Panasonic has entered the 3D TV market in a fairly low-key manner, selling just two 3D-capable tellies. The 1080p Viera TX-P50VT20B plasma TV, which we're looking at here, has a screen size of 50 inches and costs around £2,200. The larger, 65-inch model, the Viera TX-P65VT20B, costs about twice as much.
Like most of Panasonic's high-end plasma TVs, the TX-P50VT20B has plenty of extra features, including Viera Cast, freesat HD and Freeview HD tuners, and the ability to stream video over your home network. It also promises untold black levels and super picture quality. So, will this 3D TV manage to wow over two grand out of your pocket? Let's have a look and see.
Solid, beautiful and feature-packed
It's well known that Panasonic makes sturdy, reliable and well-designed TVs. We've had a pop at the company in the past for playing it safe in terms of design, but the TX-P50VT20B is stylish, will suit any lounge, and won't offend even the most delicate of sensibilities. Its brown finish looks very sophisticated.
Panasonic has stuffed the TX-P50VT20B full of cool features too, which means you're getting a fair amount of added value from a TV that already offers a large screen, high-end picture quality and 3D capability.
The TX-P50VT20B's price tag is slightly higher than those of many other high-end, 50-inch plasma TVs, but there are also some hidden costs to be aware of. If you buy a 3D TV, you'll probably want to watch a 3D movie too. You can only do that if you buy a new 3D Blu-ray player, or subscribe to Sky 3D. Neither of these options offers access to a massive amount of 3D content at the moment.
Panasonic's 3D Blu-ray player, the DMP-BDT300, will set you back an additional £400. Happily, you can use any 3D Blu-ray player with this TV, though, so you could opt for Sony's £180 BDP-S470 or Samsung's £300 BD-C6900 instead. That said, the DMP-BDT300 does have one crucial advantage over its rivals: its offers two HDMI outputs. That might not sound like a big deal, but it allows people with surround-sound systems to get lossless surround sound via a second HDMI out. This is useful if your AV receiver isn't 3D-ready.
Also, while Panasonic includes two pairs of TY-EW3D10 3D glasses with this TV, you'll need more if you want to have a family movie fest. The extra glasses cost around £100 each, representing a further substantial investment before you can all sit down and watch 3D material together. Most people will probably be looking at spending about £2,500 in total if they get this TV -- and that's before you've bought a single Blu-ray movie.
3D and plasma TVs
The first 3D TV we tested was the Samsung UE55C8000. Illuminated by LED edge lights, the screen was very bright indeed. The same cannot, sadly, be said about screens that use plasma technology. As much as we love plasma TVs, they simply don't produce as much light as LCD TVs. You also have to enter into the equation the fact that 3D glasses reduce the colour and brightness of a TV's pictures.
This all makes plasma technology less suitable for 3D viewing than LCD technology. There are two sides to every coin, though -- unless it's a pyramid-shaped coin. One distinct advantage of plasma TVs is that their response times are much quicker than those of LCD sets. Consequently, whereas the UE55C8000 suffered from ghosting on hard lines, the TX-P50VT20B had an entirely ghost-free picture.
3D material on the TX-P50VT20B looked much subtler than on the UE55C8000. Images didn't seem quite so dynamic, but the TV still managed to produce a beautiful picture and some shockingly good 3D effects. Overall, we preferred its 3D performance to that of the UE55C8000.
Demo clips from Monsters vs Aliens didn't disappoint. The first scene with the bouncing ball was as startling as ever, causing us to expect a projectile in the mush. Our Black Eyed Peas clip was impressive too, and, as with the animated glory of Monsters vs Aliens, there was no ghosting on display. The TV also delivered an impressive sensation of depth.
Plasma warm-up times
When a plasma TV arrives at CNET Towers, we'd ideally like to run it for 100 hours before we review it, to make sure the panel is settled in and looking its best. Sadly, we don't have time to do this, so we give the TV some leeway when it comes to displaying certain picture artefacts. For example, image-retention and colour-smearing issues are always more severe in the first 100 hours of operation.