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A couple of weeks ago, I looked at and semi-liked the first set from Panasonic’s new plasma range, the TX-P37X20B. And during that review I commented that really the main thing the P37X20B did was whet my appetite for Panasonic’s upcoming G20 range, with its brand new NeoPDP technology.
Shame, then, that the 50in Panasonic TV I’m looking at today isn’t a G20 model either! However, before everyone gets too glum-faced, the P50S20B does at least move us a significant step closer to the G20 range than the entry-level P37X20B.
For starters, there’s the not insignificant fact that it sports a Freeview HD tuner - the first Panasonic TV to do so. In fact, it’s only the second Freeview HD TV I’ve seen from anyone (the first being Sony’s recently reviewed 40EX503).
Next, it sports 600Hz processing in place of the 100Hz system found on the X20 model. As ever, this 600Hz claim needs a little qualification, since the image doesn’t physically refresh 600 times a second, as you might expect. Instead, Panasonic derives the 600Hz figure from a processing engine that’s capable of adding enough extra ‘sub-fields’ to the picture stream.
I get a lot of questions asking for more clarification about this issue, so I thought it might be a good idea in this review to spend more time than usual on the feature, and for the sake of clarity provide an explanation of the ‘600Hz Sub-Field Drive’ straight from the horse’s mouth (in this case Panasonic’s Canadian website, which gives a much more lucid explanation than the UK one!). So here goes:
A standard video signal is actually a series of still images, flashed on screen so quickly that we believe we are watching a moving image. The typical frame rate used in North America is 60 frames per second (60Hz) meaning that a TV would display 60 individual still images every second. Sub-field drive is the method used to flash the individual image elements (dots) on a plasma panel. For each frame displayed on the TV the Sub-field drive flashes the dots 10 times or more, meaning that the dots are flashing 600 times per second (600Hz) or more. (Example: 60 frames per second x 10 sub-fields = 600 flashes per second).
Or in the UK’s case, you get 50 frames per second x 12 sub-fields = 600 flashes per second.
To put all this in simpler terms, Panny’s 600Hz TVs retain a normal refresh rate, but activate the plasma pixels more rapidly to make the picture look smoother and more stable. So hopefully that’s finally got that one sorted out!
As with all 600Hz TVs, the P50S20B also carries Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation technology for calculating new frames to sit between the existing ones coming in from a source. The purpose of this being, of course, to make motion look clearer and more fluid.