One final connection-related feature we must mention is video recording to HDD via the USB sockets. As we’ve noted with other reviews of current Panasonic TVs, this recording ability is limited in that you can only watch what you’ve recorded from the HD tuners on the same TV you recorded it on. Plus you are severely restricted over which USB HDDs to use; only Buffalo’s JustStore Desktop HD-EU2-UK series are confirmed to work.
But the quality of the recordings you can make is excellent - they’re identical, so far as we can tell, to the original broadcasts.
A voyage through the P50VT20B’s rather bland but straightforward onscreen menus uncovers a number of interesting points. Starting with the provision of both a THX picture preset, and two 'professional' presets that can be used for calibration by an expert from the Imaging Science Foundation.
Also worth a mention are a Vivid Colour option that does exactly what it says on the tin (but which will likely be avoided by AV purists); a colour management tool allowing you to tweak the gain and cut-off settings for the red, green and blue colour components; six gamma presets (of which you should stick with the 2.4 or 2.2 settings for the most part); and Panasonic’s 600Hz Sub-field drive Intelligent Frame Creation judder reduction processing.
The technology inside the P50VT20B is important too, for as well as the latest Panasonic NeoPDP design with its improved gas, phosphors and cell design, the set enjoys new high-speed driving circuitry. This is potentially hugely significant, because it substantially reduces each plasma cell’s 'decay time' - the time, in other words, that it takes for a cell to finish showing the content for one frame of the image and get on to showing the content for the next frame.
This matters because it should reduce the crosstalk 3D phenomenon, where you can see ghostly second and even third images around bright, contrasty or very linear 3D content.
Finally, despite our healthy mistrust of manufacturer’s quoted contrast ratios, we can’t help but feel impressed by the 5,000,000:1 native (as in, without dynamic contrast processing) contrast ratio claimed by the P50VT20B’s Infinite Black Pro technology.
And so, finally, we get to the moment of truth. Will the P50VT20B’s 3D performance live up to all of Panasonic’s relentless hype?
The first thing to say about the P50VT20B’s 3D experience isn’t positive. For we really don’t like Panasonic’s 3D glass design at all. For starters, the lenses are set quite some distance from your eyes, without any 'boxing', which lets in all kinds of distracting light unless you’ve got your room almost completely dark.
We also didn’t find the glasses as comfortable on our noses as the Samsung ones, making the thought of watching, say, a four hour tennis match in 3D a potentially painful experience.
Next, we found the set’s 3D options a touch odd. First, there’s no 3D control button on the remote control, meaning you have to head into the onscreen menus just to switch the TV to different 3D modes. Silly.