There are only two USB inputs versus the three of the higher spec models too, and neither the USBs nor the SD slot can be used for recording from the Freeview HD tuner like they can with the GT30s/VT30s.
You can make the P46ST30 wi-fi ready via an optional USB dongle, too. However, it isn’t able to access content stored on a networked, DLNA-capable PC - something we suspect could be a deal breaker for some of our readers. Though it should be added that the TV does still retain Panasonic’s Viera Connect service, including Skype, the BBC iPlayer, the Ace Trax movie rental/purchase service, EuroSport, and a few other interesting bits and bobs besides - with the promise of much more to come.
(If you're thinking of wall-hanging this TV, by the way, you should take note that many of its connections face straight out of the TV's rear, rather than being accessible from the side.)
The other main features Panasonic has sacrificed to make the P46ST30 more affordable than the GT30 and VT30s are endorsements from the ISF and THX, as well as some of the attendant picture adjustment tools associated with those endorsements. Obviously this means there are no ISF or THX picture presets, but also you don’t get any significant degree of colour or gamma management. This is clearly a blow to the enthusiast market, but to be honest we suspect it won’t cause the TV’s target mass market audience any sleepless nights.
Having said that, the lack of any fine tuning tools for colours does result in one or two minor colour tone issues - especially during standard definition viewing - that we didn’t experience with the VT30 or GT30 models. But the differences we’re talking about here are pretty minor when considered against how natural and rich colours generally look versus many rival screens.
It’s also hardly fair that we started off our assessment of the P46ST30’s pictures with a negative. For in most ways they’re absolutely excellent, losing far less quality versus its more expensive siblings than you might expect. Particularly good is the way the superb black level response that’s characterised the GT30 and VT30 models remains seemingly unblemished here, allowing dark scenes to look exceptionally believable, rich, detailed and cinematic.
The VT30 models do deeper blacks still, on account of their extra high contrast filter, but for most people looking for a normal TV rather than a movie screen for a dedicated home cinema room, the ST30’s black level response is far more than adequate.
It’s worth adding, too, that the P46ST30 seems slightly brighter overall than the VT30 series, which also makes it a good option for normal living conditions.
The P46ST30‘s HD clarity is very enjoyable too, with lots of detail presented without significant attendant noise. The clarity is enhanced, moreover, by the P46ST30’s terrific motion handling, as there’s simply no sign at all of the sort of blurring common with LCD TVs. This was particularly obvious while watching the BBC’s HD coverage of the current Wimbledon tennis tournament, as both the ball and the players remained in consistently immaculate focus.