Panasonic TC-P55GT50 Review
50" 3D Plasma HDTV, Infinite Black Pro, Viera Connect Smart TV
by Jack Burden with Robert Wiley
- Great Black levels and Color Richness
- 3D Quality and 2D to 3D Conversion
- Picture Brightness for a Plasma TV is very good
- THX Bright Room preset picture mode
- Side Angle Viewing quality
- Sound Quality Hollow
- Some pixelating artifact background noise
- Paid Viera Connect Market Apps (value questionable)
- Price of 3D glasses (with some flicker from inbound light)
The TC-P55GT50 has the Infinite Black Pro panel that is Panasonic's best for 2012, but without the “Ultra” filter on the VT50 series which is even better. This is a big step up from lower end plasmas from Panasonic due to the much better signal processing. Black levels are about 20% better than lesser models with the extra fine processing of the sub pixel controller which controls the sub pixels red, green, blue inside each individual pixel cell. The TV is also THX certified which is usually not a big deal but this year adds a lot of value through usable picture modes.
Picture and Viewing Feaures Rating: 9.2/10
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 GT50 series. So take a look and try them and compare. Regarding the preset picture modes we have listed them below with notes on each. For the first time, we were very impressed with the THX picture mode settings as alternatives to our own, though we still found the THX Cinema setting a little dim.
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 throughout.
Cinema - The Cinema setting is pretty good and you will immediately notice a good jump in color and radiance and warmer tones.
THX Cinema - This mode is slightly brighter and more saturated than the Cinema setting. A good choice.
THX Bright Room - We like this setting and it's the best of the preset picture modes. It's new and it was needed on many plasma TVs such as the Panasonics that needed a quick setting solution for brightly lit rooms. This or the THX Cinema setting are good options if you do not want to delve into our settings. THX Bright Room runs Contrast all the way to 100%. But it's still not as good as our settings.
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.
Picture Quality Performance
There is a lot more picture quality performance in the higher end lines of Panasonic Plasma. The GT50 series has exceptional blacks and not as much of the magnifying effect as the VT50 series (due to the louvered screen overlay). Color richness and saturation after calibration is also excellent. We make them pop with our settings. This TV has some very advanced picture quality technology, complements mostly of the Infinite Black Pro panel, which produces some of the most exceptional black levels we have seen. One of the outstanding characteristics of the 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 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 solve, but which we do not see on the top Samsung Plasmas. However, colors, brightness and overall picture quality are better on the top Panasonic Plasmas this year. There was also just a slight amount of jerky judder from some types of images during slow panning.
Standard Definition Images
The GT50 does a very nice job of up-converting standard definition signals and presenting them in an almost HD quality. This is a strength of both plasma technology and Panasonic's processing.
3D Performance – Excellent
We found the active 3D in the TC-P55GT50 to be very impressive (but not as bright as some LEDs), colors popped, the picture was clear and images appeared to be both in front of the screen and far back in it providing for a very immersive viewing experience. The TC-P55GT50 provides full 1080p 3D to each eye and there are no adverse effects from crosstalk, blurring in the corners, or flicker from the glasses that we could detect on this TV. We're very impressed by the performance with multiple movies and 3D content. The glasses sent for us to test the VT50 are the model TY-ER3D4MU which cost around $50 to $65 – not inexpensive. As the only negative, there was noticeable flickering and shuttering from the glasses when there was present ambient light coming from the front or sides of the room in which we were viewing the TV.
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. 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. Nice advancement.
Black Level And Contrast
The black levels in the TC-P55GT50 are deeply saturated thanks to the Infinite Black Pro NeoPlasma panel. This is the best panel Panasonic has to offer and blacks are around 20% more saturated in this model than in the next model series down.
Panasonic has long been a leader in dark shadow detail and the GT50 is no exception to this rule. We could see excellent gray scale rendition in dark areas which enable us and any viewer to see fine details in clothing, or shadows of buildings. It all lends a more theater like experience to your viewing when you have this kind of detail in dark areas. I would describe dark shadow detail as almost perfect. Blacks are so well saturated that you can barely see them in a pitch black room.
Side Angle Viewing
Side angle viewing on the GT50 is of course excellent and perfect as with most plasma TVs. Plasma TVs still dominate the very important and little talked about aspect of picture quality. The is an area the LED TV manufacturers are still trying to quash.
Features Rating: 8.9/10
Viera Connect Review
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 in the Viera Connect Market 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 this page for a full Panasonic Viera Connect Review
Social Networking and Skype
In the GT50 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.
Sound Quality (bit of a downer, I'm afraid)
Sound quality from the TC-P55GT50 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 GT50 as we found sound quality hollow and tunnelesque. We made some adjustments to treble (+6) and bass (-5) which helped slightly, but did not solve the issue. Hopefully, a home theater system will be used anyway. What's worse is that last years Panasonic plasma TVs had very good sound quality, before the changes.
Appearance and Design
The TC-P55GT50 is Panasonic's most attractive TV ever (aside from this years WT and DT series LEDs). It has a silver metal trim strip and rich black glass going from side to side even over the black banding around the screen which is only about three quarters of an inch. The gradation on the stand is tacky but you cant see it once the TV is atop.
Value Rating: 9.1/10
At around $1620 for a near top end 50” TV with Panasonic's best panel (sans the Ultra filter) and one of the best picture qualities we will see all year, this TCP55GT50 positions itself extremely well in the HDTV market. Competition is mostly from other Plasma TVs as LED TVs are not produced in the popular 50” size. Samsung's second tier PN51E7000 and LG's 50PM6700 are two good competitors. The GT50 may cost a little more but we feel that due to its better brightness and color saturation it is worth the difference in certain situations.
Overall Rating: 9.1/10Dimensions:
- 46.1" x 29.7" x 13.2" with stand
- 46.1" x 27.7" x Max.: 1.9" without stand
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