Panasonic has streamlined its range of plasma TVs for 2012, but the "VT" series is still going strong as the firm's highest-end plasma line.
The main new feature this year is an improved motion interpolation system, which has been boosted to 2500 Hz in the aim of improving overall fluidity. The VT50 also has an active-shutter 3D mode, Smart TV services, a web browser, and THX
Certified Display Program accreditation in both 2D and 3D.
This TV is available in three sizes: the 50" TX-P50VT50, the 55" TX-P55VT50
and the 65" TX-P65VT50
Panasonic's new top-of-the-range plasma has an impeccable finish. It's nice and slim, and the aluminium edging adds a touch of class. However, the plastic stand looks a bit naff. A metal or glass stand, as seen in Panasonic's DT50
(LCD TV with Edge LED backlighting) would have looked much sleeker.
Like all plasma TVs, the VT50 has a glossy screen. You'll therefore need some nice thick curtains or a decent blind to keep screen reflections and glare to a minimum on sunny days.
Panasonic ships this TV with two different remote controls.
The first is a fairly standard zapper with backlit keys so you can still find the right buttons with the lights down low. The second is a more compact remote with an oval design. This has a basic set of controls (9 buttons in all) and a touchpad for navigating easily through the menus and Smart TV services. It's certainly practical, but we have to say we prefer LG's Wii-mote style remote.
Once hooked up to the Internet via Ethernet or Wi-Fi (built-in), this TV offers access to Panasonic's Viera connect platform. There are plenty of good-quality applications to choose from, with classics like YouTube (with HD videos), Skype, Twitter, Facebook and Google Maps, as well as Gameloft games (£5-£6 for a game like Asphalt
Finally, the media player's file support has been boosted since 2011. It's compatible with NTFS devices (Windows format) for access to files over 4 GB in size (which isn't the case with FAT 32 peripherals). Most video container formats are supported too, including AVI, DivX, MP4, MKV, MOV, MTS and M2TS. Only ISO files (disc images) and DVD/Blu-ray menus are problematic.
Once you switch to the mode that's best-suited to watching films (see inset), the VT50 lives up to expectations as a high-end plasma TV.
The black is nice and deep—so deep, in fact, that we suspect our sensor wasn't quite accurate enough to measure its exact level. We measured it at just under 0.03 cd/m² with white at 90 cd/m², which makes for contrast equivalent to 3400:1. In a pitch black room, we couldn't distinguish the black of the TV screen from the black of the surroundings, which is sue to make watching films a particularly immersive experience!
Colours in Cinema mode: average Delta E 2.8
However, this TV isn't entirely immune from one defect often associated with plasma technology—relatively low brightness levels. The white hits a maximum of 90 cd/m² while all the LCD TVs we've reviewed easily make it over 250 cd/m². The VT50 therefore isn't the best option for a brightly lit room.
Colour fidelity is good in Panasonic's VT50. We measured the average Delta E at 2.8, which is good enough to satisfy even the most demanding users.
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.
Plasma technology brings several advantages to this model, with viewing angles and display consistency that are perfect. There's no variation in colour or brightness, no matter whether you view this TV straight on or from the side.
The VT50 is perfectly suitable for gamers too. In fact, the ghosting time is a very low 6 ms on average, and the low input lag of 33 ms makes it one of the best TVs out there for gaming.
For smooth, seamless films, the motion interpolation function (Intelligent Frame Creation) does a very good job of keeping things flowing. On it's lowest setting, judder and glitches are totally eliminated with no adverse effects on image quality.
As usual with plasma TVs, black parts of the picture are perfectly consistent with no unwanted light leaking through to create blotches onscreen.
Like its predecessors, the Panasonic VT50 has an active-shutter 3D mode. Two pairs of 3D glasses are included with the TV, and these are comfortable, light and can be worn over the top of regular glasses. However, they can still be quite pricey.
With the 6 ms ghosting time, it's no surprise to see that the VT50 is excellent in 3D. The most highly contrasted images do still have a low level of crosstalk
(images for the left and right eyes overlapping onto one another), but the image is otherwise relatively free from this effect. The VT50 is therefore up there with the best in 3D mode!
Below—the result as seen through 3D glasses (Top: Panasonic TX-P50VT50 / Bottom: Panasonic TX-P50VT30
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. For the time being, only plasmas from Samsung and Panasonic get this right.
Green zone = good /Orange zone = tolerated / White zone = denatured
We were disappointed with sound quality in the VT50. Bass and low frequencies are reproduced at a higher volume than the rest of the spectrum—probably intentionally to make a badass "boom-boom" effect. However, this in turn can make voices harder to hear properly. When watching the news it's no problem, as the presenter is usually speaking alone with no background noise. However, if a bass sound starts up while someone's talking, it masks their voice. We'd therefore recommend you use a sound bar or a home cinema speaker kit with this TV.
This is the real drawback of plasma technology. When up and running, the VT50 uses 262 W, which works out at 380 W/m² for its 50-inch screen. It's therefore a long way off LCD TVs, which are mostly around 100 W/m²—that's almost three times more energy efficient! On standby, the VT50 does as good a job as other types of technology, using less than 1 W.