Want a TV now-ish? Get the Panasonic ST50 rather than waiting on the ST60

Panasonic's ST50 series of plasma TVs was my go-to recommendation in 2012, and based on the preorder pricing and potential image quality of its successor, the ST50 is still a great TV to buy now.

The Panasonic ST60 is shipping this spring, and preorder pricing has already been announced. Panasonic

I can't tell you how many times last year I told people, "Just get the Panasonic ST50 plasma." A lot. More times than I shaved, surely.

Turns out I'll be saying it a lot at the beginning of this year, too, at least until the TV sells out.

One of the most important products announced at CES 2013, at least as far as I'm concerned , was its direct successor, the Panasonic ST60 series . So with the ST50 still available for sale and the ST60 launching in March or April, the natural question is whether to wait. In this case my answer is a pretty solid no.

The first reason is that I don't think, judging from Panasonic's spec sheets and conversations I had at CES with the product manager, that picture quality on the ST60 will be significantly better. Put another way, I think it will get the same "9" in my review as the ST50. That's not too shabby, and if price is no object the ST50 tied for the third-best TV available in 2012, but it's a strike against waiting for the ST60. I was told that the ST60 may be slightly better in bright rooms than the ST50, but then again it might not be.

None of the step-up features of the ST60, namely an upgraded apps home screen, speech-to-text, and an optional pen, seem worthwhile. Styling is a bit better but mostly a wash.

That leaves the other big reason, a large difference in pricing. Below you'll find the current best Amazon Prime price for the ST50 series compared with the preorder pricing for the ST60 available on Panasonic.com.

Size/price comparison ST50 price (current at Amazon) ST60 price (preorder) Difference
50-inch $999 $1,299 $300
55-inch $1,199 $1,599 $400
60-inch $1,675 $1,899 $224
65-inch $2,293 $2,799 $506

Of course, prices change. While I believe prices for the ST50 are at rock bottom, Panasonic will undoubtedly lower the price on the ST60 sooner or later. That may happen as quickly as its launch date, but I'm guessing that by taking preorders now, Panasonic is bound to this pricing for a couple months at least. I also expect the ST60 to be at least as inexpensive as the ST50 by the 2013 holiday season.

So if you're willing to wait that long before you buy a new TV, you'll get the best price and the added benefit of a year's worth of reviews to compare.

But if you want a TV much sooner than that, it's still hard to beat the price/performance ratio of the Panasonic ST50.

 

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