The P50S20B’s pictures certainly improve over those of the P37X20B – as I’d expect given that it uses a NeoPDP panel rather than the P37X20B’s ‘standard’ one. However, the improvements aren’t significant enough to make the P50S20B truly exciting.
In fact, for me the most significant thing the introduction of last year’s NeoPDP engine brings to the P50S20B‘s party is more an issue of setup flexibility than raw picture quality. For the P50S20B offers much greater choice than non-NeoPDP screens between brightness and economy. In other words, the screen is capable of being driven more brightly than non-NeoPDP screens if you’ve got a lot of ambient light to contend with, or it can deliver more significant power-usage savings if you have a pretty dark room and so can get away with setting the screen’s brightness levels low.
The P50S20B’s raised brightness potential does help it deliver more vibrant colours, though – which is a welcome shift given the sometimes rather muted look of the P37X20B. What’s more, with HD the extra vibrancy gives at least the impression of a more dynamic and expansive colour range, complete with greater subtleties of shade.
It’s good to see, too, that the P50S20B’s greater colour dynamics are forged against the usual Panasonic plasma backdrop of rich, deep blacks no ordinary LCD TV can match (though good LED sets might give it a run for its money). Dark scenes also enjoy more shadow detail than we see with the average LCD TV, which has to reduce brightness in order to deliver a convincing black colour.
In fact, the P50S20B can look so much better with dark scenes than LCD rivals that this feature could be enough in itself to win any number of our movie-loving readers to its cause. Especially since, unlike most LCD TVs, the P50S20B doesn’t suffer loss of contrast or backlight inconsistency when viewed from even a very acute angle.
The 600Hz/Intelligent Frame Creation combination, meanwhile seems to work slightly more intelligently than I’ve seen it before, reducing judder in the image without introducing as many unwanted side effects (though there are occasionally still shimmering haloes around some moving objects).
Purists will likely still choose to leave the feature deactivated, and this is entirely understandable. But the feature now works well enough that I’d recommend that you at least experiment with it for a few minutes – with different source types – before deciding it’s definitely not for you.
I’d say that the P50S20B’s HD pictures look reasonably sharp, too. Not as meticulously crisp as some rival sets, perhaps, but enough to fully engage you in a definitively HD experience. I’d even say that some people might prefer the P50S20B’s ‘gentle’ approach to HD to really acute sharpness, since it tends to slightly reduce noise in the source signal to deliver a more even and thus potentially more involving image. If you’re the sort of person who can’t get enough of celluloid grain in your Blu-rays, though, then perhaps the P50S20B isn’t the best option.