Turning to why the P50S20B hasn’t bagged a Recommended badge, I was disappointed to find an unusually pronounced gulf between the screen’s handling of HD and standard def.
Standard def pictures look too soft, too noisy and most strangely of all, too oddly coloured to really satisfy. The first of these two problems are self-explanatory, and all I need to add is that no amount of toying with sharpness and noise reduction settings really solved my concerns.
The gulf in terms of colour accuracy/subtlety between the P50S20B’s actually quite excellent HD pictures and its SD ones is trickier to understand. All I can say is that the whole colour range seems to compress somehow with all but the most artificially shot ‘studio’ fare, leaving pictures looking less dynamic and less believable. Especially as some of the colour compression seems to be down sometimes to orange or green undertones that no amount of tinkering with the actually very limited colour adjustments managed to remove.
It’s notable, too, that the colour issues get progressively worse as the quality of your source material gets worse. Thank goodness this set has a Freeview HD tuner in it, giving you at least a couple of channels of HD broadcasts. Otherwise the only time you’d really be able to see this TV operating at its actually very good best would be when you watched a Blu-ray or Sky HD broadcast on it.
One further, much more minor picture issue is the occasional appearance of a little pixel ‘buzzing’ over skin tones if they happen to pass across the screen unusually quickly.
The P50S20B’s sound is interesting – and I don’t mean that necessarily as a euphemism for ‘rubbish’. For the speakers are unusually astute at picking out subtle background details. For instance, as Bond gets it on with the woman in the red dress in his hotel room in the Bahamas, the set manages to produce a sound of the sea in the background that I’ve only managed to detect with such clarity on a small handful of other TVs. And yes, I do realise that I am tragically probably the only person in the world who would be listening for background ocean sounds while there’s ‘sex stuff’ going on. Tragic.
The P50S20B‘s audio is also able to get quite loud without distorting, and has an open enough mid-range to both allow voices to remain clean and clear even during action sequences, and to open up at least a little to meet the demands of an action scene. The only problem is that if you push the speakers really hard, treble information can become rather harsh while bass feels rather ‘pseudo’ and strained. But it’s still a very respectable audio effort overall.
The P50S20B is talented enough with HD material from Blu-ray, Sky or its own Freeview HD tuner to make it a likeable TV for a dedicated AV/home cinema room. But its potential as a main living room TV is hampered by its underwhelming standard definition performance. And I again have to say that nothing the P50S20B has done during this review has significantly reduced that now really irritating itch I have to get my hands on one of Panasonic’s G20 (or higher) models.