2D picture quality
The ST models in Panasonic's plasma line-up have been getting better and better over the years, offering picture performance that was starting to encroach on what you get with the company's pricier plasmas. This year, though, the ST60 offers even better picture performance for the money. In fact, it puts in by far the best performance in the picture department of any mid-range TV that I've seen.
At this price, its black levels and colour performance are outstanding, both of which make it a hugely engaging set to watch Blu-ray movies on. Those black levels really are striking and it's fairly bright for a plasma too. Its images look very dynamic, as it can handle scenes with a mixture of dark textures and bright areas without breaking a sweat. Colours look impressively rich and balanced too, adding to the set's overall cinematic feel.
Its pictures look superbly sharp and detailed with HD feeds either from Blu-ray or from the onboard Freeview HD tuner, but just as importantly, it also manages to tastefully upscale standard-definition broadcasts, adding in a touch of extra sharpness without increasing picture noise in the process.
There are a few minor downsides. Firstly, although the ST60 is bright by plasma standards, it can't compete with LED sets on this front. Its screen is glossy, and not quite as good at reducing reflections as Panasonic's higher end models. As a result, if you use your TV in a room that gets a lot of sunshine during the day then you might be better off looking at an LED model instead.
3D picture quality
Unlike last year's ST50, which didn't include any glasses with the set, you get one pair in the box. These are a new design that are smaller and lighter than Panasonic's previous 3D specs. On the whole they've got quite a comfortable fit but if you wear prescription glasses you're likely to find that they don't sit well with your existing specs. Samsung's even smaller and lighter 3D glasses are much better in this regard, although they do feel more flimsy.
On the default setting, the glasses do produce some flicker on ambient light in your room, so they're best used for 3D movie watching at night with the lights off. Panasonic does, however, allow you to switch the specs from the standard 100Hz refresh rate to the faster 120Hz rate. This faster rate greatly reduces flicker, but unfortunately increases crosstalk. In the normal 100Hz mode, crosstalk very rarely raises its head, but at the higher refresh rate it becomes a good deal more obvious. It's still not terrible, but in comparison to the set's performance at the 100Hz rate it's a slight step down.
When it comes to audio, the ST60 certainly doesn't embarrass itself -- but it doesn't reach the heights of the top sounding TVs I've tested. Basically, it's a solid performer, but nothing special.
Stereo separation from the two 5W speakers is reasonably good, so the sound stage isn't as boxed in as on some sets I've heard, especially some of the very thin LED TVs on the market. Its mid-range performance can vary -- it isn’t great with music, but does a much better job of handling dialogue in movies. It also has satisfying clarity for high frequency sounds like hi-hats on dance tracks.
The ST60 may have a mid-range price, but its performance is good enough to challenge rivals costing twice as much. It really does excel in terms of picture quality by producing believably natural colours and deep black levels that make movies look beautifully cinematic. It's also got decent sound quality, a stylish design and a good range of features. In fact, its only weakness is that its smart TV could do with a few extra premium apps.