The precision with which the Panasonic P55VT50 renders HD is a joy to behold too. There’s practically no noise at all so long as you avoid the Dynamic preset, and the sharpness and detail on show is mesmerising. All the more so, of course, because it’s writ large across a huge 55in screen.
There’s another key reason why HD pictures look so phenomenally detailed on the P55VT50 too: namely that plasma’s self-emissive pixel nature means there’s way more visible shadow detail in dark scenes than you get with pretty much any LCD technology.
While a screen like the Panasonic P55VT50 is obviously made to be used with as much HD as possible, it’s also surprisingly good with standard definition. It adds detail and sharpness as it remaps standard def to the screen’s full HD resolution, yet it also manages to suppress noise rather well - so long as you don’t push the screen’s brightness or contrast settings too high. Another reason to avoid the Dynamic preset, then...
Other excellent 2D news finds the P55VT50 retaining its picture quality from almost any viewing angle, and also producing some outstanding motion reproduction free of juddering, blurring and artefacting. Provided, again, that you avoid the Dynamic setting.
This motion talent becomes even more pronounced when watching 3D, where any sort of judder or blurring issues can be extremely obvious and detrimental to the 3D effect. Nor do you need to be using Panasonic’s IFC system to get motion looking great (though you can experiment with the minimum IFC setting if you like without having to worry about it generating too many unwanted artefacts).
No crosstalk here
The Panasonic P55VT50’s 3D pictures also benefit from an almost complete absence of crosstalk ghosting noise, and the screen combines rich colours and deep black levels in a way many LCD TVs struggle to.
The boost to the TV’s sub-field driving system has improved Panasonic’s previous issues with colour blend ‘striping’ when watching 3D too. Plus, of course, the considerable size of its screen aids the immersiveness of the P55VT50’s 3D experience.
So long as you can watch in a dark room. For it remains the case that Panasonic’s 3D glasses take more brightness out of pictures than those of almost any other 3D TV - especially LCD ones. In fact, both 3D and 2D pictures look less bright on the P55VT50 than they did on the P50ST50.
There are a couple of other issues too. First, as usual with plasma, if you sit too closely or leave the panel running too brightly, you can sometimes see gentle speckling over dark picture areas. Though this isn’t visible under sensible viewing conditions.
Gamma shifts ahoy
Much more distracting but thankfully extremely rare is the appearance of gamma shifting, where an image’s combination of bright and dark content can cause the image to ‘flicker’ as the screen struggles to settle on the right gamma level. So far as we could tell, though, as well as being rare, this phenomenon can be reduced by setting the gamma level slightly higher than you might ideally wish.
Panasonic TVs can generally be relied on to suit gamers thanks to their lowly input lag measurements. And the P55VT50 continues this trend, measuring barely 30ms using its Game picture preset.
The P55VT50’s audio seems very similar if not identical to that of the P50ST50. Which isn’t particularly great news, as it means there’s not as much bass as we’d like, and there’s a slightly ‘flat’ feeling to action scenes. But then a serious home cinema screen like the P55VT50 will likely be matched with a separate audio system.
The Panasonic TX-P55VT50 is, predictably, a superb TV. In fact, as a 55in screen for a dedicated home cinema room it’s probably without equal.
As a main living room set, though, we can’t help but think we might prefer Panasonic’s new ST50 series. For while the ST50s lack the dual core processing and some of the black level response of their higher-specced siblings, the P50ST50’s pictures look brighter and more contrasty/punchy, making them more consistently satisfying in a typical family environment. Plus, of course, the ST50 series’ more aggressive pricing is much easier for a typical 2012 family budget to accommodate.