Last Updated: June 25, 2013
2010 Panasonic Plasma TVs
Product Review: VT20 and VT25 Series
Superior 2D picture and impressive 3D experience but...
The VT20 and VT25 series represent Panasonic flagship plasma 3D TVs for 2010. Apart from 3D, Panasonic flagship HDTVs come with a different NeoPDP panel that is capable of a visible superior black level performance; in addition, the VT25 series includes an ISFccc calibration option.
As with all 3D HDTVs, these are relatively expensive, though not as expensive as the latest 3D LED TVs. But then these 3D Panasonic plasma TVs deliver superior solid 2D image and an impressive 3D experience - one that is definitely better than that of LED TVs. And as if to entice HDTV buyers to get one of these 3D plasma TVs, Panasonic is offering a pair of 3D shutter glasses for free with its 3D plasma TVs. More in this Panasonic 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 TV from Panasonic is even better - delivering a picture you would generally expect from a more expensive flagship model. Though its 3D picture is not among the best, the ST60 is capable of amazing picture quality at a price that is well within reach of the average budget.
Introducing the new
3D Panasonic plasma TVs: VT20 and VT25
Impressive 2D picture quality and 3D image performance for less
As indicated in our introduction, these HDTVs represent the flagship line of Panasonic plasma TVs. Main upgrade over the cheaper G20/G25 series is 3D. Both series come with a THX picture mode similar.
The only difference between these two Panasonic plasma 3D TV series is the addition of ISFccc calibration option on the VT25 series. ISFccc stands for Imaging Science Foundation Certified Calibration Configuration and allows professional calibration technicians to calibrate an HDTV to deliver the best picture quality for the home theater environment.
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The ISFccc calibration process includes adjustment for contrast, tint, sharpness and color levels with a high degree of accuracy. Once calibrated, the settings are locked to avoid accidental changes. Technicians can store their calibration settings as ISF Day and ISF Night modes for best image quality under different light conditions; these ISF Day and ISF Night picture settings are added to the TV preset picture modes. However, the fact that the only difference is the presence of an ISFccc calibration option means that VT20 and VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs are capable of delivering the same picture quality.
Plasma TV reviews for the TC-P50VT25 published by major review sites show that these HDTVs have superior black-level performance and excellent shadow detail; they also come with accurate primary colors in THX mode and superb color saturation. Equally important, they can handle 1080p/24 content correctly despite a few image artifacts.
Apart from their excellent 2D image performance, these 3D Panasonic plasma TVs deliver an equally solid 3D picture - one that is better than that of the more expensive 3D LED TVs thanks to hardly any incidence of 3D image crosstalk. This is the biggest advantage of plasmas over LCD/ LED TVs in 3D TV viewing.
Screen sizes: The Panasonic VT20 series covers just one screen size - the 50-inch TC-P50VT20 ($2,500). The VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs come in four screen sizes, the 50-inch TC-P50VT25 ($2,400), the 54-inch TC-P54VT25 ($2,800), the 58-inch TC-P58VT25 ($3,500), and the second massive 65-inch plasma for 2010, the TC-P65VT25 ($4,400).
3D Panasonic plasma TV Series in detail...
3D is the name of the game and this is the major upgrade brought about by Panasonic flagship series. But there is a lot more than just 3D with Panasonic VT20 and VT25 HDTVs.
Panasonic flagship series continues to follow on the latest minimalistic design for 2010; again, no slim designs for the latest Panasonic plasma TVs, not even for these flagship series.
Instead you get is a 3.5-inch thick panel in an all glossy black finish very much similar in design to the G-series; the panel is complemented by a matching glossy black TV support stand that rests over a black circular base.
The stand support provides a ±10 degrees swivel action. The only real differentiating factor between G and VT series is the presence of two silvery accent strips along the top and bottom sides of the TV panel.
As is the case with the latest flat panel HDTVs, the bottom part of the frame houses the set down-firing speakers - delivering 30W of audio power; 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.
All set controls and inputs are positioned on the sides which make them completely hidden from front view.
The menu on the VT20/VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs 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.
The new TV remote control is also an improved version of what we saw on 2009 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. This helps make identification of the different in the dark home theater environment easier.
3D Support: Definitely, top of the list for these 3D Panasonic plasma TVs is the new 3D feature.
Unlike Samsung flagship series, these Panasonic 3D TVs come complete with one pair of 3D shutter glasses (TY-EW3D10U). Obviously, you will still have to buy additional pairs for the rest of the family members but at least one is free.
Unfortunately, as with 3D glasses from other brands, these can feel extremely uncomfortable especially on your noise if you have to wear these over your prescription glasses. So ensure you will be able to withstand those oversized 3D glasses first before taking the plunge with your 3D TV purchase!
Unlike Samsung, Panasonic do not provide a 2D-to-3D conversion feature - not much of a loss in that simulated 3D content, while pleasing, still lacks the detail and 3D comfort level of true 3D content.
Panasonic also miss on the various 3D adjustments found on Samsung plasma 3D TVs. Instead, what you get is a possibility to select the 3D format to match your 3D content source, namely Auto, Native, Side by side, or Top and bottom options. You should normally leave this control in Auto, but if the set doesn’t display a 3D source correctly, you can try the other selections. Included, there is also a Left/Right swap control in the extremely unlikely event that the eye images are reversed.
Interesting is that though these Panasonic plasma TVs come with THX display certification, this applies only when in 2D mode; in fact, the THX picture mode is disabled in 3D. Best out-of-the-box setting for 3D is Panasonic default Cinema mode. You may have to increase the picture brightness when in 3D to make up for the loss in image brightness as a result of both the polarizing filters in the 3D glasses as well as the switching action between the left and right eye; the latter significantly reduced the perceived brightness level for each eye.
Both Panasonic VT series use a 120Hz refresh rate to support the 60Hz frame rate per eye for 3D. Directly related to the higher refresh rate is the use of a high drive speed system, which enables more rapid panel illumination while maintaining image brightness.
In addition, Panasonic new NeoPDP panel uses short-throw phosphors and faster circuitry to allow the red and green phosphors to shorten their decay time by as much as 66% - effectively significantly reducing the overall pixel response time for practically free 3D image crosstalk. As further highlighted under our 3D TV section, 3D image crosstalk is a phenomenon where a subtle washed-out image intended for the right eye appears as a halo around the image intended for the left eye and vice versa. The incidence of 3D image crosstalk in plasma displays is significantly less than that of the more expensive 3D LED TVs thanks to the much faster pixel response time in plasma displays. This is the biggest advantage of plasmas over LCD and LED TVs when it comes to 3D TV viewing.
Panasonic new NeoPDP panel: As highlighted under part 1 of this Panasonic plasma TV review, Panasonic has equipped the VT20/VT25 plasma TV series with its new Infinite Black Pro NeoPDP panel. Thanks to its new cell design structure, the new panel 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 also bonded onto the top glass panel itself. This drastically reduces glare from external light sources while increasing the contrast when viewing under bright lighting.
These panels support 6144 shades of gradation, and to what's it is worth, come with an improved contrast ratio of 5,000,000:1.
THX Display Certification: The THX picture mode on these Panasonic plasma TVs is mainly responsible for the set excellent picture performance in 2D. Like the THX mode on the G-series plasma TVs, the THX picture mode on the flagship Panasonic plasma TV series provides the best out-of-the-box default picture setting and represent the best one-step calibration. Engaging the THX mode means the set 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 and color levels, and resolution, as well as a complete review of each display’s scaling, deinterlacing and overscan capabilities.
In other words, from a THX certified display, one should expect the best picture. THX do not use a grading curve, meaning that it is either a pass or fail. 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 in THX picture mode.
As indicated in our G20/G25 Series plasma TV review, the new THX mode comes with a much appreciate enhancement - that of being user adjustable - apart from delivering plenty of light output before any adjustments.
Picture Controls: The THX mode is one of a set of five user-adjustable picture modes in 2D found on these Panasonic plasma TVs; in 3D mode, the THX mode is replaced by the Cinema mode. The other picture modes available in both 2D and 3D on VT20 and VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs are Vivid - the brightest mode of all, Standard - dim-by-design to qualify for Energy Star 3.0, a Custom picture mode that allows separate settings independent per input, and a Game mode. All these picture controls come with independent memories per input.
Unfortunately, the Standard mode is too dim for practical use except in a totally darkened environment. 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.
As indicated in our introduction to this review article, VT25 series Panasonic plasma TVs come with an ISFccc calibration option; once calibrated, you will get two additional picture modes - ISF Day and ISF Night - picture settings that will be added to the set preset picture modes.
Referring to picture settings, apart from the very basic 3D settings already referred to above, Panasonic is providing an almost identical set of picture controls to that found on the G-series Panasonic plasma TVs. As already expressed under part 2 of this 2010 Panasonic plasma TV review, for the first time, Panasonic is providing an enhanced set of user-adjustable picture controls that is very much in line with that provided by the competition. This is a welcome enhancement for 2010.
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.
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.
VT20/VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs include a 96Hz refresh rate for 1080p/24 sources, in addition to the 60Hz and 48Hz refresh rates found on the G-series HDTVs. Unlike the 48Hz, the 96Hz refresh rate works well, meaning that the flagship series is 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; a black level setting - light or dark - for use when viewing content carried over the HDMI inputs.
There is no 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.
VieraCast: These Panasonic plasma TVs come with the much improved Panasonic VieraCast and 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.
New for 2010. Panasonic is providing a USB2.0 wireless dongle for its HDTVs that supports up to 802.11n connectivity in a similar manner to Samsung HDTVs.
Viera Link is another Panasonic proprietary feature that uses the HDMI-CEC support to control other compatible devices.
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 like the G25 series, the Viera Link implementation on VT20 and VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs includes the option to connect a network camera (with multi-screen support) to your TV for household monitoring.
Image retention: Panasonic provides 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.
Connectivity is almost complete and in line with what you find on similar premium HDTVs form other brands. In total, VT-series plasma HDTVs come with two component video inputs, two composite video inputs, four HDMI (three on the back and one on the side) complete with 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, an RS232 port, and a digital audio output, but no analog stereo output.
Included, there is also 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 can accept up to 64GB SDXC Cards 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 30W total power over the two down-firing speakers; included, there is also BBE® ViVA HD3D Sound. Contrary to what some may think, BBE ViVA is not a virtual surround process despite the 3D connotation; instead, it provides what Panasonic calls 'a natural three-dimensional sound image' to relatively small audio systems with limited speaker placement as is the case with the speakers on flat-panel TVs.
BBE ViVA keeps the character, image, directionality, and musicality of the original sound source; for this reason, it is called the BBE ViVA HD3D (High Definition 3D) sound.
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.
VT20/VT25 Panasonic Plasma TVs - Performance Analysis
3D Picture Performance
Reviews appearing on both Cnet and Home Theater magazine agree that these 3D Panasonic plasma TVs can deliver a most pleasing 3D experience - with a 3D image that is a lot better than that of the more expensive LED TVs.
We have already discussed 3D earlier on in this article when we stated the primary advantage is the minimal 3D image crosstalk occurrence - an advantage that arise mainly out of being a plasma rather than a matter of brand or model superiority.
In fact, reviews show that apart from the differences that arise out of the different picture settings, the performance of these 3D Panasonic plasma TVs when in 3D mode is basically similar to that of the Samsung PNC7000/PNC8000 plasma TVs, with both the Samsung and the Panasonic yielding a very similar illusion of depth, a pleasing out-of-the-screen effect, and with an identical level of 3D image detail. In both cases, the Samsung and the Panasonic exhibited minimal 3D image crosstalk with respect to the latest 3D LED TVs.
2D Picture Quality: Black Levels, Shadow Detail, and Color Accuracy
There is no doubt that VT20/VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs are great performers not just with 3D but even more so when in 2D. This is the area in which these Panasonic plasma TVs really excel. These are among the best-performing HDTVs, delivering some of the deepest blacks ever. Both Cnet and Home Theater magazine measured 0.004 ftl - among the blackest you can get in the post-KURO era. This is exceptional; the only problem is whether Panasonic will still 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 was the Pioneer Kuro reference display (PRO-111FD); the LG LH8500 LED TV with local dimming also measured 0.004 ftl but the LG 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.
In THX mode, the out-of-the-box overall picture performance is excellent with exceptionally deep blacks, highly accurate colors and much improved color decoding; this is complemented by a uniform though slightly reddish grayscale, a decent stable though slightly lighter gamma, and a bright enough picture for viewing under normal room light conditions.
Directly related to the set deep blacks is the VT20/VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs excellent shadow detail - one with images that looked highly natural even in the darkest parts of the picture - despite being slightly brighter.
This is due to the somewhat lighter gamma in the darker parts of the image. Cnet measured a gamma value of 2.06 against the ideal 2.2/2.4 - thus explaining the slightly brighter image in the shadow detail. But in practice, this slightly low gamma 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.
The THX mode on the new VT-series Panasonic plasma TVs delivers the most accurate color gamut, with primary and secondary colors accuracy that is spot on to the HD standard. Cnet notes a slightly reddish/greenish grayscale but at the same time, the Cnet reviewer adds that they would be hard pressed to see it outside a side-by-side comparison. Equally important, colors remain true even in the darkest parts of the image; the latter is an area in which most HDTVs fail. In addition, these HDTVs deep black levels and solid color decoding help contribute to deliver some of the most saturated colors.
Surprising enough, according to both professional reviews we consulted, video processing on the VT20/VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs - while performing reasonably well, did show the occasional artifacts - including false contouring, especially when in 96Hz mode, though as noted by both Cnet and Home Theater magazine, none of these artifacts were particularly distracting.
These Panasonic plasma TVs are also 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.
The 96Hz refresh rate option on the VT20/VT25 works well, unlike the 48Hz which produces too much flicker to be of any use. This means that these HDTVs can produce the correct cadence of 1080p/24 material.
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 800 and 900 lines.
While this is truly excellent performance, 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 discern the benefits of this higher motion resolution, inasmuch as you would not be able to enjoy the benefits of improved motion resulting from 240Hz and 480Hz refresh rate technology in LCDs over the typical 600 lines supported by 120Hz LCD TVs when watching actual program content.
Like the G-series, the new anti-reflective coating embedded direct onto the top glass layer on the Infinite Black Pro panel is extremely effective in minimizing reflections off the screen as well as preserving the level of black under bright room conditions - doing significantly better than 2009 Panasonic plasma TVs, and one of the best anti-reflective filters found on 2010 HDTVs.
Definitely, the new 2010 NeoPDP Panasonic plasma display delivers brighter images at significantly lower power consumption. Cnet reported average power consumption for the 50-inch TC-P50VT25 Panasonic plasma HDTV as 275W once properly calibrated for a 40 ftl output, falling to 175W in default standard mode. However, the latter yields too dim a picture to be of any use for normal TV viewing.
While these figures imply a reduced 'power consumption gap' between plasma and LCDs, the improvement over 2009 is just close to 10% over corresponding V10 Panasonic series. In fact, the VT25 is possible one of the most power hungry HDTVs for 2010 despite being Energy Star 4.0 compliant.
Interesting is that in 3D mode and with the picture set to the default Standard mode and the ambient light sensor off (this gives the dimmest picture setting), power in 3D rose to 252W as against the 134W when displaying the same content in 2D. As expressed under our 3D TV section, this additional power is due to the brighter image necessary for 3D playback.
VT20 and VT25 3D Panasonic Plasma TVs are relatively expensive. But they are also the HDTVs for 2010 that deliver one of the very best 2D picture quality performance characterized by superior black levels, excellent shadow detail, accurate color, and solid color saturation in THX mode; the latter represent the best-ever one-step picture calibration ever implemented on any HDTV. Add the screen uniformity advantage of plasma TVs over LCDs and the better off angle characteristics, and there you have possibly the best 2D HDTV for 2010.
But equally solid is the VT20/VT25 3D picture quality - one that is far superior to the more expensive 3D LED TVs thanks to the much subtle and significantly reduced incidence of 3D image crosstalk.
All is complemented by an effective anti-glare screen, a functioning 96Hz refresh rate mode that can render the proper cadence of 1080p/24 content, a much improved VieraCast, and a most comprehensive feature set.
The few issues with color accuracy, video processing and the slightly lighter gamma does not in any way compromise these Panasonic plasma TVs overall outstanding picture quality.
It is true that these sets superior black level performance have still to prove itself in the long run following the 2009 black level issue but...
The bottom line: No TV brand has so far delivered the perfect picture, but with the VT series, Panasonic has definitely managed to deliver one of the best HDTV lineups that come closest to the perfect TV. For those with the extra cash, these Panasonic 3D TVs deliver exceptional value especially at the larger screen size. And this applies irrespective of whether you care about 3D or not. In this respect, VT20 and VT25 Panasonic plasma TVs deliver an impressive 2D and superior 3D picture performance for less than the more expensive flagship 3D LED TVs.
Most popular sets within the VT-series of Panasonic plasma TVs are the 50-inch TC-P50VT25 and the 58-inch TC-P58VT25.
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