Last Updated: June 24, 2013
2011 Panasonic Plasma HDTV Lineup
Deepest blacks and solid overall picture performance, but...
Is Panasonic still the king of plasma TVs?
The Panasonic Plasma TV lineup for 2011 comprises the largest range of plasma HDTVs from a single brand, with nineteen models ranging from 720p HDTVs to massive 3D plasma TVs. Premium HDTVs are among the best in black level performance, while Panasonic flagship VT30 series HDTVs deliver outstanding picture quality - though at a very expensive price.
Price is definitely an issue if you are after a 65-inch flagship or a premium Panasonic plasma HDTV; these are significantly more expensive than the competition. Yet the real obstacle for Panasonic is not price—after all these HDTVs target demanding home theater enthusiasts and videophiles looking for the best HDTV picture. Instead, it is Panasonic main attribute—black level performance—that is the real obstacle the latest Panasonic plasma TVs have to overcome. In recent past, Panasonic plasma TVs lost their superb blacks within a few months from initial use! Panasonic says they have resolved this issue completely, but only time will tell.
We still say the 2011 Panasonic plasma HDTV lineup is one of the most interesting, delivering enhanced features and superb picture performance. In addition, whether it is a premium or a cheap plasma TV, there is always a plasma TV option for you from Panasonic. Discover more in this Panasonic 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.
Panasonic Plasma HDTVs: Rated among the best in black levels but...
Since Pioneer left the plasma TV market, many started considering Panasonic as the new king of plasma TVs.
Plasma TV reviews published on major review sites keep confirming that Panasonic plasma HDTVs have the deepest blacks and the best overall black-level performance, one capable of displaying even subtle shadow detail in predominantly dark content. These are among the most important picture quality parameters. They help render better those difficult-to-define quality attributes like picture depth, color richness—more specifically the perceived color saturation, and scene detail especially in television and movie scenes where lots of dark and light content is being shown at the same time on the screen. Indirectly, deeper blacks also lead to better rendering of picture contrast.
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And this year Panasonic plasma HDTV lineup is no exception. From the inexpensive Panasonic TC-P50S30, to the affordable TC-P50GT50 premium plasma TV with Viera Connect, and the very expensive Panasonic TC-P55VT30 flagship HDTV, these all emerged in professional TV reviews as among the best within their class, delivering solid blacks and excellent picture quality. Panasonic is also the only plasma TV maker that for 2011 is delivering 46-inch plasma TVs. The 46-inch screen size is not among the most popular TV sizes in plasma TV sales. Yet this is a size that would provide you with those few extra inches of screen estate in places where a 50-inch TV would not fit due to space constraints.
Definitely, there are plenty of reasons to buy a Panasonic if picture performance is your priority, but since 2009, Panasonic had been having a problem with its exceptionally deep blacks! As further detailed in our article here, some of 2009 Panasonic plasma HDTVs started losing their blacks within just a few months from initial use; their initial deep blacks were turning into dark gray.
Panasonic had partially resolved the issue with 2010 sets in that variation in black levels became more subtle over time, rendering this a non-issue except for most demanding videophiles. 2011 seems to have brought about a further improvement, with Panasonic saying that users would not experience any such variation in black level with the new HDTVs. In other words, according to Panasonic, this black level issue has now been resolved completely. But this will take time to prove; in the meantime, many would-be buyers would still feel uncomfortable taking the plunge with a Panasonic plasma HDTV.
Irrespective of this black level issue, the latest Panasonic plasma TV lineup for 2011 is one of the most exhaustive, comprising 19 models spread over five series. No ultra-slim 1.5-inch thin designs, for that you have to look elsewhere. In this respect, the Panasonic 54-inch TC-P54Z1 we saw in 2009 will for the time being remain the slimmest plasma TV Panasonic ever made.
But otherwise, the new Panasonic plasma HDTV lineup is one of the most interesting both in terms of features and performance, irrespective of the price bracket you are after.
At the entry-level one finds the inexpensive X3 and S30 series of Panasonic plasma HDTVs. These are bare-bones HDTVs with an identical feature set except that X3 sets are 720p HDTVs while the S30 are 1080p HDTVs. The 720p series comes in 42-, 46-, and 50-inch versions. Instead, the 1080p S30 series also includes a 60-inch set; it is at this massive screen size that one would really appreciate the benefit of the higher pixel count supported by a 1080p HDTV.
While at the cheap plasma TV category, the LG competition comes with a more interesting feature set, yet Panasonic managed to complement its inexpensive HDTVs with a feature that adds more value and that gives Panasonic a most significant edge at this HDTV category.
Panasonic has equipped its inexpensive HDTVs with a feature referred to as Easy IPTV. This provides reduced Internet-TV access functionality on Panasonic Viera entry-level HDTVs by adding six of the most popular movie, music and social networking sites (Netflix, Amazon VOD, CinemaNow, Napster, Pandora and Facebook) for additional viewing options. Reduced as it may be, it is still a real plus as it gives you access to six of the most popular online TV services. This Internet TV access is missing on the competition at this price bracket.
The X3 is among the cheapest plasma TVs for 2011—with prices ranging from around $500 for the 42-inch TC-P42X3 to $670 for the 50-inch model. At this price bracket, most customers look for nothing more than getting the largest screen for their money. In this respect, the X3 really delivers especially when considering that you also get Easy IPTV!
Yet it is not X3 HDTVs that are turning out to be a big hit but the S30 series of Panasonic plasma HDTVs. Jumping onto the 1080p HDTV bandwagon with the S30 at the present reduced online prices would in certain instances call for less than an extra $50 over the 720p equivalent. At least this is the case with the 50-inch TC-P50S30 HDTV, which at its present online price tag of $715 is the cheapest 50-inch 1080p HDTV for 2011 with Internet TV access. It is no wonder this is also the best-selling 50-inch entry-level 1080p plasma HDTV for 2011.
Equally popular within the S30 series is the 60-inch TC-P60S30 Panasonic HDTV, thanks to a solid overall picture performance and a relatively cheap price of $1,400 for a 60-inch HDTV.
Moving up the Panasonic plasma lineup, one finds the ST30 series. This is Panasonic mid-range 1080p HDTV series and covers the widest range of screen sizes—six in all—from 42-inch up to massive 65-inch HDTVs.
With the ST30, Panasonic introduces a number of interesting features missing on the cheaper series. Most important from a picture quality perspective is the use of the significantly improved 'Infinite Black 2' plasma panel which among others is capable of deeper blacks even under bright lighting, and better gray level performance.
This series also introduces Panasonic to 3D TV and Viera Connect - Panasonic full Internet-TV suite. The latter is relatively simple to use despite being content-rich. Other features include DLNA compatibility, an SD memory card slot, Viera Link, and extensive connectivity. However, these Panasonic HDTVs fall short by one HDMI with respect to the competition.
The ST30 is the best-selling Panasonic plasma HDTV series for 2011. The best-selling HDTVs within this series include the Panasonic Viera 55-inch TC-P55ST30 and 50-inch TC-P50ST30; the latter is also the best-selling plasma TV irrespective of brand, TV category, and screen size.
Panasonic VIERA TC-P50ST30 50" 1080p Plasma HDTV
This is the best-selling Panasonic plasma HDTV for 2011. This entry-level 1080p Panasonic plasma HDTV delivers excellent picture quality; it comes with adequate connectivity, Easy IPTV for direct access to a number of Internet TV services, DLNA support and is Wi-Fi ready.
The latter means all it takes to access your broadband Internet connection or home network is the optional Panasonic DY-WL10 Wi-Fi adapter.
The S30 is also the TV series that delivers one of three massive 65-inch HDTVs from Panasonic for 2011, the TC-P65ST30 - which at close to $2,000 is again the cheapest 65-inch 3D TV presently available from a major TV maker.
The S30 supports very similar picture performance to that of the more expensive GT30 Panasonic plasma HDTVs. Apart from the presence of the THX picture mode, a fourth HDMI and a PC input on GT30 HDTVs, all other features are basically the same—including the use of the same Infinite Black 2 panel, and so is picture quality.
Main competition from other TV makers in the plasma market is from Samsung D6500 series and LG PZ550 HDTVs; the latter come at a cheaper price especially at the 60-inch size.
Overall, this series of 'budget-class' mid-range 3D Panasonic plasma HDTVs manages to strike the right balance between affordability, features and performance. You would not get any free 3D glasses, and with active 3D TV technology, these glasses do not come cheap, but S30 Panasonic Viera HDTVs still represent a great choice overall.
Panasonic VIERA TC-P55GT30
Panasonic best-selling plasma HDTV comes with the Infinite Black 2 panel for 'true' deep blacks, THX certification for one of the best out-of-the-box 2D and 3D pictures, and Viera Connect for more Internet content straight on your TV.
Next in line is the GT30 series of 3D Panasonic Plasma HDTVs with its four models ranging in size from 50- to 65-inch. Most popular sets within the series include the 50-inch TC-P50GT50 and the 60-inch TC-P60GT60; the latter is the best-selling 60-inch plasma TV for 2011.
The GT30 resides just below the company VT30 flagship series. The flagship makes use of a somewhat more advanced display technology, referred to by Panasonic as Infinite Black 2 Pro. This is the main reason behind the superior blacks of the VT30.
Moving on from the more affordable ST30 to the GT30 series of premium Panasonic plasma HDTVs would call for a premium of close to $500 for the 50-inch, and $1,000 for the 65-inch. These prices represent an expensive jump considering that the main upgrade features of the GT30 is the presence of the THX picture mode for both 2D and 3D viewing. As stated earlier on, you would also get an extra HDMI and a PC input even though we cannot consider these Panasonic plasma HDTVs suitable as PC monitors due to their limited PC resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels.
The GT30 Panasonic plasma HDTV is mainly aimed at the videophile 'on a budget' in that while it does not deliver a perfect picture (mainly due to a subtle fluctuation in black level and a slightly washed out shadow detail.) However, it is still capable of excellent overall picture quality—with deep black levels, accurate color, and solid video processing. 3D picture quality is also very good but you would not get any free 3D glasses. Instead, what you get for free is a USB Wi-Fi dongle, and a relatively slim and stylish design with an overall panel depth of 2.2-inches
Panasonic flagship plasma TV series for 2011 is the VT30. It consists of two models, the 65-inch TC-P65VT30 and the 55-inch TC-P55VT30. VT30 Panasonic plasma HDTVs are distinguished by a one-sheet-of-glass design, giving these TVs a stylish sleek design. Other distinguishing upgrade features on the VT30 include the use of a more advanced Infinite Black 2 Pro panel as already referred to above, a dedicated 96Hz mode for 1080p/24 content, and one free pair of 3D glasses.
According to Panasonic, the new and improved Infinite Black Pro 2 Panel raises the luminous efficiency while minimizing pre-discharge. This helps produce even more subtle black level detail in both dark and bright environments than that possible with last year’s Infinite Black Pro Panel.
Panasonic flagship plasma TVs are always the most awaited—together with Samsung flagship plasma HDTVs—by videophiles looking for the best picture irrespective of price. During these last few years, Panasonic plasma HDTVs have consistently managed to deliver the deepest blacks and best overall black level performance within their respective category.
This year is no exception; the latest plasma TV reviews confirm once again the VT30 is capable of superior black-level performance - delivering the deepest blacks ever recorded on any HDTV. As explained in our introduction, this is an extremely important picture quality parameter. This does not mean that these flagship Panasonic plasma HDTVs deliver the perfect picture; in particular, they lack the superior color accuracy of Samsung PND8000 plasma TV series.
But otherwise, the VT30 series is an exceptional performer with its only real drawback being its very expensive price. Suffice to note that VT30 HDTVs cost between $1,000 and $1,500 more than corresponding GT30 premium Panasonic plasma HDTVs, and over a $1,000 more than the Samsung PND8000 flagship plasma TVs.