This 50-incher offers a huge amount of screen real estate for a very low price as you can buy it online for just £480. Panasonic has had to make some significant cuts to its specification to get the price down to such a low level though.
It's HD ready rather than a Full HD resolution, it lacks Internet TV features and it doesn't have the Infinite Black Pro filter found on Panasonic's pricier plasmas. What's surprising is that despite these compromises, the TX-P50X50B remains a very likeable TV for the money.
User interface and EPG
The X50 has the same user interface as that found on all of Panasonic's other current plasmas TVs. On the higher-end models the static, dull menus look out of place, but on a budget TV like this one, it's not such a big deal. The menus are still pretty boring to look at, but they're logically laid out and easy to understand, so you can get to the settings you need to tweak pretty quickly.
Unlike the higher end models, there's no Expert Calibration mode, so when it comes to picture tweaking, you only get access to the standard colour, contrast, brightness and sharpness controls. Nevertheless, because the picture presets are actually pretty good out of the box, most users probably won't bother tweaking them.
The electronic programme guide (EPG) is relatively weak on this TV though. Panasonic may have ditched the web-style adverts that took up space on last year's models, but the EPG still looks quite ugly. It lacks basic stuff like a video thumbnail window to keep track of the programme you're watching while browsing through the guide. You can switch between three layouts for the EPG via the main settings menu, but none of them are particularly inspiring.
At least it's reasonably quick to jump around on the EPG's timeline or just page up and down through the channels. The EPG also makes it relatively easy to filter by genres so you can quickly see upcoming movies or sports broadcasts.
Design and connections
Given the low asking price, it's no surprise to find the X50 lacks some of the design flare of the higher-end models in Panasonic's range. It's also a fair bit fatter than the likes of the ST50 and GT50 and the bezel around the screen is relatively wide.
The glossy black finish isn't going to win any design awards, although it doesn't look overly cheap either. Another positive is the set feels every bit as solid as other Panasonic plasmas I've had in for review, thanks in part to the metal cover on the back. It's worth noting, though, that the pedestal stand is fixed, so you can't swivel the TV -- you have to physically lift it to move it, stand and all.
As with Panasonic's UT50 budget 3D plasmas I reviewed recently, the company has also limited the range of connections on offer on the X50. The biggest issue is the measly two HDMI ports, so if you've hooked up a console like the PlayStation 3 and an HD TV set-top box from Sky or Virgin Media, you're not going to have any spare HDMI ports for anything else.
There's a full-sized Scart socket and component video inputs, but the TV lacks the VGA port you'd find on most plasmas. All of these ports are mounted on the rear and as they stick out the back, it might make the TV a little tricky to mount on a wall. It has a USB port and an SD card slot on the left-hand side and there's an Ethernet port too, although it's a tad under-used, as I'll explain below.