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Panasonic Viera TX-P50VT20B 50in Plasma 3D TV review

John Archer



  • Recommended by TR
Panasonic Viera TX-P50VT20B 50in Plasma 3D TV


Our Score


User Score


  • Good 3D performance, with almost no crosstalk
  • Freeview/Freesat HD tuners included
  • Unbeatable black levels


  • Doesn't side-step the usual 3D issues
  • Weak 3D glasses design
  • No 2D-to-3D conversion

Review Price £1,495.00

Key Features: 50-inch 1080p panel; Records to USB (with compatible external HDD); 4 HDMI slots (all 3D-capable); 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio; DivX HD playback from USB/SD

Manufacturer: Panasonic

The wait is finally over. After countless 3D-related press trips and technical forums, then some frustrating further delays created by the Icelandic ash cloud travel chaos, Panasonic has at last presented us with its debut 3D TV, the 50in TX-P50VT20B.

Thankfully, Panasonic has decided to celebrate - albeit moderately - the launch of its first 3D TV by taking its design blinkers off - or at least, shifting them a bit to the side! For instead of the usual muted black, the P50VT20B enjoys a bronzey brown colour that’s more appealing in the flesh than it sounds on paper.

The finish feels slightly plusher than with sets lower down Panasonic’s range, too, and the appearance of some bold silver trim to top and bottom doesn’t hurt the decently opulent overall look. We appreciated having a few degrees of angle adjustment via the TV’s rotating stand, too.

Despite all this, though, set beside Samsung’s UE55C8000 3D edge LED model, with its glinting metallic finish and ultra-slim body, the P50VT20B still looks chunky, plain and old-fashioned - bronze colour or no bronze colour.

Connection-wise, the P50VT20B covers all the important bases. Four HDMIs set the ball rolling - and yes, as you’d expect of a 3D TV, all these HDMIs are built to the new 3D-compatible v1.4 specification. Only one of the HDMIs is compatible with HDMI v1.4’s audio return channel - but this is fair enough, as it’s hard to imagine anyone needing more than one!

The P50VT20B is on the money in multimedia terms too, boasting not one but two USB inputs plus an SD card slot for direct playback of photo, music and video files, including DivX HD.

There’s also an Ethernet port for accessing either files on a DLNA PC, or Panasonic’s solid though hardly inspiring Viera Cast online service. Alternatively, you can make the TV Wi-Fi-enabled via a USB dongle that’s included as standard.

If we wanted to be churlish, we might wonder why the Wi-Fi abilities couldn’t just have been built into the TV’s chassis. But we’re just not in a churlish mood today!

Other connections of note include a D-Sub PC port, an optical digital audio output, and last but certainly not least, both RF and LNB inputs. These latter two jacks are significant because they prove that the P50VT20B carries both built-in Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners. Panasonic is currently the only brand offering such an integrated, all-encompassing free-to-air HD broadcast solution - handy given that currently only a few parts of the UK can receive Freeview HD broadcasts.

The USB Wi-Fi dongle mentioned earlier isn’t the only key accessory included in the P50VT20B’s packaging. For there are also not one but two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses. This is a significant act of generosity from Panasonic given that the EW3D10 glasses involved cost 100 quid apiece. And it throws into stark relief Samsung’s decision not to include any glasses as standard with their 3D TVs (though you can get one pair sent to you if you register your Samsung TV).

Of course, families will still be looking at forking out for at least one extra pair of glasses, but we still applaud Panasonic’s decision to include two.

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Michael McG

June 1, 2010, 12:17 pm

seen it on demo over the weekend.. thought it was amazing.. especially the 3d content on demo.. i wear glasses so the fact the lens on the panasnic pair are a little further out actually made them more comfortable for me to wear.. cant imagine kids wearing them though as they seem a little cumbersome..


June 1, 2010, 1:29 pm

I saw this set on display yesterday in a Berlin branch of electronics retailer Saturn, where it was playing a HD music channel, or maybe it was a demo disc. Either way, the 2D picture was absolutely superb and blew away the surrounding competition, both LED and plasma, by miles. I didn't get a chance to check its 3D capabilities but I've no interest in that anyway. Although the design is a definite step up on Panasonic's previous efforts, it still lags quite a way behind others, especially Samsung and LG. The Supreme Arbiter of what crosses the threshold, my girlfriend, was not impressed. My words, such as "But plasmas need a thick bezel" fell on deaf ears!


June 1, 2010, 4:51 pm

I'm currently torn between this and the Philips 9704:


Problem is with such glowing reviews of both sets, particularly their black levels, it's hard to glean a comparison. Anyone seen both these TVs in action?

Geoff Richards

June 1, 2010, 5:27 pm

@Chris - I envy your choice of a new TV for £2,300! :)

I haven't seen either set in action with my own eyes, but your predicament does raise an interesting issue. The Panasonic is bigger than the Philips (50" vs 46") and supports 3D where the latter does not. The VT20 is Plasma while the 9704 is LCD, albeit with direct-LED backlighting with local dimming. The Philips also has Ambilight.

As John says "The P50VT20B is comfortably the finest mainstream TV Panasonic has ever produced, and one of the finest TVs ever seen period. And that’s even before taking its 3D talents into account." High praise indeed, given Panasonic's past stars, like the G20.

If it was my money, I would take the larger size and "future proofing" of 3D and get the Panasonic. I'm no fan of 3D myself, but by the sound of it, the VT20 is no slouch in 2D either. By all means get a 3D demo in-store somewhere, but consider the cost of 3D Blu-ray, and the roadmap for 3D TV broadcasts.

If you prefer the less in-your-face impact of 46" and / or like the subtlies of Ambilight, go Philips. And move to 3D in a few years.

I think you will be a happy chappy with either choice, depending on what you have right now.


June 1, 2010, 6:59 pm

@ cris.. just wait a few months and get the philips 46pfl9705... this TV will be the toprange 2010 e.a. 400hz contrast 10.000.000-1 etc with optional 3d (active) just youtube it.


June 1, 2010, 7:29 pm

@Geoff, @Emile: Thanks for the pointers, much appreciated. 3D is not really my concern, but the capabilities of the VT20 seem excellent, 3D notwithstanding. Perhaps the V20 would be a better fit.

"I envy your choice of a new TV for £2,300!"

*cough* yes, well. Above my usual budget for sure, but it's only the second TV I've bought for myself in 15 years, so I figured I'd make it a good one. I rate the image quality of most LCD sets as disappointing, particularly the murky blacks. Plus, I'd find one for less :)

ronesh amin

June 1, 2010, 8:55 pm

Has TR considered reviewing the Samsung PS50C7000 TV as it is also a plasma, and a 3DTV for almost £1000 less. It could be a good opportunity to compare two similar TV's which are most likely to become the first 3DTV buyers will purchase.


June 1, 2010, 9:33 pm

Just be aware that the Panasonic VT20 will still suffer from the "falling black levels" bug or feature lol that will reduce the black level after 1,000 hours. Panasonic have said it is not going to be so badly implimented as the 2009 models but it will still happen.

Really this should be mentioned on all Neo PDP Panasonic Reviews imho and nobody knows how it will affect this new 3d technology developed for the VT20.


June 2, 2010, 3:08 pm

Looking at buying this TV today, possibly on my lunch break. Mentioned in the review was that it's the one you'd chose for gaming and that you played Avatar in 3D on it. Is this TV also going to be compatible with the PS3 games and blu-ray 3D update arriving shortly and also possibly with nVidia's nVision?

Many thanks

Charm El Snake

June 2, 2010, 3:41 pm

I had a look at this telly in the Panasonic shop, and was both impressed and disappointed. The picture quality was excellent, but the 3D effect was a bit dodgy - it was showing live tennis, and the crowd looked like lots of flat layers rather than a smooth transition from foreground to background. I assume this was down to Eurosport's broadcast, but I can't for the life of me understand why it rendered like that (unless it was trying to keep everything in focus when real-life isn't always like that).

This doesn't put me off 3D though, as I'm not going to discount a technology just because of one poor implementation of it. I need to see more...

ronesh amin

June 2, 2010, 7:37 pm

Any news on whether TR is considering reviewing the only other 50" 3DTV for comparisons' sake - the Samsung PS50C7000. I thought it would have made a good article. Especially on how ugly Panny TV's are compared to Sammy's and if an £800-£1000 drop in price on the Sammy makes this TV worth it.

I am really stuck between which one to get between the two!


June 9, 2010, 11:31 am

I don't care how good it is, I'm NOT wearing stupid 3D glasses to watch TV in my own home. End of.

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