Last Updated: June 24, 2013
Panasonic vs. Panasonic
ST50, GT50, and VT50 Series Plasma TVs
Which is the Best Panasonic Plasma HDTV for 2012?
Part 2: Performance Analysis and Discussion
In the first part of this Panasonic plasma TV review, we discussed the features on offer on mid-tier, premium, and flagship Panasonic plasma TVs. We now continue our review of Panasonic's mid-tier, premium, and flagship series by analyzing in detail each series for overall performance while pointing out the pros and cons of each, to determine where each series fits best in the 'overall value' equation.
We conclude this discussion by presenting our arguments as to which series in our opinion, represents the best Panasonic plasma HDTV option for 2012; you may join our discussion by submitting your comments using the comments submission form at the end of this page.
Panasonic VIERA 55-inch TC-P55ST60
...first HDTV to ever gain a 5-Star rating
in a Cnet review!
If the ST50 from 2012 did prove to be the HDTV to deliver the best value for your money, this new 2013 model from Panasonic turned out to be even better - delivering a picture you would generally expect from a more expensive flagship model.
Its 3D picture is not among the best, yet the ST60 is capable of amazing picture quality at a price that is well within reach of the average budget.
Performance Analysis & Discussion
In this second part of our Panasonic plasma HDTV review, we carry out a comparative analysis for each series with respect to the other two.
This whole discussion crops up as when it comes to picture quality, the ST50, GT50, and VT50 Panasonic plasma HDTVs exhibit very similar picture performance, with a picture quality that is superior to most of the competition. Suffice to note that according to a Cnet review of the ST50 series, this mid-tier Panasonic plasma TV scored the same in picture quality as the 2011 Panasonic VT30 plasma flagship HDTV! We did not carry a hands-on review of the VT30 series last year but if this statement is correct, then it means the improvement in picture quality registered by these Panasonic TVs in just twelve months is such that a mid-tier series now performs the same in the picture quality arena as last year Panasonic flagship, this despite that the VT30 is regarded by many as the best HDTVs in picture performance released during 2011.
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This represents an astonishing achievement in picture quality especially when taking into account the relatively affordable price of ST50 Panasonic plasma HDTVs, a price that remains within reach even at the 65-inch category with the 65-inch TC-P65ST50 selling at amazon for under $2,100.
This achievement in picture quality is mainly the result of the new Infinite Black Panel Panasonic is using on these three series. These panels are capable of exceedingly deep blacks, accurate gamma, and equally important, accurate colors; the latter is an area in which Panasonic plasma HDTVs have so far generally failed with respect to Samsung HDTVs. In fact, color accuracy has generally been regarded as one of Samsung's HDTVs main attributes.
There is also the issue that both the mid-tier and premium series make use of the same version of Panasonic's Infinite Black panel — the Pro. This explains why picture performance of these two is basically the same and follows very closely that of the flagship model.
TC-PST50 Mid-Tier Panasonic Plasma HDTVs
These HDTVs exhibit accurate and well balanced colors once calibrated without the greenish skin tones, red push, or lack of color saturation we have been accustomed to with past Panasonic plasma HDTVs especially at this price bracket.
This is definitely a most important picture quality achievement for Panasonic as Panasonic plasma HDTVs already enjoyed dominance in black levels; hence, getting the color accuracy in place gives Panasonic an edge over the competition in terms of overall picture quality.
Notice however that we said 'once calibrated'; out-of-the-box color is not quite perfect; you definitely need to calibrate these HDTVs to enjoy the best picture.
As indicated in the first part of this article, these Panasonic plasma HDTVs deliver exceedingly deep blacks - with a deep level of black that remains stable and without any perceivable fluctuations irrespective of whether the scene is showing predominantly very dark or bright content.
We have also seen improved gamma and shadow detail over 2011 Panasonic plasma HDTVs. This is an important area of picture quality where Panasonic plasma HDTVs generally failed with respect to Samsung; with 2012, this is no longer so.
Bright room performance is one of the best for a plasma TV thanks to the new louver filter; this helps reject light coming from above while preserving the blacks even under bright lighting.
The use of louver filters on HDTV screens can at times lead to what is called dirty screen effect which mainly shows as faint vertical bands on bright panning scenes that have a predominant expanse of one bright color. One particular correspondent on the AVS forum said that the DSE is 'killing him'. We cannot say exactly what the real issue with the TV in question was. However, we do not think these Panasonic plasma TVs have a much worse DSE than HDTVs from other brands employing this type of filter technology; nor that the level of DSE on these Panasonic HDTVs is in any way distracting.
Overall processing is very good while playback of 24p content with the 60Hz setting yields correct filmlike cadence. However, the use of 60Hz playback of 24p content results in some minor video processing artifacts such as slight background flickering during quick pans and shifting lines. These artifacts are rare and these TVs are still capable of doing a great job in delivering a smooth filmlike cadence with 24p movie content.
As has been the case with past Panasonic plasma HDTVs, 48Hz playback of 24p content results in too much flicker with 2D material to be of any use; instead, enabled with 3D 24p content, 48Hz playback yields great overall 3D performance.
Activating the new motion smoother dejudder feature also helps improve motion resolution in test material but the difference is not noticeable with program content. Unfortunately, the use of the motion smoother with playback of 24p content may introduce too much of a soap opera effect which may be objectionable to some — even with the motion smoother set at its lowest level.
These sets correctly deinterlace 1080i film based content but only with the 3:2 pulldown set to ON; using the auto setting does not seem to work properly.
3D picture performance
3D performance is very good with hardly any crosstalk issues as long as you activate the 48Hz movie playback; using 48Hz playback with 3D/24p material gives you true 24p playback for each eye.
The only complaint we have here is that Panasonic fails to provide free 3D TV glasses with its TVs as instead is the case with Samsung and LG.
TC-PGT50 Premium Panasonic Plasma HDTVs
Same comments as those for the ST50 apply except that with THX Cinema, these sets support slightly more accurate gamma and grayscale performance, albeit a slightly dim picture in default setting. Luckily, the THX picture modes on the Panasonic support basic picture adjustments - meaning you can always adjust the picture brightness to your liking.
The presence of the THX picture modes represents the main upgrade over the ST50 series; however, in our opinion, the THX modes on GT50 Panasonic plasma HDTV sets do not produce the expected improvement in overall picture performance for the price difference in question between GT50 and the cheaper ST50 HDTVs.
Again, this is the same as the ST50; while many may think that the presence of a dual-core processor on the GT50 series should help produce improved video processing with less artifacts especially with 24p playback in 60Hz, yet as stated earlier on in this write-up, the improvements brought about with dual-core mainly come into play with VieraConnect.
One main difference here is that the GT50 (like the flagship) supports twice as many shades of gradation as the ST50. This should theoretically help produce finer clearer transitions between different shades of gray but the perceived difference in this respect between the GT50 and the less expensive series is practically impossible to perceive.
3D picture performance
Same comments as for the ST50 apply.
TC-PVT50 Flagship Panasonic Plasma HDTVs
This is the Panasonic plasma HDTV series that comes with significant improved features over the GT50 and ST50 series, and as such, it is the series for which many would expect a significant difference in overall picture performance with respect to the other two.
Its main drawback is that it comes at a somewhat expensive price; rather, we add that it is relatively expensive considering the outstanding picture performance of the more affordable ST50 and GT50 series HDTVs, with the latter two offering some serious competition in picture quality. It is definitely a case of Panasonic vs. Panasonic!
VT50 Panasonic plasma HDTVs are capable of the best TV picture quality you can ever get, enjoying all the pros of the other two series but with superior black levels, more accurate colors, perfect screen uniformity, and superior bright room performance than any other TV presently available on the market.
These HDTVs also exhibit accurate grayscale tracking that remains neutral across the entire brightness range with no distinguishable color casts in dark areas and shadow detail.
Accurate grayscale tracking is a most important aspect of a display's color performance as it indicates the display's ability to produce a neutral shade of white from the brightest whites to very dim grays; this is the most important aspect of a display's color performance as without a neutral grayscale, colors will appear unnatural with shifts in brightness.
VT50 HDTVs are also capable of a relatively brighter image than any other plasma, delivering a better overall picture with brighter richer colors and better perceived contrast.
Under bright light conditions, the Panasonic flagship can preserve blacks better than most TVs — including the other two Panasonic plasma HDTV series under review in this write-up.
This is the only Panasonic plasma HDTV series that comes with 96Hz playback of 24p content. Unlike the 48Hz playback feature found on the ST50 and GT50 series which as stated earlier on produce an objectionable level of flicker with 2D playback, the 96Hz cinematic playback handle 24p playback correctly with no artifacts of any sort, thought a subtle flicker may be noticeable when handling large areas of bright content.
As is the case with the ST50 and GT50, playing of 24p movie content in 60Hz produces smooth film-like cadence but also minor video artifacts like the slight background flickering during quick pans referred to above.
Like the GT50, doubling the shades of gradation does not produce any perceivable improvement on VT50 HDTVs over the cheaper ST50 series.
In a similar manner, the VT50 series does not bring any improvement in the supported motion resolution over GT50 and ST50 Panasonic HDTVs, this despite the much touting by Panasonic in this respect. Mind you, all three series support more than 1080 lines of motion resolution with the motion smoother dejudder processing active; so in reality, there is not much room for improvement here by the flagship.
As in the case of the ST50 and GT50 series, 3D picture is very good with minimal crosstalk when the 48Hz playback mode is activated. However, this is not an area where the VT50 enjoys some advantage over the competition; rather TVs using passive 3D glasses technology generally perform better here.
Overall picture quality in 3D is very good in THX 3D Cinema picture mode — with a performance that is the same as that of the GT50 series in the same picture mode — with deep blacks, accurate well balanced colors, and excellent shadow detail.
Which is the best 2012 Panasonic plasma HDTV for overall value?
Surely, it all depends on what you are after. However, this whole issue would not crop up if it were not for the fact that when it comes to the most important deliverable of any TV — picture quality — all three series exhibit excellent capabilities, with the ST50 and GT50 being practically on par once calibrated and very close to the VT50 series.
We do not want to be misunderstood here. If you are after the very best in what today's TV technology has to deliver, the VT50 Panasonic plasma HDTV is the one to opt for; it offers an excellent feature set, superb design, and superior overall performance, one that the plasma and LED TV competition would definitely find it hard to beat.
But it does not come cheap especially with respect to the ST50 series, with a price difference in excess of $1,200 at the 65-inch category. At the same time, we cannot but remark that despite its expensive price, it is still much cheaper than the Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD LED TV — a champion in picture quality, and the upcoming OLED TVs.
Down the line, there is the GT50 series. This still represents an excellent premium HDTV option with a picture quality that while not exactly up to that of the VT50, it is so close that opting for the GT50 would not give you some inferior picture.
In other words, if what you are after is a screen size not covered by the VT50, rest assured that you would not get disappointed opting for one of the GT50 premium Panasonic plasma HDTVs; and with the GT50, you would not get just good quality picture, but also a most comprehensive feature set complemented by extensive connectivity and excellent styling.
The real problem with the GT50 series is that as expressed earlier on in this discussion, it has the misfortune of being sandwiched between two highly performing series from within the same Panasonic lineup, both of which are competing with the GT50 to get hold of your attention. On one side, there is the VT50 with its slightly superior performance but significantly expensive price, and on the other, the cheaper ST50 with a picture quality that is practically the same as that of the GT50. It is therefore no wonder that the VT50 and ST50 series are both doing much better in TV sales than GT50 HDTVs.
OK, the ST50 would not get you the same excellent aesthetics as the GT50 Panasonic plasma HDTVs but you would not be missing much on features; set the ST50 to its best picture mode — Cinema, and there you have a picture quality that is just a hairline apart from that of the GT50 series in THX Cinema. And this for a cheaper price!
While the VT50 is the Panasonic plasma HDTV series that delivers the best features and picture, yet there is one more important parameter that has to be factored in the 'overall value' equation — price.
In this respect, it is the ST50 series with sets such as the 55-inch TC-P55ST50 and the massive 65-inch TC-P65ST50 that gets our thumbs up; only just, but it still remains the Panasonic plasma HDTV series that gets our preferred choice even in the face of the VT50 series. We think that the premium one has to pay to move from the GT50 to the VT50, and even more so from the ST50 to the VT50 series, does not quite equate to what you get as 'extra' in terms of enhanced features and improved picture quality with VT50 HDTVs.
Back to Part 1: Panasonic ST50, GT50, and VT50 - Design and Features
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