Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A 3D plasma TV

Panasonic VIERA ST30A review: one of the cheapest 3D TVs you can buy

Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A
  • Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A
  • Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A
  • Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A
  • Expert Rating

    3.25 / 5

Pros

  • Good image quality
  • Good colour accuracy in Cinema mode

Cons

  • Not as colourful as Samsung or LG plasmas
  • Outdated design
  • No 3D glasses included

Bottom Line

Panasonic's ST30A plasma hits the sweet spot in the company's plasma TV line-up. It's got image quality that's not too far off last year's top VT20, and it's not particularly expensive either. We don't like Panasonic's plasma design updates, though -- they're still chunky and look less attractive than the competition -- and image brightness and colour vibrance drops a little when switching to the most accurate Cinema colour mode. You'll also have to buy 3D glasses.

Would you buy this?

The Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A is a 42in 3D plasma TV — it's the cheapest and smallest 3D plasma available from Panasonic, and one of the cheapest available from a big-name brand. It has good picture quality for a reasonably cheap television, but its design is a bit dated.

The Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A is also available in three different, larger, screen sizes — the 55in VIERA TH-P55ST30A, the 60in VIERA TH-P60ST30A, and the 65in VIERA TH-P65ST30A.

Panasonic VIERA ST30A: Design and connectivity

The Panasonic VIERA ST30A series of plasma TVs continues the Panasonic tradition of slightly thick, glossy bezels. The whole television looks a bit chunky, actually — Panasonic was previously on par with its competitors in the style stakes but 2011 has seen the company's designs start to look a little stale and outdated. It's not that the VIERA ST30A looks bad, it's just a bit larger and bulkier than plasma TVs from LG and Samsung.

The VIERA TH-P42ST30A does have one big advantage over the fashionable panels from LG and Samsung though, and that's its high quality anti-reflective coating. This is a plasma that we would be reasonably confident to use in a bright environment — the screen finish does a good job of blocking glare, and it doesn't act like a mirror in the way that some plasmas and even LCDs do. The only caveat is that in its most colour-accurate mode, the ST30A isn't especially bright — for it to stand out in a sunny room, you'll need to switch to the bright Dynamic mode.

You wouldn't guess that the VIERA ST30A is a cheap TV going on its specifications list alone. It's got four HDMI ports, three USB 2.0 ports (for a Wi-Fi adapter, Skype camera or flash drive), an SD card slot for photos or video playback, and a swathe of older analog connectors. No 3D glasses are included — you'll need to shell out for any pairs you want to buy, with Panasonic listing its TY-EW3D2 3D glasses at $149 each.

Panasonic VIERA ST30A: 2D and 3D picture quality

The Panasonic VIERA ST30A performs best in its Cinema picture mode with a few tweaks — we didn't touch the screen's brightness, but bumped up the contrast and turned down the sharpness by a few increments. Colour accuracy in this mode is surprisingly good, with no particularly strong bias towards any colour. We think the screen's vibrancy and colour saturation deserve a boost though — colours can tend to look a little flat and bland. Similarly, brightness is lower than we would have liked. This TV's picture quality demands a compromise — either pick accuracy in Cinema mode, or switch to Dynamic mode for brightness and colour saturation.

Detail levels are good — the VIERA ST30A is a Full HD 1080p panel and is able to display Blu-ray movies at their native resolution. Although the relatively small screen size means details are harder to see than on a screen like the 64in Samsung PS64D8000, they are nonetheless visible — lean in close and you can see the pores in Christian Bale's sweaty face in the Terminator: Salvation Blu-ray.

No 3D glasses are included with the Panasonic VIERA TH-P42ST30A, but we used a spare pair to trial the television's 3D capability. As well as supporting 3D video from a 3D Blu-ray player, the ST30A can convert 2D footage into faux-3D, so if you're looking to show off the effect to your friends you don't need to have a 3D movie on hand. We liked the 3D picture quality of last year's VIERA VT20A, and the VIERA TH-P42ST30A seems slightly better again, with no excessive incidences of ghosting or cross-talk that we could see in 3D Blu-ray movies, although 2D-to-3D video wasn't always good. If you have a bad 3D experience from the ST30A when you're watching a proper 3D Blu-ray, it's just as likely to be a poorly-filmed movie as it is the TV.

Panasonic VIERA ST30A: Conclusion

Panasonic's VIERA ST30A is cheap (for a 3D TV) and has good picture quality in the slightly dim Cinema mode. If you're not too concerned with colour accuracy or contrast, the Dynamic mode makes the screen suitable for use in a bright room. It's bulky and not as fashionable as its competitors — if this is a concern for you, take a look at a Samsung or LG screen.

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