- 6. apr, 21:49 #184401
CONCLUSION – If this is what the Panasonic GT60 is like, then it begs the question, what's left for the two higher-up models? Of course, we're playing devil's advocate with that question: internet rumblings and the demonstrations we've seen of prototypes promise black levels that are better still, and also better anti-reflective screen coatings to keep the picture appearing that bit more vibrant in bright rooms.
However, let's put comparisons aside… the TX-P50GT60 is a phenomenally excellent HDTV. It excels in every area we can think of (bar the quality of its built-in sound, which is the usual as-expected fine-for-casual-viewing flat-screen TV fare). Its black level depth is some of the deepest we've ever seen and measured, and this time, it does not come at the expense of overall brightness or other aspects of picture quality. Contrast performance on both ends of the scale is stunning. LED LCD TVs can manage an incredibly bright image, but the Panasonic TX-P50GT60B is in the contrast sweet spot, with a great level of brightness and customisation to a wide variety of room environments thanks to the uncapped [Contrast] control.
The attempt at naturally coloured video before calibration (that is, in the THX and pre-calibrated Professional picture modes) is good, albeit not the best we've seen. We absolutely recommend you find an ISF/THX calibrator to take advantage of the fully-fledged calibration controls Panasonic has built in, though, because the resulting neutrality and picture "depth" is a worthwhile improvement on the very good starting point.
Gamers are covered as well, with almost no input lag worth worrying about in the Game Mode – which is a huge relief after the slower-than-usual ST60 plasma we reviewed last week. 60fps games are a total joy to play on the TXP50GT60 thanks to the ultra-high motion resolution and freedom from noticeable lag.
It's also loaded with Smart TV features, which are more usable than in years past thanks to their responsiveness. The "My Home Screen" is great to use thanks to its snappy navigation and clean design too, and we think is on par with Samsung's excellent Smart TV system (although we're still impressed by the Korean giant’s method of controlling external set-top boxes from pay TV providers via the television itself).
The use of Plasma display technology – specifically Panasonic's NeoPlasma technology – puts it a healthy distance in front of the competition, most of which is LED LCD. LCD-based HDTVs are far from bad, and we always recommend them over plasma for very bright environments, but we feel plasma's inherent strengths and weaknesses are a better match for most normal rooms. Unless you're watching in a room full of very bright sunlight, the Viera GT60 is blatantly better than the majority of displays in this price range, which are using LED LCD technology. It's just a shame that the biggest size it comes in here is 50" – hardly small, but who could say no to more of the same? (The only 65in Panasonic Plasma coming to the UK is the TX-P65VT65B, which should be even better still, but at a different price point, naturally). In short, it's difficult to imagine anything at this price point, and even above it, significantly bettering the picture quality.
So, here comes the "Reference Level" rating, which is a heavy statement to make in itself. Readers shouldn't take this rating to mean that the TX-P50GT60B is a flawless product, but one that we feel has no significant disadvantages and one which we don't feel Panasonic's engineers could have done a better job on, at least not without serious re-tooling. We assign this rating taking the 2D display mode into mind; 3D quality on all plasma TVs is visibly less than 2D, in various ways.
If you, for whatever reason, don't like the panel driving algorithm inherent to Panasonic Plasmas, the GT60 is not going to change your mind. It's still a plasma display, it still has dither, and yes, it will still make a small audible sound when you have bright content on screen, but in our opinion, getting too concerned with these small issues would be to miss the forest for the trees.
What's interesting is that the VT60/VT65, and especially the ZT60/ZT65, are logically expected to be better still, so unless something goes wrong (very unlikely, but not impossible), these are logically also going to satisfy our conditions for Reference Level ratings. Knowing that, isn't it strange to assign this rating if we know that something technically better is coming?
We don't think so. The fact that we've gone from Panasonic having mostly "Highly Recommended" plasma products in 2012 to the possibility of no less than three "Reference Level" ratings this year says more about the quality of the GT60 and Panasonic's addressing of feedback than anything else. In our opinion, denying this rating to an HDTV of the TX-P50GT60's quality would just be shifting the goal posts for arbitrary reasons. Or, put another way: we know that the VT and ZT are 99% certain to be even better, but the GT should not be penalised for completely satisfying us just because it isn't the most expensive product.
It has basically every single base covered. The picture quality is sublime, it's chock-full of Smart TV features, it’s loaded with HD satellite and terrestrial tuners and recording functionality, and it's a fantastic gaming display. It's bright when it needs to be bright and jet-black when it needs to be dark; its colour can be accurate and natural. Go check one out in a suitably-lit environment – we think you’ll be as impressed as we were. More than ever, we can't wait to see what’s in store higher up the Viera plasma ladder, but we imagine the TX-P50GT60B is going to stay in the price-performance sweet spot.
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