Panasonic TC-P50UT50 Review

50" 3D Plasma TV

-, Contributor

The UT50 is set apart from the ST50 by not having the new Infinite Black Pro plasma panel – Panasonic's best for 2012 which. Therefore it does not have the super black levels of the higher end models. It still has a good picture but black levels and contrast aren't quite as strong as the higher-tier Panasonic plasma televisions. Of major importance is unlocking the colors through aggressive calibration. Features are stout with active 3D and Viera Connect Smart TV options. The set is also better looking than we expected.
Panasonic TC-P50UT50
This shot from the Blu-Ray of The Fifth Element shows lots of picture depth from the UT50 and good clarity

Strengths

  • Good solid feature set (Smart TV and 3D)
  • Smooth picture performance and up conversion from 480p
  • HD performance with fast action is no problem with 2500Hz equivalent sub field drive
  • Dark Shadow detail from Infinite Black 2 Panel
  • Up-conversion from Standard Definition signals
  • Appearance, built quality
  • Price/Value
  • Better for Bright Rooms than other plasma brands
  • Light throughput/extra brightness

Weaknesses

  • Motion artifacts a little more pronounced
  • Difficult calibration caused by unstable colors/No 10pt.
  • Background visual noise, graininess
  • Blacks not as saturated as top tier
  • Speaker/Sound Quality Volume good, but hollow effect

Picture and Viewing Feaures Rating: 8.8/10


This shot from the Blu-Ray 3D of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs shows punchy color after calibration

One large recommendation with the TC-P50UT50 plasma from Panasonic is to follow our calibrated picture settings exactly. This TVs color has lots of horse power, but it is constrained and restricted and has to be unleashed. The UT50 does not contain the THX certification of the GT50 nor have those settings available. The given Cinema, and Standard picture modes that come preset will look dull and muted compared to our settings. The Vivid picture mode setting overblown with false edges and unrealistic color. The Standard setting is obviously set to qualify Panasonic for energy stars and is dim. Of the available preset picture mode options the Cinema setting option is best, but take the time a go to the Pro Settings menu (under Custom Mode only) and follow our settings. One other key to a great picture on this TV is to turn off the Motion Smoother (directions below under features/menu).

Once calibrated the color performance on this TV will surprise you. It's not far off the top models in rendition, and blacks come through plenty saturated. Standard definition programming looks very good on this TV. It does a very nice job of maintaining color rendition even with lower signals and the aspect ratio adjustments for proper sizing are also stellar. There are some motion artifacts to contend with as with all Panasonic Plasma TVs for the past 10 years, but overall this TV still delivers a very sound picture. The advantage of perfect side angle viewing and a smooth uniform picture over LED TVs puts it up there very high in picture to value ratio.

This shot from the DVD of The 3 Amigoes shows very good up-conversion of standard definition signals on the UT50

Black levels are good – not great while dark shadow detail is a strong point as usual with Panasonic Plasma.

Another of the features included is the 2500 Focus Field Drive which is the new motion smoothing processing that is included on the very top models. It also has 24p cinema playback in 48hz for smoothing out those movies.

While LED televisions make incremental improvements in this area plasma still gives viewers the same picture quality all the way out ot the very edge of viewable area. The UT50 has excellent side angle viewing.

3D Performance

Even without the Infinite Black Pro panel the TC-P50UT50 does well with 3D content. There is plenty of depth to the image and color performance is good. The immersion level of 3D on the UT50 is excellent for a value oriented 3D plasma television. 2D to 3D conversion is included on the set and worth a look more now than ever. The technology has come a long way from a couple years ago when we did not care at all for it. Now, I can see using it from time to time depending on the movie or programming though the 3D depth effect is about 40% of what a 3D program that was filmed in 3D would be.

Features Rating: 8.5/10

Internet Applications and Connectivity Wifi Included

The UT50 has the basic Viera Connect suite with streaming video from Netflix, Hulu and more and also has apps like Youtube and Pandora as well as sports, news and weather. There is also a social Media options platform. The great thing about Panasonic's Viera Connect suite compared to others is that it is stored in the cloud and there is much faster loading than the other brands. There arent that many great Apps outside the premium Apps that everyone uses, but it has plenty of those with a few additions like

The Viera Connect Market for Apps

I can somewhat understand why Panasonic loads even the lower end of its lineup with its Viera Connect options. Many of the paid Apps are rather pricey costing $5.99 or so and many even have the gall to request a monthly fee of .99 cents.

There is no free sample 3D material and really, the choice among free Apps is almost void. 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 a full run down on our review of Panasonic's Viera Connect click here.

Sound Quality Disappointing

While we were initially excited about Panasonic's commitment to improving speaker quality through the new 3D Real Surround system, we were disappointed by the actual results. Last years speaks were better before the change. In fact, we though Panasonic had some of the best sound quality until this change. When we reviewed the 3D surround system at CES it seemed to do a great job of “lifting” the sound to the center of the screen. Unfortunately, it did not transfer to the test room as sound was hollow and tunnel-esque while there was pleny of volume. So it wasnt all bad.

Menu and Remote Function

I like the menu improvements Panasonic over previous year's systems. The blue overlay menu flows down the left half of the screen and is very fast to use. It's a practical, well laid out design. Some controls are hidden (probably with the intent to protect the average consumer from changing them). Unfortunately one of those controls is the Motion Smoother feature which you will want to change to the Off position due to the soap opera effect it produces by eliminating natural depth and background blur. To turn off click the menu button/picture/scroll down to Advanced Settings/click on/scroll down to Smooth Motion/turn off. The remote is also adequate with a special button for 3D at the top and also a dedicated Inernet button.

Appearance and Design

While sound quality was disappointing, design was better than expected. The UT50 has a solid feel and construction. It also has a slimmer black bezel than last year at around an inch wide with an acrylic see -through edge. Depth is not as bad as we thought it would be either at 2.6”. It's not a sleek sexy design but it's pretty good, the only drawback being a fairly cheap looking stand.

Dimensions: 46.7Wide x 2.6Depth x 28.3High”

Value Rating: 9.5/10

I hate to go all out with a comment like this, but you just cant go wrong with a TV like the UT50 in the value category if you've got a good picture setting solution like ours. That's the key. Otherwise, it's a dim screen. It's got almost everything feature-wise you need even if Panasonic's Internet suite is not the best. The otherwise dim picture will look good with our calibrations. Almost every retailer seems to be around $899 for the TC-P50UT50. That's a great deal with competition from the Samsung PN51E550, the LG 50LM6700 and if you need something really bright take a look at LED-LCD TVs like the LG 55LM6200 which is quite a bit more expensive.

Overall Rating: 8.9/10

Jack Burden Jack Burden has been reviewing and writing reviews in the consumer electronics category for 7 years with CEAG. He considers grayscale gradation, film patterned retarders, and focus field drives to be fun topics. Read more about Jack

 



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