Panasonic TC-P50ST60 (TCP50ST60) Review

50" 3D Plasma HDTV Infinite Black Pro, Viera Connect Smart TV

by , Senior Editor


Strengths

  • Good solid black levels and color with HD content
  • Great side viewing angle performance with 2D and 3D
  • 3D performance solid
  • Contrast Ratio
  • Solid Smart TV Apps Offering and Performance (Viera Connect)
  • Wifi Connection is very strong for Smart TV and playback through Internet
  • Strong Picture Quality to Price Ratio = Value
  • Gaming in Gaming Mode did a nice job

    Weaknesses

  • Sound/Audio can have a hollow effect and weak volume
  • Picture from 480i standard resolution source has a hazy effect
  • Slow Browsing due to 5-way controller typing
  • 2D to 3D Conversion produces considerable crosstalk, motion lag

    The TC-P50ST60 is Panasonic's top of the line 50 inch plasma for 2013/14 lineup. The VT60 and ZT60 series do not include a 50” model, leaving it up to the ST60 to hold the spot. It's got fantastic picture quality and a feature set worthy of the best 50 inch plasma. The Infinite Black Pro panel and 2500 focused-field drive create an an smooth and crisp image with deep blacks. Active 3D enables excellent 3D playback on the ST60. Panasonic really put together a plasma TV that will be hard to beat in the value category.

    Picture Quality Rating: 9.2

    The TC-P50ST60 is a NeoPlasma model with the Infinite Black Pro Filter. The picture quality is very similar to the GT50 series from last year with smooth transitions and lots of depth to go along with rich coloration. Use our calibrated picture settings to bring forth the best color balance to maximize your picture quality and pay close attention to our notes below about the Motion Smoother. Contrast is a major strong point and measured 6200:1 in our testing – a very stout result for a mid-tier TV (cant wait to test the ZT60..).

    Dark Shadow detail is quite excellent with the Black Level setting at Light. Most picture settings come with the Black Level set to Light. This setting will maximize the dark shadow detail. If you prefer a picture with even more contrast (OK for very dark rooms) then go to the Black Level settings and change it to the Dark setting. While a plasma TV cannot compare to a top LED TV in light out put and flow-through, the ST60 certainly competes well compared to average LED TVs.

    The 5th Element Blu-ray on the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    The 5th Element on Blu-ray shows great contrast and and depth

    3D Viewing Quality – Dark and Deep!

    After ramping up the 3D picture a bit through the Custom setting (Motion Smoother to Strong setting, 3D Adjustment setting to +3) we got a very solid 3D picture that popped. What you notice immediately about the 50ST60 compared to LED 3D TVs is that the 3D picture is much darker and this takes away somewhat from the 3D quality – whether caused by the glasses or the image. But after these adjustments you get a deep picture with lots of richness and certainly above average with no crosstalk or flicker from the glasses. Side-viewing angles with 3D images are perfect on the ST60. The glasses are larger and uglier than some but light and comfortable nonetheless.

    The Active 3D Glasses of the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    The active 3D glasses that come in the box are a little bulky, but light. 2 pairs are included

    2D to 3D Conversion – Leave it!

    Nope, not there yet unless you are willing to punish your eyes. There is tons of crosstalk, fluttering images, blur, motion lag everything you do not want in a 3D picture (or any picture for that matter). We tried it with some good BluRays as well as regular DVDs and it's a feature that you will want to leave alone for now on the Panasonic ST60.

    Standard Definition Content

    Tested with 480i and 480p input. Picture markedly better in 480p with 100% better black levels and color and gray scaling.

    Picture Setting Mode Options

    Of these preset picture modes, the Home Theater mode is our favorite with the motion smoother turned off, the contrast toned down to 85, and the Black Level set to Light. But follow our ISF calibrations settings for an even better picture quality.

    Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    The ST60 is an excellent performer when it comes to color reproduction. Some of the other notable picture qualities are depth and contrast. Notice the silver trim running around the entire frame of the TV

    Motion Smoother (IMPORTANT)

    This is an important setting on the ST60 and the TV comes with this setting activated on all preset picture modes. You will have to play with it to find out what your preferences are for normal programming and movies. Your choice is to either turn it off and see the picture as naturally intended with some background blur and judder, or use the feature with much of the background blur and judder removing. This may bother you as it produces an artificial appearance – some call it the Soap Opera effect, others the Fishbowl appearance. The Weak setting option within the control does not seem to produce much problem and is worth considering. Otherwise, we prefer the feature be left off. The Mid and Strong settings produce too much (of that stuff). To get to the control go to the top left menu button, then the right arrow key to access Picture settings, then scroll down to the second page, and there you will find the Motion Smoother. Turn off or to the Weak setting.

    Now let me confuse you. With both 3D programming and Gaming you will definitely want to use the Motion Smoother feature on at least the Mid setting as it enhances the performance of both.

    Gaming Quality

    We fired up Gran Turismo 5 and Okami HD on the PS3 to test out the ST60's gaming capabilities. The TV has a Game mode located in the advanced picture settings. It's a good idea to turn it on for action games and shooters. Otherwise there will be a noticeable amount of input lag. There was a bit of judder in the Game mode, but that didn't take away from the experience. The Motion Smoother setting helps with the judder, but has to be disabled when the Game mode is running.

    Game Mode and Input Lag on the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    Input lag with the Motion Smoother enabled is higher than with the Game Mode with a 100 milisecond difference
    Game Mode and Input Lag on the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    Input lag in the game mode clocks in at 80 miliseconds. Seems like a small difference, but lag was not noticable during game play

    Try out both ways for different games to see what works best, but I still recommend Game mode as best. We gave 3D a try on Gran Turismo 5 as well. The sense of depth was very subtle, but the picture quality did not take a turn for the worse like we saw with other TVs in tests. It could be a lot of fun with the right game. Important Note: This is a plasma TV, so try not to allow static images and HUD elements to remain on the screen for long periods of time to avoid ghosting and burn in.

    Game Mode on the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    Gran Turismo 5 on the Panasonic TC-P50ST60. The strong contrast of the plasma display is really showcased here

    Features Rating: 8.4/10

    Menu Settings

    The picture menu for the 50ST60 is quite good with a 10 point or 2 point white balance control. As mentioned above there are additional picture mode settings as well. The menu is easy to access and very thorough with tons of picture, 3D, and Sound options.

    Sound Quality (Still a bit of a downer but not too bad)

    Sometimes has a hollow (tunnelesgue) effect that turning the volume up does not remedy. Sound is generally good from the 2.1 sound system, has a small 10 watt woofer with 2 X 10 watt speakers. There are lots of sound options available with a surround mode. The standard modes are Standard, Music, Ambience, User. The Natural Surround mode isnt bad for movies but we prefer the simple Standard mode with everything else off. Treble (+6) and bass (-5) which helped slightly.

    Remote Control


    The Standard Remote of the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Plasma TV
    The Standard Remote of the Panasonic TC-P50ST60, notice the 3D and Netflix buttons at the top and bottom

    The remote is simple and old style but effective. It's black with matte finish with lots of buttons and a 5-way controller for controlling the menu, Smart TV and Browser. It has a dedicated Netflix, Apps, and 3D buttons for quick access.

    Touch Pen


    Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Touch Pen
    The optional Touch Pen allows you to add a pesonal touch to photos and video by writing directly on the screen. The result can then be shared using the Swipe & Share 2.0 features. 2 pens can be added for $80

    The ST60 along with all Panasonic Smart TVs for this year contain the (kinda-cool-but-what-do-I-do-with-it) touch pen option (sold separately). It works well and easily although unless you are presenting some new gaming programming to your kids I cant think of many applications for it – maybe pointing out a great block on the gridiron to your buds during a college game?

    Wifi Built In – Works Great!

    Not only is it built in but it performs excellently well. We did not experience any buffering or connection problems like we did with other TVs. The ST60 played through any video content without a problem and connected any Internet searches extremely fast.

    Appearance and Design

    The TC-P50ST60 is somewhat reminiscent in looks to last years GT50 series plasma even though the framing bezel is made of plastic rather than the higher end glass and metal design. It takes close inspection to notice. It has a silver metal trim strip (also made of plastic) which surrounds the bezel. The stand is black gloss and very well constructed. It's a good but not great design.

    Panasonic TC-P65ST60 Design
    Here you see the design of the ST60 series. It's the silver trim on the entire frame that makes this one different than the S60 series below it

    Smart TV Features and Functionality

    Internet Browsing

    Browsing is not difficult to access through the Apps button on the remote. Then scroll across to the clearly noted box marked “Web Browser.” The Panasonic ST60 of course was extremely slow to browse with even though the Wifi connection through this TV is the best. The 5-way controller is just too slow to use when browsing to type in searches or URLs even though the browser worked well once you do get it typed in. The ST60 uses a url toolbar or a Google browser tab for searches.

    Featured Apps include MLB.TV, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Games (Playjam), You Tube, Amazon IV, Accu Weather, Cinema Now, WSJ Live, MLS Soccer, Skpe, Fox Sports, Vudu HD Movies, Pandora, TCN TV Country. Notably missing was Picasa though. One area of superiority with the Panasonic TC-P50ST60 compared to some of the competition is that the wifi connection is excellent. MySpace is not a big part of the selection anymore and other Apps that have taken a backseat or that are not present anymore include Daily Motion, Bigflix VOD, Smagfilms. There are 33 games to choose from with most free and the others costing 99 cents.

    Panasonic TC-P50ST60 Apps
    This is the screen where you access the apps you have downloaded

    MLS Match Day – Major League Soccer highlights from previous games and live games if you tune it at the right time. Good clarity from the ST60. Rating: 5 out of 5. This is what Apps should be like and its free.
    World Heritage Specials (Panasonic) – Eight 20 minutes specials by National Geographic channel. Pretty interesting. Give it a 3 out of 5.
    WSJ Live – Interesting interviews from the Wall Street Journal purportedly live. Give it a 4 out of 5 rating.
    Touch Pen -There are several new game Apps that utilize the touch pen for the Panasonic Smart TV.
    MLB.TV – highlights and scores from Major League Baseball.
    Fox Sports – Just scores and a little highlight news about Baseball, NFL, NBS and NHL, not much. 1 out of 5 rating.
    Tunein - Music App radio from classical music from NPR, Jazz from 91.9, and more. You have to listen to ads before getting to the music. Rating 2.5 out of 5.

    Value Rating - 9.2/10

    The TC-P50ST60 is one of the best value TVs for this year. At $1100 it will be a great seller and the price may get a bit better before the year is over. It's got good 3D, great blacks, a simple but effective remote control, ample Smart TV features, and pretty good looks. Samsung PN51F5500 is one competitor, though I prefer the ST60. The Samsung UN50F6400 is an LED competitor.

    Overall Rating - 8.9/10





    Robert Wiley Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine...Wiley does. Read more about Robert

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