So far, Panasonic has had a seriously impressive 2012 with its plasma TVs. The ST50 and VT50 models we’ve seen have all proven spectacular successes in both picture and - in the ST50’s case - value terms. There’s been a conspicuous absentee from our Panasonic plasma evaluations so far, though: The new GT50 range that sits comfortably between the ST50 and VT50s.
Panasonic’s GT30 models were arguably the most crowd-pleasing models of Panasonic’s 2011 range - and sold well as a result. So it’s surprising to find that Panasonic isn’t really pushing the GT50s particularly hard. In fact they’re only getting a relatively small-scale release through predominantly independent channels, and are only available in two relatively conservative sizes: The 50in P50GT50 and the 42in Panasonic TX-P42GT50 we’re looking at here.
Presumably Panasonic wanted to focus more attention on, and thus bag more sales for, its VT50 series for 2012. But whatever the story behind the GT50’s ‘limited release’, the simple fact is that the GT50s are available to buy now and, as we’ll discover, they’re still a hugely tempting proposition. Especially this 42in model, since the VT50 series only kicks in at the 50in size.
Design-wise the P42GT50 is nice, without setting the world on fire. It doesn’t sport the same ‘one layer’ finish as the flagship VT50 models, and its bezel is quite wide by modern TV standards. But its glossy black finish contrasts nicely with an outer metallic trim, and the whole set feels extremely robust.
As we would expect of a relatively high-end TV, the P42GT50 keeps its connections ranged around the edges for side access to support wall hanging. The only exception, weirdly, is the main ‘kettle lead’ power connection, which sticks straight out. Panasonic’s provided lead does turn at right angles fairly quickly, but it still sticks out far enough to cause wall-hangers a potential headache.
The connections themselves are plentiful, with highlights of four HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port, three USBs and both LAN and Wi-Fi options for accessing content on networked PCs or Panasonic’s Viera Connect online platform. You also get an SD card slot as a further multimedia playback option, and an LNB input alongside the typical antenna input supports a Freesat tuner alongside the usual Freeview one. Naturally both these tuners are HD.
For those of you who haven’t read any of our other 2012 Panasonic TV reviews, the current Viera Connect online platform is starting to shape up quite nicely. Content includes Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Eurosport, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Acetrax, BBC News, Fetch TV and iConcerts. Plus MySpace and Disney Books are coming online in the next few months. It would be nice to see LoveFilm and more catchup TV services at some point, but there’s enough going on to keep you busy.
In interface terms, Panasonic’s main app onscreen menu is rather cumbersome in that it doesn’t show as many apps on a single screen as we would like, leaving you having to trawl through ‘sublayers’ to find specific apps you’re after. On the upside, the separate menu for Panasonic’s impressively stable online marketplace is excellent - and is ahead of rival platforms in that it supports microtransactions and other hardware (joysticks, 3D glasses, keyboards etc).