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First Look: Panasonic Viera TC-P50VT25
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First Look: Panasonic Viera TC-P50VT25

4:40 /

With both 2D and 3D sources, Panasonic's flagship TC-PVT20/25 series plasma TV delivers outstanding overall picture quality.

>>Hi, I'm David Katzmaier from CNET and I'm sitting next to the Panasonic TC-P50VT25. This is a 50-inch flat panel plasma TV, the smallest in Panasonic's flagship V25 series. There's also a 54, 58 and 65 inch member of the series as well as 50-inch model, it's a Best Buy exclusive, it has a silver bezel called the VT20 otherwise it's basically identical. In fact, all these are basically identical which is why this review will apply to all sizes. This is Panasonic's 3D TV for 2010. It's a plasma model and has some advantages over some LCD based 3D TVs we've tested. We'll get to that in a little bit but first, 3D TV in general you do require specialized 3D content, a Blu-ray disc with the highest quality, there's also some channels on DIRECTV and a lot more coming soon but for now content is pretty limited. You also need to use 3D glasses to view the 3D content on this TV. The Panasonic comes with one pair of those glasses. The additional pairs cost $150 right now. Although, we do expect them to drop in price but, of course, it does cost a lot of money to outfit your entire family for 3D viewing. Again, we'll talk about it a little bit about the 3D performance in a bit but first this is a fully functional 2D TV and the styling on it is pretty slick. This VT25 series has the bronze bezel. It's slightly different from the standard glossy black you'll find. It's also got a little bit of silver above and below and, of course, some silver accents on the swivel stand here and all-in-all here we really like the appearance of this TV. Aside from 3D, the main features on this flagship TV include Panasonic's VIERA Cast which is a IP TV solution that includes Netflix, Amazon Video On Demand, Twitter, Fox Sports are coming soon. Netflix won't be available until July this year and a lot of the other content is sparser than some of the other internet connected TVs around. We do like the fact that you can adjust some of the arrangements within the VIERA Cast menu which is a new feature for 2010. There's also the ability to hookup a keyboard so if you like to Twitter from your TV, you'll like that feature. In the flagship model Panasonic did equip the VT20/25 with a good selection of picture adjustments in the custom setting. When you go into custom you can play with the pro settings which involves a lot of color temperature adjustments, a full-color management system, gamma and a few others. The THX mode on this TV which we did find was the best overall isn't all that adjustable, however. Of course, it does start out pretty good so that's not really a big issue. There's also a few 3D settings on this TV but it's not as extensive of an adjustment selection you find on Samsung's 3D TVs which also include an up conversion system to convert 2D to 3D. Again, Panasonic doesn't include that system in this model. Connectivity on the VT25 is fairly extensive. Around back you'll find three HDMI inputs, two component video inputs, a PC input, there's also this RS-232 port here only on the VT25 not on the VT20 series. It's used for connection to custom installation systems. The side panel has a fourth HDMI input and issue an SD card slot and a couple of USB jacks. One of the those is nice if you buy the optional Wi-Fi dongle which is useful for if you don't want to connect an Ethernet cable at the back of the TV. The Wi-Fi dongle does cost $100 though. When we took the Panasonic back into the lab we were very impressed by its 3D and its 2D picture quality. We'll start with 3D though. Compared to the Samsung which is the only other one we've tested, the Panasonic was superior in terms of reducing cross talk which are these sort of ghostly doubled images that you can see sometimes in certain material. A lot more cross talk on the Samsung than we saw on the Panasonic. Both exhibited excellent detail and gave you a really good stereoscopic 3D effect. Of course, smaller screen size and a couple of other issues are different from the theatre but in general it's a very satisfying illusion. But the real story here is the 2D picture quality at least until 3D becomes a lot more common, 2D on this TV is among the best we've ever tested. It starts with the excellent black level performance. When you turn down the lights and watch a relatively dark scene, those blacks are really inky and really help improve the pop and overall saturation of the entire picture. Speaking of saturation of the color on this TV is very good. Not quite as good as some of the very best models we've tested but in THX mode, color accuracy gives really good skin tones and, again, plenty of saturation and pop. We did find some issues with the 1080p/24. It does have excellent cadence which does take advantage of the film-based Blu-rays and DVDs but on the other hand, we did see some slight false contouring artifacts but, again, we did prefer to use the 1080p/24 mode on this TV which is labeled 96 hertz. We also appreciated the standard picture quality advantages of plasma which include very good off angle and picture uniformity. Panasonic also improved the anti-glare screen on this model so it does preserve black levels as well as reduce reflections better than previous Panasonic plasmas. That's a quick look at the Panasonic TC-PVT20/25 series and I'm David Katzmaier.

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