're constantly flicking through videos or tweets this isn't a problem.
Panasonic TH-P50VT20A: 2D and 3D picture quality
The Panasonic TH-P50VT20A is an excellent performer in all areas when it comes to picture quality. It will take some tweaking of image settings to get the best picture for your viewing environment, but once you've done this the TH-P50VT20A is unparalleled when it comes to both 2D and 3D video picture quality.
A 5,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio — you read that right, 5 million — means the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A has the ability to display bright, clear whites alongside dark, inky blacks. More important than this is the plasma panel's smooth gradation of image tones — there is no posterisation or colour banding visible when viewing high-contrast content, and images with smooth colour transitions (like sunsets) display faithfully and accurately. This is one of the best televisions we've seen for viewing high-definition content.
As it is a 1080p Full HD panel, the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A reveals a high level of image detail when video from a Blu-ray disc or other high quality source connected over HDMI. It's not as eye-bleedingly sharp as the Samsung Series 7 3D LED TV, but we actually prefer the smoother, more filmic look of the Panasonic plasma as it's less fatiguing to watch without sacrificing on-screen detail.
The Panasonic TH-P50VT20A is a good performer when it comes to 2D content, and the same is true of its 3D abilities. We had the opportunity to sit down a while ago with a TH-P50VT20A, and our positive experiences then were mirrored in our tests.
We ran through two 3D Blu-ray movies — Ice Age 3 and Coraline — as well as a range of sporting and promotional content from the free-to-air 3D trial digital television channel. We found the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A to handle itself well in all of these tests, with no flickering and only a small amount of visible cross-talk and ghosting during occasional shots from the 2010 FIFA World Cup and State of Origin content on the 3D trial channel. One advantage that Panasonic's 3D TV approach has over Samsung's is that you don't lose any screen brightness as you tilt your head (thanks to Panasonic using plasma technology instead of LCD-based LED). It's only a small difference, but if you've got kids or like watching TV while lying on the couch, this might be an important purchasing factor. Each pair of active shutter 3D glasses for the Panasonic TH-P50VT20A costs $199.
As usual, we found the 3D effect to work best in a dark room while sitting close to the screen. In this situation we did notice a measurable increase in the simulated depth of on-screen content — it's not going to rival the IMAX experience, but it is more immersive than regular television. Switching the lights on and sitting farther back does reduce the effect significantly, so we'd only recommend investing in 3D Blu-ray movies and content if you're prepared to make an event of it and watch up close at night.
Panasonic has done an excellent job with the TH-P50VT20A 3D plasma television. It has excellent image quality when displaying 2D and 3D content, and some useful Internet features add extra value. If it came in a more attractive and fashion-forward chassis, we'd snap one up in a heartbeat.
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