Last Updated: June 25, 2013
2010 Panasonic Plasma TVs
Product Review Part 2: G20 and G25 Series
Least expensive Panasonic TVs with THX display certification
The G20 and G25 series represent Panasonic premium line of plasma TVs for 2010. These are the 2010 equivalents to the popular Panasonic G10/G15 series from 2009 - with an almost identical feature set. But the new 2010 series offer significantly improved black levels over the already deep blacks of the G10/G15, a brighter image, lower power consumption, and better color accuracy.
Improvements over the more affordable 2010 S2 series are VieraCast, Panasonic's IPTV application, and a new THX picture mode. Surely, these are nice-to-have features but nothing is perfect. For those ready to pay extra for a THX-certified 1080p plasma HDTV, more important is picture performance. More in this Panasonic Viera Plasma TV review article.
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.
Introducing the new G-series Panasonic plasma TVs: G20 and G25
The least expensive Panasonic HDTVs with a THX display certification
Panasonic first introduced a THX certified display picture mode on its PZ800U in 2008. At that time, Sound & Vision Magazine stated that 'This set's THX picture mode delivers exceptionally natural-looking color without making you jump through lots of picture-adjustment hoops, and its deep shadows will make even fans of Pioneer's Kuro plasmas stand up and take notice.'
Yet the breakthrough for THX display-certified HDTVs came in 2009 with the G10/G15 Panasonic Plasma TVs when these delivered the best 'out-of-the-box' one step picture calibration, albeit with what many considered a dim picture.
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However... The real breakthrough with the 2009 series was that big screen plasma HDTVs with THX display certification were for the first time available to the mass HDTV market. It is therefore only natural that with the new G20 and G25 series with THX picture mode, many are now expecting these HDTVs to follow on the footsteps of their predecessors by delivering improved performance. And improved picture performance is an area in which these two Panasonic premium series would not disappoint. It is all thanks to the new NeoPDP Panasonic plasma display panel, which for the G20/G25 is being termed Infinite Black panel; a panel whose designed has been partly assisted by former Pioneer plasma engineers.
As further explained under part 1 of this review article, the new panel makes use of a deeper cell structure, improved phosphors, new electrode layout, reduced electrical pre-discharge, and a new anti-reflective coating. The overall result is a panel that is capable of displaying exceptionally deep, rich blacks even under bright room conditions while still yielding superior shadow detail in the darkest parts of the image. This is all complemented by a most interesting feature set.
It is no surprise therefore that despite these Panasonic plasma TVs miss on what TV makers think is the hottest spec for 2010 - 3D, sets such as the 50-inch TC-P50G25 and 54-inch TC-P54G25 are among the HDTVs most in demand by home theater enthusiasts and videophiles looking for the best picture at a more affordable price.
But... as we often say, no HDTV has ever delivered the perfect picture yet, and the G20/G25 Panasonic plasma TVs are no exception.
Differences between G20 and G55 Panasonic Plasma TVs
These two series of Panasonic plasma TVs are in effect one and the same thing in that both share exactly the same features with just one minor non-picture related difference. The Viera Link application on the G25 comes with network camera support - supporting up to eight cameras to help you monitor your house security direct from your TV! This means we expect identical picture performance from these two Panasonic plasma TV series.
The only other difference is mainly one of models covered by each series. The G20 Panasonic plasma TVs cover two screen sizes, the 50-inch TC-P50G20 ($1,500) and the 54-inch TC-P54G20 ($2,000).
Instead, the G25 Panasonic plasma TVs comprises four screen sizes, the 54-inch TC-P54G25 ($1,430), the 50-inch TC-P50G25 $1,100), the 46-inch TC-P46G25 ($1,100), and the 42-inch TC-P42G25 ($900).
The G20/G25 Series of Panasonic plasma TVs in detail...
During 2009, Panasonic plasma TVs have built a reputation as the ones that deliver the deepest blacks; 2010 G-series Panasonic plasma TVs are no exception, delivering initial superb black levels. We have to emphasis on the word 'initial' due to a performance issue which cropped up with 2009 Panasonic Viera plasma TVs in February 2010 when these started losing their deep blacks. Panasonic said they have resolved the issue for 2010 but no doubt, Panasonic still has to prove itself in this respect.
In any case, plasma TV reviews published on major sites agree that the Panasonic G20/G25 plasma HDTVs deliver superior black level performance. It seems that as with 2009 HDTVs, an exceptional deep shade of black continues to be Panasonic plasmas' best attribute.
But apart from a deeper shade of black, the new G20/G25 series of Panasonic plasma TVs come equipped with two main additional features over the more basic S2 series, with the most important being the addition of an improved user-adjustable THX picture mode, and the upgraded VieraCast.
For 2010, Panasonic seems to have scrapped its 2009 slim design completely. Instead, all 2010 Panasonic plasma TVs - including the G20/G25 HDTVs, come with a 3.5-inch thickness, making these Panasonic plasma TVs among the ones with the thickest profile for 2010.
Overall design still delivers the impression of enough flatness when viewed from the front.
The G20/G25 design takes a rather minimalistic yet aesthetically pleasing all glossy black look complemented by a subtle silvery horizontal strip along the central part of the bottom frame and that fades into black.
All is complemented by a matching glossy black TV support stand that rests over a black circular base; the latter is the major design differentiator between premium and flagship series and the cheaper Panasonic plasma TV series such as the S2. The stand support provides a ±10 degrees swivel action.
As is the case with the latest Panasonic plasma TVs, the bottom part of the frame houses the set down-firing speakers; like 2009 models, the new 2010 comes equipped with a single full range driver for the left and right channels instead of the two-way tweeter and woofer speaker system adopted on corresponding 2008 models. Down-firing speakers are essential to help designers achieve the set compact form factor but they do not deliver the best sound. The G20/G25 speakers still produce adequate sound but nothing that match the superb picture quality of these Panasonic Viera plasma TVs.
All set controls and inputs are positioned on the sides which make them completely hidden from front view.
The G20/G25 Panasonic plasma TVs menu follows on the footsteps of the cheaper series and includes the same basic user menu and navigation structure. It is an updated version of the menu system adopted on 2009 HDTVs - with onscreen help and the presence of a permanent navigation column of icons on the left of the screen - sort of the navigation bar on a webpage. Overall, the new menu system is easier to navigate around.
The new TV remote control is again an improved version of what we saw on 2009 G10/G15 series. You still cannot use it to control other gear but the 2010 version comes with more illuminated buttons, this apart from the relatively large and well-differentiated layout that further help make for ease of identification in the dark home theater environment. The new clicker also comes with what appears to be traditional for Panasonic - a trio of hot keys positioned around the central cursor control, Viera tools, VieraCast, and what used to be the Viera Link on 2009 remotes has now been replaced by the Menu button.
Panasonic new NeoPDP panel
As indicated in our introduction, Panasonic equipped the G20/G25 plasma TV series with its new Infinite Black NeoPDP panel, which thanks to its new cell design structure, is capable of displaying exceptionally deep, rich blacks even under bright room condition while still yielding superior shadow detail even in the darkest parts of the image.
And by dispensing of the second front glass panel used on previous generation plasma display panels, Panasonic engineers succeed to cut down on image degradation from internal reflections while increasing contrast. A new anti-reflective coating is bonded onto the top glass panel itself; this drastically reduces glare from external light sources while increasing the contrast when viewing under bright lighting.
Other improvements include 1080 lines of motion resolution and four times the luminous efficiency compared to Panasonic’s 2007 panel, meaning it requires just one-quarter the power to produce the same brightness level.
These panels are also have a rated lifetime of 100,000hrs, support 6144 shades of gradation, and to what's it is worth, come with an improved contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1 over the 2,000,000:1 of the cheaper S2 and 2009 G10/G15 series.
There is no doubt the latest mega-contrast ratings quoted by TV markers are more than just impressive. However, keep in mind that manufacturer's rating for dynamic contrast have reached values where the impact in perceived picture performance is far less than what manufacturers are trying to imply with their mega numbers. Most TV manufactures are taking consumers for a ride by quoting ultra high ratings for contrast ratio using unspecified test methodologies. Do not let TV makers play the number game! A good picture is not made of contrast alone. More on contrast ratio can be found in our article here.
THX Display Certification
The THX picture mode on these Panasonic plasma TVs is mainly responsible for the set excellent picture performance. Panasonic THX mode provides the best out-of-the-box default picture setting and represents the best one-step calibration on 2010 HDTVs. Engaging the THX mode means the TV picture performance will conform to a set of home video display standards issued by THX in 2008 for its certification. THX certification includes among others an in-depth analysis of display uniformity, contrast, luminance, color levels, and resolution, as well as a complete review of the display scaling, deinterlacing and overscan capabilities. THX do not use a grading curve, meaning that it is either a pass or fail.
In other words, from a THX certified display, one should expect the best picture. What THX do not say is by how closely the various parameters should be met for a display to pass the THX display certification. This explains why some HDTVs without a THX display certification may still perform better than others with a THX picture mode.
What really makes the new THX mode unique both with respect to previous implementations as well as to the LG competition, is that for 2010, the Panasonic THX mode comes with a much appreciate enhancement - that of being user adjustable; and this apart from delivering plenty of light output even before any adjustments. LG do not provide user adjustments with its THX picture mode but then makes up for the dimmer setting of its dim Cinema THX mode by including a second THX mode -termed THX Bright room.
Previous THX display certification implementations have always been non-user adjustable and often criticized by users for their relatively dim picture, one that was mainly suitable for viewing under a dark room environment.
The THX mode is one of a set of six user-adjustable picture modes available on G20/G25 Panasonic plasma TVs. Other picture modes include Vivid - the brightest mode of all, Standard - dim-by-design to qualify for Energy Star, a Custom picture mode that allows for completely customization of the different picture settings independent per input, and a Game mode. The sixth mode is a Photo mode when using the JPEG menu in which case the custom mode will display as Photo.
Unfortunately, the Standard mode is too dim for practical use except in the dark room. As stated, this is dim-by-design and is a trick most TV makers are using to ensure their HDTVs qualify for Energy Star 4.0 specifications.
The Game mode is accessible both through the set picture menu and direct via a Game button on the remote control. Panasonic says that this should help deliver quicker image response while also producing darker images more clearly. Selecting the games mode will also automatically select that input which has been labeled 'Game' in the input naming menu. However as already expressed elsewhere on this site, unlike other TV makers, the Panasonic game mode is just another picture mode. It does not eliminate any video processing to help minimize delays between the player and the action on the screen.
All the picture controls on the G20/G25 come with independent memories per input.
Referring to picture settings, for 2010 Panasonic is providing an enhanced set of user-adjustable picture controls that is more in line with that provided by the competition. This is a welcome enhancement as Panasonic HDTVs used to come with a rather restricted set of picture controls.
New for 2010 is a 4-point fine color temperature control system - a sort of reduced version of the 10-point white balance system implemented on premium Samsung and LG HDTVs. New also is a six-preset gamma adjustment system - missing on 2009 series, and an on/off blur reduction setting to help improve the image motion resolution.
Apart from the above, there are five color temperature presets - Normal, Warm 1, Warm 2, Cool 1 and Cool 2, with the Warm 2 setting is the one closest to the D65 standard. Five aspect ratio or Format settings for HD and four for SD content are also provided; these include a zoom mode that allows the user to adjust both the horizontal and vertical position of the displayed part of the image.
Panasonic G20/G25 plasma TV series include a 48Hz refresh rate for 1080p/24 signals but which suffers from too much image flicker and is useless; instead, the 2:3 pull-down works with both standard and high definition sources but this means that G-series Panasonic plasma TVs are not capable of properly displaying the cadence of 24p content.
As for advanced features, these include a C.A.T.S. function, or contrast automatic tracking system function that senses ambient light and optimizes the contrast by adjusting the brightness and gradation on the fly to better match the ambient light level; video and MPEG noise reduction settings which can be set to either on or off; and a black level setting - light or dark - for use when viewing content carried over the HDMI inputs.
You would not get color management support but these Panasonic plasma TVs still include an on/off setting to activate a basic color management function that enhances the green and blue color reproduction.
Apart from THX, the next most important upgrade over the S2 Panasonic plasma TVs is the addition of much improved Panasonic VieraCast with its assortment of online content. For this year, in addition to YouTube, Picasa Web Albums, Bloomberg news and stock information, local weather, up-to-the-minute content from USA Today, and Amazon Video on Demand, it now offers Pandora Internet Radio, movies streamed from Netflix, sports from FOX Sports, tweeting web communications with Twitter, and even home video and audio conferencing with Skype; the latter however requires users to purchase the $150 Panasonic TY-CC10W Skype Enabled communication camera.
A welcome enhancement with Panasonic VieraCast is the possibility to use a USB keyboard for easier tweets.
For the first time, Panasonic is providing a USB2.0 wireless dongle (DY-WL10 Wireless LAN Adapter) for its HDTVs that supports up to 802.11n connectivity in a similar manner to Samsung HDTVs; mind you, a third party dongle will still work.
Viera Link is another Panasonic proprietary feature that uses the HDMI-CEC support to control other compatible devices.
Unlike VieraCast, Viera Link is available on the less expensive Panasonic series with the difference that the Viera Link implementation on G25 Panasonic TVs includes the option to connect a network camera (with multi-screen support) to your TV for household monitoring.
Image Retention Menu
These Panasonic plasma TVs come with a full suite of anti burn-in features or as the company calls it 'image retention' even though such an occurrence with today's plasma display panels under normal viewing is no longer an issue.
These include a pixel orbiter that moves the entire image gradually around the screen, and an option to set the 4:3 mode to include dark, mid, or bright instead of black bars on either side of the picture. The mid gray has less chance of causing image retention but ideally, you should choose a setting that is more in line with the average content brightness level.
In the remote chance of a retained image, there is also a scrolling bar feature that sweeps a white bar across a black screen to help erase the retained image.
This is more than adequate but still falls short of one HDMI with respect to the 2010 competition from Samsung and LG. In total, G-series Panasonic plasma TVs come with two component video inputs, two composite video inputs, three HDMI ver. 1.3 complete with both Deep Color (x.v.Color) support and CEC via Panasonic Viera Link, two USB2.0 ports, a VGA-style PC input, an Ethernet port for network connectivity, and a digital audio output.
Unfortunately, you would not get any analog stereo audio output on these HDTVs. Instead, you get an SD memory card slot which works with the Viera Image viewer for photo, movie, and music playback direct on your Panasonic plasma HDTV; the memory card slot on the G20/G25 can accept up to SDXC Card with 64 GB and the miniSD card (by using the appropriate card adaptor.) Supported files include MPEG2/AVCHD for movies and JPEG for still images.
Audio output is 20W total power over the two down-firing speakers; there is no virtual surround sound feature but these 1080p Panasonic plasma HDTVs will output surround sound over the set digital audio output connection.
Power saver modes
These Panasonic plasma TVs come with a few eco-friendly features like the eco/power saving option under the Viera link menu. There is also a standby power save setting to put all connected Viera link compatible devices in eco-standby mode when the TV is powered off. Similarly, the 'TV Auto Power Off' features when activated will turn the TV off in case there is no signal for more than 10 minutes, or in the absence of activity either through the remote control or set side panel for more than 3 hrs.
G20/G25 Panasonic Plasma TVs - Performance Analysis
Picture Quality: Black Levels, Shadow Detail, and Color Accuracy
There is no doubt that G20/G25 Panasonic plasma TVs are great performers, and if there is an area in which these Panasonic plasma TVs excel, it is in picture quality, and in particular, in their ability to deliver extremely deep blacks. The latter is among the blackest you can get at this price bracket in the post-KURO era. Cnet measured an initial black level of 0.007 ftl. This is exceptional; the only problem is whether these Panasonic Plasma TVs will still manage to maintain this level of black within a reasonable time of use.
In any case, according to comparative reviews by Cnet, the only TVs that measured a deeper black were the Pioneer Kuro reference display (PRO-111FD), the LG LH8500 LED TV with local dimming, and the 2010 Panasonic TC-P50VT25 flagship 3D plasma TV. The LED TV however fails when it comes to maintaining a uniform black level across the entire screen area due to blooming and lack of screen uniformity - typical of all LED TVs; none of these are issues with plasma TVs. In this respect, the overall black level performance of plasma TVs is definitely visibly superior.
As with 2009 Panasonic plasma TVs, the new G20/G25 HDTVs exhibit some fluctuations in the blacks with test material having excessively high average brightness levels. A few users have also noticed these fluctuations with some program material. But according to the same Cnet review, overall black level still remains stable enough with the majority of program content, to the point that it often very hard to perceive, and one that surely does not impact the set overall solid performance.
In THX mode, the out-of-the-box overall picture performance is excellent with deep blacks, accurate colors and much improved color decoding over that of Panasonic's 2009 Series plasma TVs. This is complemented by a uniform grayscale, a decent stable gamma, and a bright enough picture for viewing under normal room light conditions; the latter is the most welcome enhancement over 2009 THX implementations.
Cnet in their TC-P50G25 review says that grayscale is slightly 'less-than-perfect' when compared with their Pioneer Kuro reference display, but it is still one that falls within the D25 in THX mode. This is important as a grayscale that remains very close to the D65 (or 6,500K) standard across the entire brightness range helps preserve color fidelity at all brightness, or luminance levels.
Many TVs fail here - visibly shifting towards red in the darker areas and blue in the lighter parts of the image. This is not the case with these Panasonic plasma TVs and despite the slight inaccuracy pointed out by the Cnet reviewer, the same reviewer adds that the difference between the reference display and the Panasonic G25 series HDTVs is one that is only noticeable in a side-by-side comparison.
Directly related to the set deep blacks is shadow detail - which on the G20/G25 Panasonic plasma TVs is slightly less natural than that seen on equivalent 2009 G-series Panasonic Viera plasma TVs. It is still very good but shadow detail in the darker parts of the image tends to be a bit lighter than expected.
This is due to the somewhat lighter gamma in the darker parts of the image. Cnet measured a gamma value of 2.07 against the ideal 2.2/2.4 - thus explaining the slightly brighter image in the shadow detail. Home Theater magazine measured a less consistent gamma for the TC-P50G20 - from a low 1.98 and 2.14 from 20 IRE to 80 IRE, decreasing to 2.31 at 90 IRE - again confirming that the image will be lighter in the darker parts. But as stated by the same Home Theater magazine review, in practice the low gamma on the G20/G25 HDTVs is not obvious to the eye. There is no way of adjusting the gamma in THX mode but then this is the mode that delivers the most accurate and stable gamma across the entire brightness range. Instead, the variable gamma options in Custom mode tend to produce a much less stable gamma.
The THX mode on the new G-series Panasonic plasma TVs delivers the most accurate color gamut, with a primary and secondary color accuracy that is spot on to the HD standard. Colors remain true even in the darkest parts of the image. In addition, these HDTVs deep black levels and solid color decoding help contribute to deliver some of the most saturated colors.
When it comes to G20/G25 video processing, all expert reviews we came across agree that this is very good and clean, capable of correctly de-interlacing both 1080i- and 480i- video-based and film-based content; the latter however requires manually activating the 2:3 pulldown processing.
As with the 2009 G10 HDTVs, the G20/G25 HDTVs come with a 24p direct-in with the option to set the refresh rate to 48Hz as opposed to the standard 60Hz to better match the cadence of film. However, as already expressed earlier on in this Panasonic plasma TV review, the 48Hz setting produces too much flicker, mostly noticeable in bright areas of the image, to be of any use.
Both customers and professional reviewers agree that handling of standard definition material from a DVD source is not among the best things these Panasonic plasma TVs can do. This is an area where these HDTVs are among the worst performers. They do not resolve every line of the DVD format - leading to a somewhat softer-looking picture, and with a lot of jaggies along the edges of diagonal lines. Equally important, noise reduction with low quality shots is also one of the less effective among similar HDTV.
Handling of PC content via one of the set HDMI inputs is very good - delivering the full 1920 x 1080 pixels without any overscan. Instead, when using the set VGA PC input, the supported maximum resolution is limited to 1366 x 768 pixels as against the full 1080p resolution supported via HDMI inputs - leading to a relatively soft looking image.
Motion resolution performance is superb - delivering the full 1080 lines supported by the HD standard when activating the blur reduction feature. With the bur reduction off, Cnet measured between 700 and 800 lines - which is still exceptional.
Yet as we have noted elsewhere on our site, this level of motion resolution can only be detected through the use of appropriate test patterns; you would not be able to enjoy the benefits of this higher motion resolution. This is basically the same as with the 240Hz and now the 480Hz refresh rate LCDs; you would not be able to enjoy the benefits of improved motion resolution resulting from this higher refresh rate over the typical 600 lines supported by 120Hz LCD TVs with actual program content.
The new Infinite Black panel on these Panasonic plasma TVs with its single layer top glass panel and the embedded anti-reflective coating is one of the most effective screens when it comes to minimizing reflections off the screen surface and preserving the level of black under bright room conditions; in this respect, the new anti-reflective coating performs significantly better than that on 2009 Panasonic plasma TVs.
2010 Panasonic plasma TVs deliver brighter images at significantly lower power consumption. Cnet reported that average power consumption for the 50-inch TC-P50G25 Panasonic plasma HDTV is 216W once properly calibrated for a 40 ftl output, falling to 155W in default standard mode. However, the latter yields a too dim a picture to be of any use for normal TV viewing.
These figures imply a reduced 'power consumption gap' between plasma and LCDs and an improvement of more than 25% over 2009 for the same brightness levels. This renders the G20/G25 Panasonic plasma TVs among the most energy efficient 1080p plasma TVs for 2010. They are also more efficient than 720p plasma HDTVs from 2009. The latter is a significant improvement as unlike LCDs/LED TVs, power consumption in plasma TVs increase with an increase in screen resolution since each pixel in plasma TVs is in effect a light source.
LCDs and in particular LED TVs still remain more energy efficient - in particular, the latest more expensive LED LCD TVs can do a much better job here. In fact, most of the latest LED TVs use typically half the power required by the latest plasma TVs. In other words, despite the much touting by plasma TV makers about their new eco-friendly energy efficient display panels, LCD and LED TVs still have the upper hand here.
Superior deep blacks, excellent picture uniformity, good shadow detail and excellent color accuracy characterize the G20/G25 picture. The slight inaccuracy in the measured gamma is unnoticeable to the human eye, while the reported fluctuation in the black levels is an issue which would be hard to experience with normal program material. Rather, more annoying is that these TVs would not be able to deliver the correct cadence of 24p material.
But then these are the HDTVs that come with one of the best THX picture modes. The THX mode is possibly the best asset that comes with these Panasonic plasma HDTVs. It is definitely the best and most accurate out-of-the-box picture setting - one that make it possible for anyone to get the very best picture performance at practically the touch of a button. Panasonic has surely raised the bar here for other TV makers, delivering one of the best THX picture modes ever.
A few users complained of a buzzing noise with these Panasonic plasma TVs, a faint buzzing noise that would become louder as the average picture brightness increases. The Cnet reviewer noted that this is very faint and audible only during silent passages from a relatively too close a viewing distance.
A very soft buzzing noise is typical of all plasmas and is mainly caused by the electrical charges used to create the images on the screen. As correctly noted by Cnet, the level of buzzing is generally quite low and audible only from a too close a viewing distance mainly during nighttime, and with the sound level practically turned off.
One needs to be aware here that there are many factors that may influence this noise phenomenon. Changing the picture mode to one using lower power such will reduce the buzzing level when present since this affects how much power the panel is processing. This also explains why the perceived buzzing changes with picture content. Equally important is the panel installation; a hard wall surface directly behind a wall mounted plasma TV will reflect more of the buzzing noise than a wall covered with soft furnishing.
Overall... The black level issue which cropped up in February with 2009 Panasonic plasma TVs may still impede some from making a G-series Panasonic plasma TV their next HDTV purchase. But there is still is a lot to like about these HDTVs; they deliver an excellent overall picture - one better than that of the more expensive LED TVs, complemented by a most interesting feature set and a value that is one of the best irrespective of display technology.
Bestselling HDTVs within the G-series of Panasonic plasma TVs include 50-inch TC-P50G25 and the 54-inch TC-P54G25.