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Panasonic TX-P50ST50 - 2D Picture Quality

John Archer

By John Archer

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

Picture settings

The Panasonic P50ST50 is adequately rather than exhaustively equipped with picture calibration aids. Activate an Advanced picture menu and you get White Balance and Gamma adjustments, alongside more standard adjustments including multiple power levels for Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation system, a Clear Cinema option that improves vertical resolution for movies, and an optional Pixel Orbiter for combating screen burn (not that this once common plasma problem has been a big deal on recent Panasonic plasma generations, mind you).

The last feature to look at is the P50ST50’s online ‘Smart’ functionality. We’ve covered this in some depth in recent reviews of the Panasonic L42ET5 and L37E5, but briefly the highlights of the service are Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, AceTrax, Twitter, Eurosport, Skype (though you need an optional extra camera for this) and Fetch TV.

Panasonic P50ST50

The infrastructure behind the Viera Connect service seems stable and fast, the system already carries some surprisingly high quality games, and there’s potential galore in both the interface and the service’s ability to handle lots of content. In fact, Panasonic has clearly been busy adding content - especially, happily, video content - in the past few weeks. The only catch, really, is that the main app interface remains rather cumbersome.

Picture quality

Settling down to watch the P50ST50 is like meeting up with an old friend. Only the improvements introduced by the new NeoPlasma panel are such that the old friend in question is last year’s step-up GT30 or maybe even flagship VT30 range, rather than the equivalent ST30s.

Particularly gratifying is the P50ST50’s terrific black level response. For as well as delivering deeper black colours than any edge and the majority of direct LED sets, it’s a treat to find absolutely none of the problems with brightness inconsistency you get to some extent on nearly all LED-driven TVs. Here dark scenes look beautifully rich and perfectly uniform right into all four corners of the screen.

Also impressive is the way plasma’s self-emissive technology allows bright colours and light whites to share the screen with deep blacks without the image’s general brightness levels needing to be compromised. This additionally means that shadow detail levels look excellent.

Alongside - and partly thanks to - the outstanding black level performance of the P50ST50, colour handling is excellent. Tones look effortlessly natural for the most part, yet there’s also markedly more punch to the colour palette than there was on last year’s ST30 models.

Panasonic P50ST50

Subtle colour blends and tonal shifts in 2D mode appear for the most part without striping or blotching too, meaning that you get a fulsome display of all the fine detailing and clarity available from high quality HD sources.

Also much-improved from last year’s ST30 range is the Panasonic P50ST50’s motion handling. Even without any motion processing options active, the image seems much less prone to judder. But if you do want to smooth things out further, you can use the lowest setting for the Intelligent Frame Creation system while suffering hardly any unwanted side effects.

Compared with most LCD TVs, moreover, the clarity of the P50ST50’s motion can be considered little sort of exemplary.

HD pictures look exceptionally sharp and detailed, but just as crucially, the TV does a pleasing job of upscaling standard definition sources too. Even a fairly average-quality Freeview standard def channel looks reasonably sharp, at the same time that noise levels are kept reasonably well in check. There are a few colour issues with standard definition, where colours look a touch unbalanced; reds and oranges, in particular, can appear rather ‘blown’. But this issue can be at least reduced via some fairly basic adjustments to the TV’s colour settings.

kayode

September 22, 2012, 12:24 pm

I bought this TV 2th September, really like the picture quality especially in 2D because of its outstanding black level but i'm not really impressed with the 3D as the image does not jump out like it does on most LED, although the content that watched are 2D images converted to 3D

Polop

September 24, 2012, 11:16 am

Hi. I have dilemma. Is the GT50 worth the extra over the ST50?

I know all technical details from data sheet and I have read almost all reviews from web. But it is still not absolutely clear for me what this features means in practical use:
GT has in addition:
- more steps of gradation (picture quality is visible better?)
- DVB-S / S2 tuner (do I need it now or in future?)
- THX and PRO modes (If I calibrate ST50, do I still need THX?)
- 2500 FFD (is motion visible better?)
- Smart VIERA engine PRO (what is it? What visible benefit I can expect?)
- Pure image creation (what is it? What visible benefit I can expect?)
- facial retouch (what is it? What visible benefit I can expect?)
- 1080p pure direct (what is it? What visible benefit I can expect?)
- bluetoth connectivity
- multitasking (what is it?)
- DLNA - DNS (what is it?)

GT models have these features, ST not. Still one question: [b]Is the GT50 worth the extra over the ST50?[/b]
Thank you very much.

Pavol

Ed

September 24, 2012, 3:39 pm

Hi Pavol

The short answer here is that in our opinion the GT50 is worth the extra over the ST50.

For starters, the GT50s suffer much less with crosstalk when watching 3D than the ST50s.

The GT50s also render motion slightly more effectively, with less judder, and there's more subtlety and precision in their rendering of colour and greyscale gradation, which gives the picture a markedly more accurate and precise look.

In terms of some of the other specific questions you ask, the DVB-S tuner is only useful if you intend to use Freesat as your main broadcast source. Freesat is less critical now that Freeview HD is so widespread, and isn't the most practical option unless you've already got an old Sky dish already installed. But if you still struggle with Freeview reception then clearly Freesat is well worth having.

Freesat does offer some channel differences too - for instance, it carried extra Channel 4 Olympics channels not available on Freeview. But the Freesat decision is ultimately a personal one.

The THX and Pro modes are arguably not as important to people happy to tinker with picture settings themselves as they are to people who like things to be set up 'professionally' for them. That said, the THX day mode is a useful shortcut, and you need the Pro modes if you want to pay to have your TV calibrated by an ISF engineer.

The Pro version of the Smart Viera engine applies more picture processing algorithms in real time than the ST50s version, delivering more accurate results. This is especially useful when upscaling standard def, but also plays a part in the TV's superior HD colour and grayscale subtleties...

Ed

September 24, 2012, 3:39 pm

...
Pure Image Creation is chiefly for use with standard def, and essentially decreases compression noise and jagged edges. Its impact is subtle but nonetheless visible on at least some standard def content, so it's worth having.

Facial retouch lets you adjust skin tones independently of the other colour tones in the image. This wasn't a feature we felt the need to use, but it also doesn't do any harm if you treat it carefully.

The 1080p Pure Direct feature, meanwhile, turns off as much processing as possible when showing 1080p Blu-ray films. This will appeal to image purists, and although its impact seems restricted to slightly richer colours, it's a good feature to have.

The GT50's Bluetooth connectivity allows you to use Bluetooth keyboards and external speaker systems with the TV.

The multitasking feature lets you have open up to six apps simultaneously, and we actually found it so useful that it almost revolutionises the multimedia TV experience.

Finally, the DMS addition to the GT50's DLNA capabilities lets the TV stream from Digital Media Servers as well as PCs, USB devices and SD cards.

To conclude, while both ranges are excellent in their own right, we'd recommend the GT50 over the ST50 on both performance and feature grounds if you can afford the step up.

Good luck with whatever TV you ultimately go for!

John Archer

Polop

September 24, 2012, 9:41 pm

Hi John,

thank you very much for very useful answer. It hepls me a lot.

There is no GT model in our stores (Slovakia). So I can not compare it. There are only ST50 and VT50. VT50 looks great, I really like it, thanks its filter. In the lit environment it is better then ST.

Finnaly it will be question of money. I will try to find GT model somewhere.

Regards

Pavol

Max

December 23, 2012, 7:20 pm

Hi!

I do not think you should compare the plasma with LEDs because they are two different entities. Plasma draws average more energy, but the image quality is usually better than LCD / LED. If you can darken the room, usually plasma better than LCD / LED, otherwise not.

It would be better if you could compare other plasma screens with this so we'll see how much more (or less) energy efficient it is.

Dennis Vos

May 21, 2013, 2:58 pm

Hello John,

I am trying to make a decision regarding this GT50 and the ST50 based on the reviews on this site. I understand the answer you gave to Pavol, but what if I only care about the picture quality in 2D? Then what TV would you choose?

I don't care about smart options (I have a laptop and iPhone if I need internet, I have a mediaplayer to play movies, concerts etc etc and I have a digital cable recorder to record TV shows I will miss), I care even less about 3D. I almost choose a LED TV (LG50LM760) but by closing the blinds I think I can make my room dark enough to make sure direct sunlight is not an issue anymore.

Maybe it helps to mention I mostly watch football (the european kind :P), movies, series and concerts.

The reason for almost choosing the LG was the borders of the TV, but I guess that Plasma still has superior image quality.

I hope you can make my choise a bit easier, or would you choose even another TV since the only demand I have is image quality (and good looks will help as well) thanks for your time :)

Dennis

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