Panasonic’s latest round of plasma innovations have ensured that so far, all the 2011 3D plasma TVs we’ve seen to date from the brand have been at worst excellent, at best sensational. However, they’ve also tended to be a touch more expensive than rival sets from the likes of Samsung.
Which is why we’re feeling pretty excited by the arrival of the 46in P46ST30: the first representative of Panasonic’s most affordable ST30 3D plasma series, the ST30. Especially as, despite costing under £950, the P46ST30 is remarkably well specified. Particularly startling is its carriage of not just Panasonic’s latest NeoPlasma panel technology, but also Panasonic’s Infinite Black Pro system. Experience would have suggested that the ST30 range might have used slightly older tech than the GT30 and VT30 models, but not so.
We’ve covered NeoPlasma a few times now in other Panasonic reviews, so there doesn’t seem much point going into it in great detail again. The main points worth summarising are that changes to the phosphors and the way they’re addressed have enabled Panasonic to reduce their plasma response time even further than last year, as well as producing more brightness and dynamism without increasing power consumption.
The inclusion of Infinite Black Pro technology, which removes pre-discharge from the plasma cells to boost black levels, is even more surprising, and stands as a striking sign of Panasonic’s desire to ensure that all of its 3D TVs are built to an uncompromising level. The non-3D G30 series, by comparison, just gets Infinite Black, not the ‘Pro’ version, which means its plasma cells enjoy reduced pre-discharge levels rather than no pre-discharge at all.
The panel is built to a full HD resolution, of course, with pictures potentially bolstered on the processing front by Panasonic’s now fairly standard 600Hz sub-field drive technology (for enhanced stability and motion performance) and, more surprisingly, Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) system.
IFC interpolates extra frames of image data in a bid to reduce judder. And while it’s not to everyone’s tastes (you can turn it off if you don’t like it), we’d still class it as a positive find on what’s supposed to be an entry-level 3D TV.
So far we’ve failed to identify any areas where the P46ST30 might have cut corners to hit its cheaper price point. Look deeper, though, and the compromises do start to appear.
Actually, one is obvious as soon as you look at the P46ST30. For it’s clearly not as attractive as the GT30 and especially VT30 models. Its bezel is much wider, and its greyish colour scheme and glossy finish aren’t as distinctive or stylish. It’s still decently slim round the back though, and superbly well built.
When it comes to connections, the P46ST30 matches its costlier rivals in offering four v1.3 HDMIs, an Ethernet port, and both USB and SD multimedia support that extends to playback of video, music and video files. However, there’s no LNB input, because the set only supports Freeview HD, not also Freesat HD like the GT30 and VT30 models do.