Exploring the Viera Connect service reveals that it’s exactly the same system found on Panasonic’s higher-end 2012 TVs. You thus get the same highlights of YouTube, the BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Eurosport, Twitter, Facebook, BBC News, Skype, Acetrax and Fetch TV, plus a Web browser. Along with a ‘b-list’ that includes a selection of information and gaming apps – two of which (Asphalt 5 and Let’s Golf 2) wouldn’t look out of place on a games console.
Solid Online Offering
Content levels still lag some way behind those found on the latest online platforms of Samsung and LG, but the general quality of Panasonic’s content is quite high, and its infrastructure is robust and stable. This is particularly true of the Viera Marketplace where you can buy apps and even hardware accessories via the most fully developed purchasing system in the UK smart TV world.
Panasonic’s penchant for extremely large icons on its main app exploration screen continues to rankle a bit, requiring more delving through multiple layers of icons than we’d like. But otherwise Viera Connect has much to commend it.
In action the P50UT50 dazzles and slightly disappoints all at the same time. Or to put it another way, while it proves to be a million miles better than most budget rivals when watched with the right material in the right conditions, it also falls significantly short of the all-round quality of Panasonic’s ST50 models.
Black Level Response
The key to explaining the previous paragraph lies, as ever with Panasonic plasmas, with the P50UT50’s black level response. Watching dark movie scenes on Blu-ray on the P50UT50 with the lights dimmed or, ideally, completely switched off is every bit as mesmerising an experience as we would have hoped. The depths of black colour the screen hits are truly profound. Not quite as deep as those of the ST50 series and above, but miles ahead of anything you’ll get from any other budget big-screen TV right now.
Making this even more impressive is the way plasmas’s self-emissive nature means the deep, natural blacks are achieved without a) the overall brightness of the image having to be reduced and b) shadow detailing having to be ‘crushed’ out of the image. There really is no overstating how important these two factors are to making dark scenes look natural and involving.
Also abundantly apparent while watching films with the lights down is how well balanced and natural colour tones look. There’s a little more striping in blends and generally less colour nuancing than you get with Panasonic’s higher-end plasmas, but overall the colour results are still impressively cinematic.
HD sources look pleasingly sharp considering how cheap the P50UT50 is, making full use of both the screen’s full HD resolution and the fact that plasma by its nature doesn’t blur motion as much as LCD TVs do. There isn’t the same sumptuous precision and colour nuancing that you get with Panasonic’s GT50 and especially VT50 models, but it’s still mighty fine for £750.
There’s a touch more judder in images than you see on the GT50 and VT50 models too, but it is actually considerably reduced from anything seen on previous Panasonic plasma generations, and to our mind is much less detrimental to images than the sort of resolution lost over moving objects with many LCD TVs.