Regular readers will know that we’ve already seen most of Panasonic’s ground-breaking VT20 3D plasma TVs. But the one that’s slipped through the cracks has the potential, in our opinion, to be the most popular model of all.
That model is the TX-P46VT20: arguably the perfect combination of an easily manageable but still large 46in screen size with a reasonably approachable £1,550 price tag. This makes it a good £250 cheaper than the 50in VT20 - a substantial saving for the sake of 4in of picture.
Given how impressed we’ve been by previous VT20 TVs, the P46VT20 clearly arrives with some excellent heritage. However, it’s also the first Panasonic 3D TV we’ve tested in the wake of all the new 3D tech on show at the CES, so with some of that CES 3D tech due to emerge here in the next month or so, we’re intrigued to see if the VT20 series still impresses us as much as it once did.
It certainly doesn’t get off to a great start. For if anything the P46VT20‘s well-built but dour aesthetics look even less glamorous than they used to now that we’ve seen the upcoming, ultra-sleek 2011 designs from the likes of Samsung and LG. Panasonic appears to believe that its target audience is by its nature conservative - but we’re not sure this is true. Especially when you’re talking about the early adopter market likely to be buying a 3D TV already.
Anyway, the P46VT20’s rear is actually more attractive, at least to the extent that it has pretty much all the connections you could hope for. Four HDMIs provide inputs for HD and full HD, active 3D signals; two USB inputs allow you to play back photo, video or music files from USB devices and/or make the TV Wi-Fi ready via an included dongle; an SD card slot provides an additional direct way of playing back photos, music and video files (including DivX HD); an Ethernet port permits wired access to DLNA PC files or Panasonic’s Viera Cast service; plus you get a satellite connection as well as an RF input, reflecting the fact that the P46VT20 has a built-in Freesat HD tuner as well as a Freeview HD one.
This is, of course, very handy for people living in areas not yet served by Freeview HD, and in fact it’s a policy that other brands are adopting too with their upcoming 2011 ranges. One last trick to do with the P46VT20’s connections is the ability to record from the HD tuners to USB storage devices. Or to be more precise, Buffalo JustStore HD-EU2-UK USB storage devices. We’re sincerely hoping Panasonic broadens its compatibility ‘church’ where USB recording devices are concerned if the recording feature persists through the brand’s 2011 range (kicking off in March).
The plasma screen driving the P46VT20 is the best Panasonic currently has to offer outside of its ‘pro’ business, using the latest iteration of Panasonic’s NeoPDP technology together with an Infinite Black Pro filter not found on sets further down Panasonic’s range. Plus you get Panasonic’s ‘fast-decay’ technology for reducing that dreaded active 3D phenomenon of crosstalk (double ghosting) noise.