Panasonic TC-P60UT50 Review

60" Plasma 3D Television with Viera Connect Smart TV

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Strengths

  • High end feature set (Smart TV, Wifi and 3D)
  • Smooth picture performance and up-conversion from 480
  • High Def performance with fast action is no problem with 2500Hz equivalent sub field drive
  • Shadow detail from Infinite Black 2 Panel
  • Build quality solid for price level
  • Excellent price to value to features to quality
  • Better for Bright Rooms than other plasma brands once calibrated
  • Once picture set, very good light flow through the picture

Weaknesses

  • Motion artifacts a little more pronounced than higher end Plasma and LED
  • Complicated calibration caused by unstable colors and No 10pt.
  • Background setting visual noise, graininess
  • Blacks not quite as saturated as top tier, but still good
  • Speaker Volume Output good but quality hollow sounding

Picture and Viewing Feaures Rating: 8.8/10

One large recommendation with the TC-P60UT50 plasma from Panasonic is to follow our calibrated picture settings exactly – in case we did not emphasize that enough above. This TVs color has lots of horse power, but it is constrained and has to be unleashed. The 60UT50 does not contain the THX certification of the GT50 series nor have those settings available. The given presets Cinema, and Standard picture modes look dull, dim, and muted compared to our settings.

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

The Vivid picture mode setting is overblown with false edges and unrealistic color. The Standard setting is set to qualify Panasonic for energy stars and the attached Energy Usage rating label 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 important feature to disable to a great picture on this TV is to turn off the Motion Smoother (directions below under features/menu section).

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.

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.

Side Angle Viewing

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


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

Even without the Infinite Black Pro panel the TC-P60UT50 does well with 3-D content. There is plenty of depth to the image and color performance is good. The immersion level of 3D on the 60UT50 is excellent for a value oriented 3-D plasma television. 2-D to 3-D 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 3-D depth effect is about 40% of what a 3-D 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.

The Viera Connect Market for Apps

There arent that many great Apps outside the premium Apps that everyone uses, but it has plenty of those with a few additions like 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.

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.

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.

Appearance and Design

While sound quality was disappointing, design was better than expected. The UT50 has a solid feel and construction. It doesnt feel like the cheap plastic the company once used for their frames. 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 real drawback being a fairly cheap looking stand.

Menu and Remote Function

Panasonic's menu system is fairly easy to use. There are few flaws such as having to hit the return button a lot during calibration rather than giving the user the option to just scroll down to the next setting (during 2pt. White balance adjustment for instance). It's fairly simple for the most part. 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.

Value Rating: 9.6/10

Value is what the TCP60UT50 series is all about. With the right picture settings and calibration, you'll get a great picture with great features. Dont forget that 3D glasses are not included so add that to the tab. Panasonic's are relatively expensive but universal active 3D glasses should work. Retailers sell the TCP60UT50 for around $1499. There is plenty of competition in the same price range with the Samsung PN60E550, and the LG 60PM6700. If you want something super bright but with a much flatter picture appearance Sharp has the LC-60LE745U with similar features but very different picture quality characteristics.

Overall Rating: 9/10

-Jack Burden, Contributor

 



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