From the first moment Panasonic told us about it back in February, we’ve been carrying a pretty big torch for the P65ST50. Why? For the simple reason that it offers the potentially dream combination of a 65in Panasonic 2012 plasma panel design with a remarkably low price tag of £2,449.
This makes it by far the cheapest 65in plasma TV Panasonic has ever sold, and actually it’s only roughly the same price as Panasonic’s own, recently tested, but 10in smaller L55WT50. If the P65ST50 can extend the quality already greatly enjoyed on the smaller Panasonic P50ST50 to its larger dimensions, then we’ll be very happy punters indeed.
Not surprisingly the P65ST50 cuts a formidable form in your living room. It never fails to surprise us just how much bigger a 65in TV looks than a 50in or even 55in screen; the extra inches seem to tip the balance from mere living room TV into genuine home cinema room centrepiece.
The glossy grey bezel with see-through outer trim doesn’t sit quite as chicly on the P65ST50 as it did on its 50in sibling, not least because the inch or so of bezel looks more overpowering at the 65in level than the bezel around the smaller screen. It also occurred to us that we might have preferred a more straightforward black finish on a TV which has every chance of finding its way into a dedicated, blacked out room, so that the bezel would become practically invisible with the lights down. But hey ho - frankly we’re far less bothered by how the P65ST50 looks than how it performs for its money.
Connectivity on the P65ST50 is fair to middling, with the chief letdowns being that there are only three HDMIs when most TVs these days manage four, and only two USBs when we’d ideally like to find three. The set does provide an SD card option alongside the USBs, though, and has a D-Sub PC port for easily doubling the monster screen up as a PC monitor.
The ST50 series is significant in Panasonic’s 2012 TV range as it marks the cheapest point at which you get your hands on the brand’s 2012 plasma panel design. As it has done for each of the past few years, Panasonic has pretty much rebuilt its plasma panels from the ground up for 2012, with a particular eye on improving their energy efficiency.
The fact that plasma TVs use significantly more power than LCD ones has long been one of their most significant weaknesses, and it’s a problem that’s been thrown into sharper focus this year by the launch of the energy rating system that now has to be shown alongside all TVs sold in the EU.
So it’s really interesting - and brave - to find Panasonic not just using the extra efficiencies conjured up by its new plasma panel design to try and score better on the EnerG rating scale. Rather Panasonic claims to have used its newfound efficiencies to enable all of its plasma models from the ST50 upwards to produce more brightness without using more power than last year’s models.
While tree-huggers might decry this decision, AV enthusiasts will likely laud it to the heavens. Especially as Panasonic has supremely eco-friendly options available in the shape of all of its A EnerG rated LED screens.
Despite all this dark talk of high energy consumption, we should stress that the P65ST50 still hits the C grade - the same grade enjoyed by the 50in ST50, and the same grade, actually, as some budget brands of LCD TV.
The P65ST50 doesn’t enjoy the dual-core processing power and 2500Hz Focussed Sub-Field Drive tech - or free 3D glasses - you get with Panasonic’s flagship VT50 plasmas and WT50 LED TVs. But it does still give you 2000Hz and supports active 3D playback if you cough up (around £60 a pair) for however many pairs of active shutter glasses you need. It also boasts access via LAN or integrated Wi-Fi to content stored on a DLNA PC and Panasonic’s Viera Connect online platform.
Viera Connect continues to improve as an online proposition, in terms of both its content and, in some respects, its presentation. Joining the established likes of the BBC iPlayer, Acetrax and Eurosport, for instance, is Netflix and Fetch TV (among other things), while Panasonic continues to focus on quality over quantity with the majority of its non-video apps - especially some of its games, which wouldn’t look out of place on a console.