Review: Panasonic Viera TX-P50ST50B

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Published: September 3, 2012 9:15 AM
By Pierre-Jean Alzieu
Translated by: Catherine Barraclough
The Panasonic ST50 forms part of the firm's trimmed-down 2012 plasma TV range, and is designed to replace last year's ST30. This new plasma boasts a 2,000 Hz Focused Field Drive mode to help keep fast-action scenes smooth, as well as active-shutter 3D and web-connected functions and services, including a web browser.

The ST50 is available in four sizes: 42" (TX-P42ST50), 50" (TX-P50ST50), 55" (TX-P55ST50) and 65" (TX-P65ST50).

Design4/5

This TV's casing has been redesigned for 2012. The screen bezel has been trimmed down to 2.5 cm, which isn't the slimmest bezel out there, but it's still pretty nice. However, Panasonic has added an extra transparent plastic frame around the inner bezel—a bit like in Samsung TVs—that we're not huge fans of.

But while the ST50 may have gained a clear plastic frame, it has lost an HDMI port, as Panasonic's 2012 model has three rather than four HDMI connections. We would have preferred it the other way round, to be honest. Apart from the vanishing HDMI port, the connections haven't changed, and still include two USB ports, an Ethernet port, built-in Wi-Fi, an optical audio out, and component and composite video connections.

Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - remote control

The remote hasn't been updated. It's still as massive as ever, but its chunky backlit keys make it easy to use. That said, a bit of a facelift wouldn't do it any harm.

Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - smart tv

The ST50 has the same multimedia functions as Panasonic's other 2012 TVs.

The Viera Connect smart TV platform offers access to all kinds of connected services. There are plenty of good-quality apps to choose from, and the platform is practical to use and easy to navigate. You'll find all the usual apps, such as YouTube (with HD video), Skype, Twitter, Facebook and Google Maps, as well as games (although these will set you back about £5!).

The media player is compatible with more file formats than the 2011 version. NTFS-formatted devices are supported (Windows format), so files over 4 GB in size can be played, which isn't the case with FAT 32 devices. Plus, most video containers are played, including AVI, DivX, MP4, MKV, MOV, MTS and M2TS. The only remaining trouble-makers are ISO files (disc images) and DVD/Blu-ray menus.

2D Image Quality5/5

Once you adjust the settings to get the best results for movies (see inset), image quality isn't far from perfect!

The black is so deep that our sensor couldn't even measure it. When that's the case, we consider the contrast to be over 5000:1. Needless to say, that's pretty much ideal.

Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - colours
Colours in Cinema mode: average Delta E = 3
Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - glossy screen Glossy screen


Colours are reproduced accurately (average Delta E = 3), the gamma is well balanced, the colour temperature is perfect (6491 K), display quality is consistent over the panel, and viewing angles are very wide. What more could you ask for?

But there is one slight drawback, as, like all plasma screen TVs, the image does lack a little brightness when viewing in very bright, very well-lit rooms. Plus, the glossy screen doesn't help matters much in those kinds of viewing conditions. It's therefore a TV that's best used in a room where you can control the ambient lighting.

Responsiveness
Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - ghosting
 Light
Background
Black
Background
Average
This graph shows the ghosting time, measured in ms, which measures the time it takes this TV takes to entirely remove the previous frame. The shorter the time, the more fluid moving images will appear.

With input lag at 66 ms, hardcore gamers may notice some latency, which could prove problematic in multiplayer games. However, screen responsiveness is very good—as always with plasma screens. We measured the average ghosting time at 6 ms, which puts the ST50 up there with the best.

The Intelligent Frame Creation mode does a great job of keeping things smooth when watching films. Set to its medium level, it eliminated judder and glitches without creating a "camcorder" effect and without affecting image quality. 

Clouding5/5

Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - clouding

The ST50 has no problems with clouding. Another great thing about plasma technology is that black levels are perfectly consistent over the screen. Here too, we really couldn't ask for more!

3D Image Quality5/5

Like all 3D plasmas, the ST50 uses active-shutter 3D technology. However, this particular model doesn't come with any 3D glasses as standard, unlike higher-end Panasonic's VT50. You'll therefore have to buy them separately for about £50 a piece. Although they're a bit expensive, these glasses are comfortable, light and can be worn over the top of regular glasses.

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The excellent levels of screen responsiveness mean that there's practically no crosstalk in 3D mode (images for the left and right eyes overlapping and causing interference). Only a few slight overlaps can be spotted in the most highly contrasted images (a white 3D object on a black background, for example), but that's pretty a rare occurrence in most films. The ST50 is therefore on par with the higher-end Panasonic VT50 for 3D viewing.

3D image test cards as seen through 3D glasses (Top: Panasonic TX-P50ST50 / Bottom: Panasonic TX-P50VT50):

Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - crosstalk
Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - crosstalk 3d

 With a perfect result, we shouldn't see any trace of the 'R' frame on the left, and, vice versa, none of the 'L' frame on the right.

Audio3/5

Panasonic viera p50vt50 tv review - audio
Green zone = good /Orange zone = tolerated / White zone = not accurate

One glance at the frequency response graph is all it takes to identify this as a 2012 Panasonic TV. Mediums are amplified to give the impression that the bass is more powerful. The overall effect is flattering, and it's easy on the ears, but it does in turn make high voices less easily intelligible. While that clearly won't be a problem for watching the news or the odd TV show, if someone with a high-pitched voice speaks with a low, bass noise in the background, you may have trouble picking out all the words. For the best results, we recommend you pick up a separate home cinema speaker set.

Power Use1/5

One of the main downsides of plasma technology is relatively high power use. Although the ST50 is on par with the average LCD TV when on standby, power use pushes up to 280 watts when you switch it on (411 W/m²)—that's about three times higher than an LCD TV.
5/5 Panasonic Viera TX-P50ST50B DigitalVersus 2012-09-03 10:15:00

Pros

  • Contrast over 5000:1
  • Very wide viewing angles
  • Excellent screen responsiveness (6 ms on average)
  • Accurate colours: average Delta E = 3
  • Excellent 3D mode: practically no crosstalk

Cons

  • Glossy screen is prone to reflections
  • High power use: 280 watts

Conclusion

The Panasonic Viera ST50 really has nothing to envy of the higher-end VT50. In fact, image quality is just as good in this model. We therefore don't see much point in shelling out for the pricier model, as the ST50 won't disappoint home cinema buffs.

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