One other new feature of this year's plasma TVs is Panasonic's Touch Pen, a special stylus-type accessory with which you can draw all over the screen. That should keep the kids entertained for a while!
We tested the 50" version of the VT65 (127 cm, TX-P50VT65), but 55" (140 cm, TX-P55VT65) and 65" (165 cm, TX-P65VT65) models are also available.
There's no doubt that the screen in this VT65 has been lifted straight out of 2012's VT50. Once switched to the best mode for movies (see inset), the onscreen image is pretty much flawless. Contrast is very high here at over 5000:1, with the average white measured at 115 cd/m² and the black below 0.03 cd/m². Even when watching this TV in a pitch-dark room, the black onscreen will blend perfectly into the surrounding darkness. We really couldn't ask for much more!
On top of that, colour fidelity is good, with an average Delta E of 1.7 (note that colours can be considered "accurate" with an average Delta E of three or less). Plus, highlights and dark zones are handled perfectly well thanks to an average gamma of 2.2 and an average colour temperature of 6710 Kelvins.
The VT65 comes with all the usual advantages of plasma technology, including excellent viewing angles and very high levels of consistency over the display. There are no visible variations in colour or brightness, whether viewing the screen straight-on or from the side.
Unlike the ST60, the VT65 would make a good choice for gamers. In fact, with a very low screen ghosting time of just 5 ms on average and a low input lag of just 33 ms, it's one of the best options on the market right now.
For watching films, Panasonic's "Intelligent Frame Creation" motion interpolation function does a good job of keeping fact-action scenes looking smooth. However, we don't recommend going any higher than the "Mid" setting, otherwise a soap-opera effect kicks in and artefacts appear in the image. We preferred keeping this mode on the "Min" setting.
The VT65 is without a doubt one of the best TVs on the market. Still, with its glossy screen and slightly limited brightness, you should think twice about using it in a south-facing room that's flooded with bright sunlight.
Unlike LCD TVs, plasma models don't suffer from clouding. Flat, black areas are therefore perfectly uniform onscreen, with no white blotches leaking through. No nasty surprises with the VT65. It's a real treat!
Panasonic supplies two pairs of 3D glasses with this TV for three-dimensional viewing straight out of the box. These active-shutter glasses (model number TY-ER3D5MA) are light and comfortable, but they're not exactly cheap at £70 a pair. You'll therefore need to shell out an extra £140 to kit out a family of four.
Below—the result as seen through 3D glasses (Top: Panasonic TX-P50VT65 / Bottom: Panasonic TX-P50ST60):
For the time being, only Samsung and Panasonic plasmas get this right..
It's no surprise to see that the VT65 has the same high-quality 3D mode we saw in the VT50. The plasma screen's excellent responsiveness keeps 3D pictures virtually free from crosstalk. The left and right frames do double up slightly in the most highly contrasted scenes (e.g. a white 3D object on a black background, which is actually quite rare in most movies), but there's no visible crosstalk the rest of the time.
DESIGN & BUILD
Design-wise, the VT65 is pretty similar to the VT50, with a slim casing, an aluminium bezel and a stylish overall look. The stand has been reworked in this year's model, though, with a chrome-effect V-shaped mount attaching the screen to the base.
The range of connections has been reduced slightly, as Panasonic has ditched the fourth HDMI port. We're definitely not down with that! Otherwise, the VT65 still offers three USB ports—including one USB 3.0 connection—an SD memory card reader, a SCART socket, a component connection, an Ethernet port, an optical output, a headphones out, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and DLNA.
Panasonic includes two remote controls with this TV. The first is a pretty standard remote with backlit buttons, which is always practical when watching movies with the lights down low. The second remote is a compact, oval controller with a limited number of buttons (11 in total) and a touchpad for quick and easy navigation in the onscreen menus and smart TV services. The new remote also has a built-in microphone for using the TV's voice-control system. On paper, that sound great, but we didn't find Panasonic's voice-controls all that amazing in practice. It's fun for a few minutes, but we soon tired of it.
The interface has been reworked for the better this year. Each user can now create a custom page grouping together all their favourite applications. Plus, as well as proving handy for face-to-face chat, the built-in webcam can recognise who's in front of the TV to automatically display their personal menu homepage.
The TV's onboard media player supports most video container formats, including AVI, DivX, MP4, MKV, Mov, MTS and M2TS. We only found compatibility issues with ISO files (disc images) and DVD and Blu-ray menus, which aren't supported. This TV is even compatible with FLAC audio files, which isn't always the case.
This year, Panasonic has put the tweeters on the TV's front face in the aim of improving "the surround effect and lifelike ambiance".
We were expecting great things from this new system, but output quality didn't quite meet our expectations. In the end, the sound is a bit too directional, there's a clear lack of bass, and middle frequencies are too strong, which in turn affects overall intelligibility. That won't be too troublesome when watching TV shows, but the speakers will soon reach their limit with movies. We'd therefore recommend using a sound bar or home-cinema speaker set with the VT65.
POWER USE & NOISE
With our recommended settings (see inset), the VT65 displays a brighter image than the VT50, so it's only logical that power use is higher in this model. We measured the VT65 using 340 W when switched on and in use, which makes 500 W/m² for this 50" TV. That's 25% more than the VT50 in "Cinema" mode.