Other Panasonic TX-P55VT50 features of note inside the dull but straightforward onscreen menus include a picture in picture system, a slightly underwhelming suite of picture presets, and a simple noise reduction system.
Exploring Panasonic’s Viera Connect online platform reveals the familiar mix of pros and cons. On the upside the system seems very stable and goes about its business quickly, and there’s a decent amount of video streaming services.
The Marketplace area for buying/downloading extra apps and even hardware accessories (like keyboards and joysticks) is well presented too, with good search tools and sensibly sized icons that allow plenty of content onscreen at once.
The main menu system for accessing apps, though, while attractive, proves very cumbersome when it comes to tracking down some of your apps. Also, in an ideal world there would be more content available. Panasonic isn’t in the same ballpark as its Korean rivals in this respect. But then this does mean that Viera Connect doesn’t struggle under the weight of mountains of trivial apps.
Rather surprisingly, we’re going to open our assessment of the Panasonic P55VT50’s performance with a slight negative.
We weren’t blown away by any of the provided picture presets - even the THX one. The Dynamic mode makes colours look overblown and exaggerates source noise and plasma’s potential issues with dotting noise over moving skin tones.
The Normal setting the set defaults to, meanwhile, feels too dull for our liking, even when testing the screen in a pretty dark room.
As for the THX efforts, while they might be ‘accurate’, we’re also pretty convinced they’ll look too muted and soft for most people.
Fortunately, our disappointment with the Normal preset in particular was quickly resolved simply by turning off the ‘CATS’ system that measures ambient light levels and adjusts pictures accordingly. Deactivating this made the picture much more satisfying in brightness terms, as well as more stable.
In fact, now you’re fully able to start appreciating just the sort of picture glories from the Panasonic P55VT50 that we’d been hoping for - in both 2D and 3D mode.
Starting with 2D, the star of the show is the screen’s exceptional black level response. In fact, ‘exceptional’ doesn’t really go far enough in describing a black level that genuinely gets even deeper than that of Pioneer’s final generation of KURO panels. Plus, since this is plasma technology, even the darkest of scenes appears without a trace of the backlight inconsistency so common with LCD screens.
Black levels look even better on the P55VT50 than on the P50ST50, mostly because, we suspect, the more expensive screen’s enhanced filter does a better job of stopping ambient light entering the screen’s plasma cells. However, we wouldn’t necessarily say this marginally better black level response results in a more dynamic contrast range, for reasons we’ll get into later.
It usually follows that good black levels help a screen produce rich, natural colours. And this is certainly the case with the Panasonic P55VT50, as it produces a startlingly wide gamut delivered with almost infinite blend subtlety and a pretty much immaculate balance. In other words, the screen can produce reds and greens - the trickiest colours for plasma to render - exceptionally well, without them looking over-dominant or out of kilter with other tones.
People used to the glaring bright whites common with LCD TVs may feel that the Panasonic P55VT50’s more subdued reproduction of whites is a little off. But actually, aside from an occasional over-yellow tinge, the P55VT50’s warm approach to white is mostly very natural, and makes sure whites fit comfortably within the image rather than looking like white ‘holes’ ripped out of it.