It's possible 2012 will turn out to be a watershed year for plasma TV technology. Rumours abound that the format's days are numbered, with some corners of the ever-speculative technology press suggesting that even Panasonic, plasma's greatest supporter, might be on the verge of ditching its beloved technology.
Personally, unless the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas proves us wrong, we're going to take the view that plasma still has a part to play in 2013's AV landscape. And we're going to present as our latest evidence Panasonic's superb P50GT50.
This 50in plasma model sits one step below the top rung of Panasonic's 2012 plasma range, with the VT50s taking the top spot. Obviously the P50GT50‘s step down status means that it’s cheaper. Not far shy of £500 cheaper, in fact, at the time of writing. But there are inevitably strings attached to this saving.
Particularlycrucial is the fact that the P50GT50 is equipped with one of Panasonic's latest Infinite Black Pro panel designs, while the P50VT50 gets Infinite Black Ultra. What this means in practical terms is that the P50VT50 has a more advanced filtering system built into its panel, resulting in a contrast of 6,000,000:1 versus the 5,500,000:1 of the P50GT50.
Obviously, though, even the P50GT50's claimed contrast ratio is in a different world to the contrast figures quoted by most flat panel TVs.
The P50GT50 also doesn't ship with any 3D glasses while you get two pairs with the VT50 models. And it doesn't let you record to SD Card while the VT50s do. And it doesn't ship with a second touch-pad remote like the VT50s do.
Regarding this latter difference, though, we're not bothered in the slightest, for we've found Panasonic’s touchpad remote to be poorly designed and generally more of a hindrance than a help.
If you really want an alternative to the standard remote control you get with the P50GT50, we'd suggest downloading the latest Viera Control app for your iDevice or Android phone/tablet. This provides a much more intuitive interface, as well as allowing you to share the TV's content on your portable device's screen (and vice versa).
The P50GT50 does, though, also share a few handy tricks with its flagship sibling. It's got the same '2500Hz' subfield drive system, which promises a major boost in motion fluidity and general image richness and stability. It also enjoys one of Panasonic's very latest NeoPlasma designs, with the plasma chamber's enhanced efficiency and boosted brightness levels.
Connectivity is equally strong too, with highlights of four HDMIs, three USBs, an SD card slot, built-in Wi-Fi, and inputs for both built-in Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners.
The Wi-Fi option provides a convenient way of either streaming in multimedia files from networked PCs, or taking the TV online to Panasonic's Viera Connect world. This is one of the most established online services in the TV world now, and boasts some significant highlights, such as Acetrax, Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, Eurosport, YouTube, BBC News, some surprisingly good console-like games, and the inevitable social media support from Facebook and Twitter.
Myspace and Disney Books apps are supposed to be inbound too, though in fact we would have expected them to launch already by now. Maybe they've been held back for 2013's Panasonic TVs.