The arrival of any new flagship plasma TV from Panasonic is usually a reason to rejoice. But this year we’re feeling even more enthused than usual at the sight on our test benches of the brand’s new 55in flagship, the P55VT50.
For starters, it looks gorgeous. Over recent years Panasonic has veered between conservative and downright dull with its TV designs, yet its P55VT50 picks up beautifully from where its recently reviewed P50ST50 left off. Its bezel is remarkably slender – trimmer, indeed, than that of the Samsung PS51ES8000. Also, the black frame is offset delightfully by a glinting metallic trim around its extremities.
The Panasonic P55VT50 is rather less trim on its rear than many LCD TVs, but as we’ve said many times before, you look at a TV’s front, not its back. So a few cm of extra rear needn’t matter in the slightest if the picture quality coming out of the TV’s front justifies it.
The P55VT50’s connections are as comprehensive as you would expect of a modern flagship TV, including four v1.4 HDMIs, a D-Sub PC port, built-in Wi-Fi for online and DLNA streaming, plus three USBs for playing back multimedia files and recording from the built-in tuners.
Freeview and Freesat are go
These tuners unusually embrace both Freeview HD and Freesat HD, meaning you should be able to get HD broadcasts no matter where you live.
Having already reviewed the cheaper P50ST50, a good way to start looking into the Panasonic P55VT50’s specifications is by tracking down how it improves on the already strong spec of its cheaper sibling.
First up is the aforementioned design, which is even nicer than that of the also-glam P50ST50. Next, the P55VT50 employs dual-core processors while the P50ST50 did not. This creates a number of knock-on differences. For instance, it lets you multitask - as in, have open simultaneously multiple applications, with simple switching between each app.
It also boosts the power and speed of the TV’s video processing - resulting, most notably, in a world-first ‘2500Hz’ Focussed Field Drive claim. The P50ST50, by comparison, ‘only’ had 2000Hz, while LG and Samsung’s 2012 plasma screens top out at 600Hz.
The Panasonic P55VT50’s stronger processing engine allows it to produce a remarkable 24,576 steps of gradation too.
It also adds Panasonic’s highest-quality screen filter beyond the ST50’s spec, to deliver an apparently even richer black level performance. Next, the Panasonic P55VT50 boasts the endorsement of the THX quality assurance group - for both 2D and 3D - while the P50ST50 does not. And the P55VT50 delivers four HDMIs and three USBs rather than the three and two respectively carried by the ST50s.
Free 3D glasses
Finally, unlike the P50ST50, this TV ships with two pairs of 3D glasses and a second ‘touchpad’ remote control included for free.
It’s a relief to find the 3D glasses, though our enthusiasm for the touchpad remote is tempered by the distinctly hit and miss experience we had with the same device when reviewing the Panasonic L42WT50.
Indeed, it only took a few minutes of experimentation with this remote to convince us that we still don’t like it much. The circular shape and small size of the touchpad just don’t fit comfortably with the screens you’re using it to navigate, and tapping the pad to select an option feels unnatural and unresponsive.
As a result, if you have an Android or Apple portable device, we strongly recommend that you download the free Viera Control App for that not only provides a much more satisfying touch-screen control experience but also allows screen sharing with what the TV is showing.
As you would expect of a TV with THX - and ISF - endorsement, it’s well equipped with picture adjustments. Colour/white balance and gamma management lead the way, while elsewhere are multiple ‘power’ settings for Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation motion judder-reduction system, an optional Clear Cinema system for improving the vertical resolution for movie images, and pixel orbiter/screen wipe tools for combating plasma’s (now pretty limited) potential for image retention.