Shifting to standard definition pictures, picture quality does take a slightly bigger hit than we would ideally like, since as well as looking softer pictures seem to lose a little colour accuracy, becoming slightly more muted and short of nuance. They’re still eminently watchable, though, especially as the slightly soft tone does at least tend to keep a lid on potentially distracting source noise.
Now we get to the not quite so good news. First, the P50UT50’s images don’t hold up nearly as well when watched in relatively bright conditions as those of the ST50 and above models. Presumably because the light filtering in the P50UT50’s panel isn’t as accomplished as the various filters found across the ST50, GT50 and VT50 ranges, the plasma cells are more affected by ambient light, resulting in black levels taking a notable hit (and very dark scenes taking on a slightly yellowish hue). Pictures also generally start to look a bit muted versus what you’d expect to see in the same light room conditions from a strong LCD TV.
Also, more surprisingly, the P50UT50 proves to be only a fair to middling performer with 3D. Generally we’ve found plasma technology - or more specifically, Panasonic’s plasma technology - to deliver particularly good results with the active 3D format, on account of it suffering much less with crosstalk ghosting noise. But as with (to a lesser extent) the ST50 models, the P50UT50 does display clear evidence of crosstalk over the edges of objects in the mid to far distance, especially if they appear against dark backgrounds.
The 3D images of the P50UT50 also look a little dull thanks to the dimming effect of the active 3D glasses, failing to hit the same levels of vibrancy experienced with the ST50, GT50 and VT50 models.
It should be added, though, that 3D images still look detailed, HD and immersive, especially as motion is handled unusually well. But if you’re a 3D fan, there’s enough wrong with the P50UT50’s 3D efforts to make stepping all the way up to the GT50 or VT50 models very much worth considering.
A final negative is the appearance of a little colour break-up over skin tones during swift camera pans - something seen on many of Panasonic’s plasma TVs over the years.
If you’re thinking of doubling up a P50UT50 as a gaming monitor, you’ll be pleased to hear that provided you select its Game preset, it measures only 38ms on our input lag tests - that’s a low enough figure to leave your ‘twitch’ gaming skills more or less unspoiled.
Finishing up with the P50UT50’s audio, it passes muster but not much more. Straightforward TV shows comprising mostly just chat and godawful jingles are fine, with enough richness in the mid-range and enough general clarity to make sure the dulcet tones of Jeremy Kyle don't sound distorted or thin.
Feed the TV an action scene, though, and that definitely does sound thin, thanks to a lack of any real bass and insufficient power to let the mid-range open up to deliver that bit extra punch when it’s needed.
If this were still 2011 the P50UT50 would have bagged a strong recommendation, thanks essentially to its ability to deliver the most cinematic experience we’ve had for less than £800. However, the advances made by Panasonic’s 2012 Neo Plasma models in terms of contrast, brightness and the ability to function well in a bright room do make the temptation to step up to at least the Panasonic ST50 models very hard to resist.
That said, if its £750 price really is all you can stretch too and you don’t mind keeping ambient light levels low when watching the set ‘in anger’, then the P50UT50 is a cracking cinematic budget option.