While Panasonic’s 3D brightness issues now look more damaging than they did before the CES, we’re certainly not sure yet if the new spate of non-plasma 3D TVs will solve their crosstalk issues. And we find crosstalk so distracting that the relative lack of it on the P46VT20 is still extremely persuasive.
Doing its best to undermine all the good 3D work being done by the screen, though, are Panasonic’s 3D glasses. You get two pairs included free with the TV, which is nice, but while the new design Panasonic has gone for with its latest glasses is a minor improvement on the awful things the brand rolled out alongside its very first 3D TVs, they’re still pretty poor. The basic problems are a) that the lens section is too narrow, so you have to perch them at the end of your nose and turn your head down to get the whole 3D picture in view, and b) that the curved, open sides can allow light to reflect from the room on to the lenses.
The P46VT20’s 2D performance is exemplary. Black levels, for instance - while still not managing the old Pioneer KURO levels of excellence are nonetheless natural, rich in detail and accompanied within the same frame by bright whites and vivid colours in a way no LCD screen can match. The best direct LED sets perhaps deliver an even greater sense of dynamism, but they always lose shadow detail along the way.
HD pictures on the P46VT20 look superbly crisp and detail, meanwhile, without this sharpness being accompanied by noise or over-sharpening. The set’s a good handler of standard definition too, upscaling it with a sharper finish and more natural colours than we see with some of Panasonic’s cheaper plasma TVs.
The self-emissive nature of plasma TVs further ensures that a) the P46VT20’s pictures withstand scrutiny from much wider angles than those of any LCD TV, even Panasonic’s own IPS Alpha models, and b) there are no brightness ‘hotspots’ to worry about.
Motion is handled well as noted earlier, and finally the range and subtlety of the P46VT20’s colours is a sight to behold - even if the overall colour push isn’t as aggressive post-calibration as it is on some LCD/LED TVs.
The P46VT20 joins the other VT20 models we’ve seen in delivering Panasonic’s best plasma picture quality to date - and that’s saying something.
Panasonic has had numerous stabs at boosting the sound from flat TVs in the past, with its latest efforts being the use of bamboo speakers in the P46VT20. These do actually deliver a noticeably natural, uncluttered sound by flat TV standards, with some good treble precision too. However, it would appear that even bamboo can’t guarantee much in the way of bass...
While Panasonic’s 3D glasses do their best to sabotage the P46VT20’s 3D performance, and the imminence of some 2nd-gen competition might persuade you to wait a while, the fact remains that simply by suppressing crosstalk so effectively, the P46VT20’s 3D performance is the most engaging we’ve tested to date.
It’s also a stellar 2D performer, and not bad on the multimedia front either, even if its Viera Cast online system is slightly off the pace of some rival platforms.
All in all the P46VT20 a very fine TV - albeit one that’s now living in the long shadow of a potential incoming TV storm...