Having said that, the TX-P50VT20B blew us away straight out of the box. Its Freeview picture quality is good, Freeview HD pictures look stunning, and Blu-ray content in both 3D and 2D just knocked us sideways.
We used our trusty District 9 Blu-ray disc to test the TX-P50VT20B's HD performance. The detail on display was second-to-none. We actually couldn't believe we were looking at a TV screen at some points -- it looked more like a high-resolution photo, and we were soon drooling in delight.
The TV's black levels are superb too. Using the THX picture mode yielded the best quality for us. Some minor tweaking of the other settings helped too, but this TV is pretty much ready to go out of the box. We're quite certain this is one of the highest-quality TVs on the market right now. The 3D capability is a welcome bonus, but it's by no means the whole story.
Tale of two tuners
As with many TVs in Panasonic's 2010 range, the TX-P50VT20B comes with both Freeview HD and freesat HD tuners. If you live in a Freeview HD area (there's a coverage checker on the Freeview HD Web site), then the TV will tune three HD channels in for you when you first set it up. If you have a satellite dish, then you can let the freesat HD tuner work its magic too, giving you access to two HD channels -- BBC HD and ITV1 HD -- and a bunch of standard-definition channels.
The inclusion of two tuners is always welcome, but we wish Panasonic would better integrate the electronic programme guides, so you can see what's on all the channels available to you. With the current system, you need to switch between freesat and Freeview to see what's on either platform.
Glasses are a pain
Panasonic's 3D glasses are pretty rubbish, especially compared to Samsung's, which are much more comfortable. On the plus side, people who wear normal glasses will like Panasonic's more, because you can wear spectacles underneath them. Hopefully, the company will release some better glasses soon, because these ones aren't at all suited to prolonged use.
When the TV was in 3D mode and syncing the glasses with the on-screen images, we noticed another issue. Our Onkyo AV receiver's remote control stopped working properly, and only started to work again when we switched the 3D mode off. Clearly, Panasonic's infrared frequency is very close to that of the Onkyo machine, or the TV floods the room with too much IR and stops other devices working. We didn't have the same problem with the UE55C8000.
This isn't a catastrophe, but it's irritating. It also makes us think that 3D glasses synchronised by Bluetooth might be a more sensible idea, although they'd be more power-thirsty.
You can be sure that the Panasonic Viera TX-P50VT20B will deliver a very impressive HD image in 3D, and it's a really terrific 2D TV too. Apart from its price, there aren't many downsides to this TV. The Samsung UE55C8000 is a super alternative but, given the choice, we'd choose the TX-P50VT20B. It's just a shame that the 3D glasses are so uncomfortable.
Edited by Charles Kloet