My heart also skipped a beat - for yes, I still get excited by new technology! - when I discovered that the P50S20B is actually a NeoPDP design. Last year’s S10 predecessor didn’t use Panasonic’s then brand-new NeoPDP technology, so it’s great to find it being brought further down the range this year.
However, my momentary surge of excitement quickly subsided, at least a little, when it turned out that the NeoPDP system in action here is actually last year’s version, not the potentially revolutionary new version coming in on Panasonic’s new models from the G20 up. Oh well. I guess this was probably inevitable given the P50S20B’s relatively affordable price tag.
The P50S20B’s, um, ‘old’ NeoPDP nature is not particularly obvious from its form factor. It’s much chunkier round the back than Panny’s flagship NeoPDP models, and the fascia initially looks like just another in Panasonic’s long line of uninspiring designs, with a simple black, trim-free, rather chunky rectangle sitting around the screen.
I said ‘initially’ back there, though, because on closer examination Panasonic has actually tried to do something a bit different for the S20 series. For the bezel is covered in what I can only describe as nobbles, giving it an unusual and actually quite pleasant tactile finish.
The problem with this little design touch, though, is that most normal people don’t spend as much time stroking their TV as they do watching it. Yet the nobbly effect is more or less invisible from any sensible viewing distance, unless sunlight happens to be spilling directly onto the TV’s front.
Turning to the P50S20B’s rear, it’s a bit disappointing to find that the P50S20B doesn’t really up the ante much from the X20 model when it comes to connections. There are still ‘only’ three HDMIs, for instance, and there’s still neither a D-Sub PC port nor a USB input. The only improvements come with an extra Ethernet port for accessing potential future Freeview HD interactive services (it doesn’t support Internet or DLNA PC access), and the ability of a built-in SD card slot to play DivX video on top of the AVCHD/JPEG support offered by the P37X20B.
There isn’t much going on in the P50S20B’s onscreen menus that we didn’t already see on the P37X20B either. And so your highlights chiefly comprise a small but adequate selection of picture presets (including Game and Cinema modes), a mostly avoidable Vivid Colour processor, optional noise reduction processing, and the reasonably likeable new Resolution Enhancer, for adding two optional levels of sharpness to pictures.
This delivers less pronounced results than JVC’s DynaPix HD engine, Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD engine, and Toshiba’s Resolution+. But in my opinion it still improves the look of standard definition at least a little without - if you only use the ‘Mid’ setting, at any rate - introducing distracting amounts of extra video noise.