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First Look: Affordable TV with amazing picture quality

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First Look: Affordable TV with amazing picture quality

3:09 /

This year Panasonic's plasma TVs are better than ever, and the least-expensive videophile-grade example is the TC-PST60. Find out why it's the new standard for picture quality that mortals can actually afford.

Hi. I'm David Katzmaier, Senior Editor at CNET and this is Panasonic's TC-P55ST60. It's a 55-inch plasma TV. It's right in the middle of Panasonic's 2013 lineup, and I think it's gonna be one of the best TVs of the year. It's already got picture quality pretty much equivalent to Panasonic's best plasma last year, the VT50, that superb picture quality is what I'm going to be talking about in a little bit, but first let's take a look at the exterior of this television. Around the edge is a little bit of metallic highlight. Panasonic called it its Glass and Metal design, not too much though so it's not very ostentatious, very understated television. The thin bezel along the edge here and the thin profile reminds me of a little bit of an LED TV. Of course it's a little bit thicker and a little bit heavier and of course it uses more power than an LED TV, but again you do get that great picture quality of plasma. Below the panel is this glossy black stand. It does have a nice low profile, but it doesn't have a swivel. Around back, the selection of inputs is pretty standard. You got 3 HDMI. There's also a pair of USB inputs. I do like the SD card slot, a rare addition that allows you to just display those digital photos directly from your camera. Panasonic changed its Smart TV Suite this year. It's a little bit less simple, a little bit busier but you do get that full customization. I liked that you can go in and add any of the apps that you want to. You can even create new screens. On the downside, the navigation is a little bit slow and it is a little bit busy. Unfortunately when you turn on the TV, at first you're gonna be greeted with one of these screens instead of the actual TV picture. You're gonna have to go dive at the menu to change that. The TV also has banner ads that I'm really not a fan of, but again you can go the menu and disable those. Too bad they're unable by default though. Selection of apps is very good. You get Amazon Instant along with Netflix and YouTube. There's also a few extra apps that you're not really gonna care about including this calendar app, is also a notetaking app and neither of those sync with common Cloud apps like Evernote or Google Calendar & Harvest so they're a lot less useful if those are what you used to store your information on a smartphone. Speaking of phones and tablets, this TV does have an app that goes with it. It allows you to get some rudimentary controls. In case you lose the remote control, you can use your phone or your tablet. There's also the ability to flip photos from the tablet or phone directly to the TV screen, but it doesn't have more advanced functionality like screen mirroring found on some other TVs. The TV also supports the full HD 3D standard which means if you wanna buy extra glasses you won't have to pay the 80 bucks for these Panasonics. You can actually get glasses from 3rd party manufacturers as cheap as $20 from Samsung. Moving on to the picture, that's really the best thing about the ST60. There's plenty of controls to adjust and in fact this year Panasonic added a color management system as well as 10-point gamma and gray scale. I used those in the lab to really hone this TV's picture to again superb quality. The real strength here is black levels. This TV can produce a really deep inky shade of black. The shadow detail is also extremely good. With those controls, color can be extremely accurate, and we also appreciate this TV's ability to reject ambient light. It's got a nice dark coating on the screen so in a bright room it really does stand up really well. That's one of the main differences between it and the step-down S60 Series. On the downside, the 3D wasn't that great but who really cares about 3D picture quality anyway. All told, the Panasonic ST60 is an affordable premium performing television. I think it's gonna be one of the best for 2013. I'm David Katzmaier for CNET.

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