Panasonic TC-P50ST50 Review
50" 3D Plasma TV Viera Connect Smart TV
by Jack Burden with Robert Wiley
Picture and Viewing Feaures Rating - 9.2/10
A silhouette shot from the BluRay of SI Swimsuit Edition shows nice color rendition on the TCP50ST50 from a difficult sunset scene.
The TC-P50ST50 has the Infinite Black Pro panel which the VT series had in 2011 with a cell structure that increases black levels by 1.5 times by blocking more ambient light with the louvered filter. This filter also prevents screen glare very well from our experience. It just absorbs the light without allowing it to reflect. This is a fantastic panel and picture quality for such a value oriented and well price active 3D plasma. The "self Illuminating" panel has very good contrast from the high efficiency panel while the Louver filter provides better light transmittance and clarity to images. All of these new technologies fall under the term NeoPlasma for 2012 which entails the over 6 million pixel cells full local dimming capability and over 24,000 steps of grayscale for improved color and balance across spectrums.
Of course, we always recommend our calibrated picture settings over the preset picture modes in a TV and we feel we nailed them on this ST50 series. So take a look and try them and compare. Below is a run-down of the preset picture modes found on the ST50 and where we feel they apply the best. Possibly one of the more significant differences between the GT50 and ST50 series are two very good preset picture modes from THX (THX Cinema and THX Bright Room) which are included on the GT50 but not on the ST50 due to it now being THX certified. But with our settings you really dont need it anyway since ours are the best! See our Picture Settings for the ST50 here.Picture Mode Settings ST50:
Standard – This setting is much dimmer than you would expect. It is really an energy saving setting and will not give you much brightness or light throughput.
Cinema – The Cinema setting is pretty good and and you will immediately notice a good jump in color and radiance and warmer tones.
Game Mode – This setting will look blown out like the Vivid setting unless you are gaming on the TV, then it is accepatble though to me it shows lots of granulation and artifacts.
Custom – Comes set to 100% of contrast and is your launch pad into our settings.
Vivid – Shows tons of pixelation and artifacts and should be avoided. There are just too many negative picture effects to name with this setting, so just avoid it.Clean, Clear Image Edges
One of the outstanding characteristics of the ST50 picture overall is the clean, clear edges the TV produces. It's just incredible.
Flesh tones are accurate and real as well, while colors around images popped. One of the only slight negatives we noted was some pixelating artifacts in a well lit background, especially when there is slow movement on the screen. This is an old plasma issue that Panasonic has never been able to completely solve. There was also just a slight amount of jerky-judder from some types of images during slow panning.
Standard Definition Images Up-Conversion
Up-conversion to native panel resolution is no problem for the ST50 from lowly standard definition signals and DVDs.
Focus Field Drive 2500 – This is Panasonic's new technology which is supposed to make motion scenes more smooth and crisp by manipulating the light emissions of the TV and in the end producing a picture with less blur during fast motion images. The VT50 does perform very well with fast motion images, but I did not see a problem with prior models either, so it's hard to know how effective this new feature really is.
3D Performance – Excellent
This shot from the 3D BluRay of SI Swimsuit Edition, shows great light flow through among rich colors.
In the ST50 the 3D images jump off the screen and appeared to be deep inside the set. Panasonic's active 3D is very immersive with colors that pop and tons of detail. Though dimmer (especially due to he darkening effect from the active 3D glasses) than some of the 3D LED TVs on the market, quality is impressive. The 3D quality is lively, smooth and rich with the full 1080p resolution being broadcast to each from the panel. The new 3D glasses TY-ER3D4MU are light, comfortable and expensive at around $60 per pair. The down side is some flicker (visible shutter action) from the glasses when there is inbound light from the front or front/sides.
2D to 3D Conversion
There is a small – almost hidden - button on the standard included remote control (labeled 3D) that allows for the menu for 2D to 3D conversion on the TCP50ST50. We tested the feature with several well done BluRay discs and the feature is not without its merits and is 10 times improved from prior models. The 3D glasses dim the picture considerably to introduce the extra contrast needed to create the 3D effect. However, in a darker room environment this feature might actually be worth a visit. It does create some nice 3D effects, with just a smidge of crosstalk here and there. Overall we felt there is nice advancement in this feature on the ST50.
Panasonic's 2012 active 3D glasses
Black Level And Contrast
Panasonic is known for strong black level and contrast and the ST50 is no exception. The dark, inky blacks make the colors pop off the screen but do not overpower detail in darker scenes. Every wrinkle in a dark suit is apparent as are individual hairs in a dark head of hair. The ST50 continues to show off plasma's dominance in this important part of overall picture quality. Side angle viewing on the TC-P50ST50 is of course excellent and perfect as with most plasma TVs.
Features Rating - 8.9/10
Viera Connect Review in ST50
Viera Connect is Panasonic's online suite and it sees a significant expansion in 2012. In addition to the standard apps like Netflix, Hulu, Facebook and Twitter Panasonic has partnered with social media network MySpace and its thousands of licensed music artists for MySpace TV, a new feature that is exclusive to Panasonic televisions.
The Apps selection from the Viera Connect Market platform in the TC-P50ST50 has lots of choices, but how valuable are they? There is a pinging noise every time you select and App which gets old. Some new additions to the premium Apps are WSJ Live, Vimeo, Vudu HD movies, SnagFilms, Bigflix VOD, and Daily Motion (videos). Most of the Apps have a price ($4.99) and some are even after a monthly fee (.99 a month). Though some of the Apps are free to download, there is more than likely some later fee associated. For instance within the 3 Apps included in the Health and Fitness section, all are connected to a device that must by purchased such as a BodyMedia FIT Armband, a Bluetooth enabled device that tracks calories.
One of the advantages and innovations for Panasonic for 2012 was to integrate the Apps portion of the TV to the cloud, thus speeding search, load times, and run times. This is especially important for the movie Apps. There is no free sample 3D material that we could access through the Apps.See Panasonic Viera Connect Review for a further review of the Apps.
Social Networking and Skype
Not that you will likely engage it, but n the ST50 you can multitask your social networking or Skype while you watch TV. With the new split screen feature you can have Facebook, Twitter or even a Skype Video call on one half of the TV while your programming continues on the other. In televisions equipped with a web browser you can also surf the internet while watching TV.
Remote Control and Menu
The Viera Connect Market suite is easy enough to figure out with just a little practice – accessed by the large “Internet” button in the center of the remote control. And the remote control has an easy lay out, that makes navigation a cinch. There is a dedicated 3D button atop the remote which allows the user to convert current content to 3D using the 2D to 3D conversion technology. Some programming actually looks decent converted.
The ST50 remote control
Sound Quality (High Expectations, low results)
Sound quality from the TC-P50ST50 was a disappointment after positive viewing at CES. Unfortunately, the display at the CES emphasizing Panasonic's new “3D Real Surround with 8-train speakers” did not translate to the ST50 as we found sound effects have a hollow sound – somewhat like a it is coming out of a tunnel. We recommend making some adjustments to treble (+6) and bass (-5) which help slightly, but did not solve the issue. Hopefully, a home theater system will be used anyway. Panasonic's sound quality last year was comparatively good, so this was an unexpected disappointment.
Appearance and Design
The TC-P50ST50 does not contain the flush glass to metal design of the top two tiers of Panasonic Plasma models. It's not going to knock you out with fantastic looks, but it's not bad either with a 1 inch wide frame and a screen depth of only 2”.
Value Rating - 9.3/10
At around $1250 the TCP50ST50 is a very competitive model in value as you still get most of the top important features in this TV. Samsung's PN51E6500 is a direct competitor of the same price and features though the Panasonic ST50's picture will show brighter (if using our calibration settings) while maintaining very good black levels.
Overall Rating - 9.2/10Dimensions::
- 46.5"x 29.8" x 13.2" with stand
- 46.5" x 28.0" x Max.: 2.0" without stand