Panasonic TC-PVT30 series (photos)

Superb all-around picture quality, anchored by the deepest plasma black levels of the year, make the Panasonic TC-PVT30 series the best-performing TV we've tested in 2011.

David Katzmaier
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
David Katzmaier
1 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Panasonic TC-PVT30 series overview

For the last couple of years Panasonic's best plasma has been the most highly anticipated TV review on CNET, and 2011 is no exception. The top-of-the-line Panasonic TV-PVT30 series is the most clicked-upon TV on our site and my most asked-for review on Twitter, and despite coming in #2 in our poll to the flagship Sony, we're confident that no other TV commands the same expectations.

In nearly every way the VT30 lives up to the expectation. If Panasonic's claim about its black-level stability holds true, allowing it to outdo the 2010 models after a few months of age, the VT30 is the blackest plasma we've tested since the Pioneer Kuro (but the Kuro is still better). Other areas of this Panasonic's picture quality are also generally superb, although doesn't stand quite as tall above the competition as last year's VT25 series did. The competition, namely Samsung's best plasmas, has gotten better, and the PND8000 we tested outdoes the color accuracy of the VT30, although the Samsung falls short of the Panasonic in a couple of other areas. The Samsung is the better value, however, so if you want the best picture for your dollar, the VT30 is not the way to go. But if you want the best picture regardless of cost, the Panasonic TC-PVT30 series is our No. 1 pick this year.

2 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Corner detail

The Panasonic VT30's main design improvement over the GT30 series is a single pane of glass that fronts the entire panel, eliminating the depth difference between the frame and the screen. We've always liked this look, and we appreciate the VT30's touch of extra classiness: a thin sliver of silver along the extreme edge to offset the glossy black. There's also a small speaker bulge along the bottom edge, but it's subtle and set back enough that the panel appears to be a perfect rectangle.
3 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Side view

At 2.2 inches deep, the high-end VT30 plasma cuts a slim figure.
4 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Stand detail

The off-black stand does not swivel.
5 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Included 3D glasses

The new 2011 glasses are quite expensive at $179 list per additional pair. Improvements over the 2010 glasses, model TY-EW3D10, include an on-off switch to make it easier to determine whether they're powered up, a closed design and significantly lighter weight. We wish they used Bluetooth sync like Samsung's 2011 glasses. On the other hand we appreciate their prior-year backward compatibility; you can use Panasonic's 2011 glasses with the 2010 TVs, and the 2010 glasses with the 2011 TVs.
6 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET


The slim back panel offers up plenty of connections.
7 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Remote control

We like the remote more than Samsung's thanks to the better button differentiation, but not quite as much as Sony's slicker clicker. We missed having a dedicated Netflix button, and noticed that despite officially renaming its Internet suite for TVs "Viera Connect," the button on the remote still says "Viera Cast."
8 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Main Viera Connect page

Overall we preferred the layout and simplicity of the Viera Connect interface to Samsung's significantly more ambitious, and more cluttered, Smart Hub. Panasonic seems to enforce a straightforward menu structure and default font in many of its app and widget designs, and as a result using them feels easier and more cohesive. We didn't miss having a Web browser or video search capability, and as with last year we liked the ability to arrange and reorder app tiles among the various screens.
9 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Viera Market home page

Like Samsung and LG, Panasonic redesigned its Internet suite for 2011 TVs, adding an app store, greatly expanding content offerings and changing the name--it's now Viera Connect for TVs.
10 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Viera Market games

We checked out the new Asphalt 5 racing app, and although it was better than most TV games, we figure it's with $0.99, not $4.99.
11 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Viera Market shopping

The Viera Market also has actual merchandise, including 3D glasses, SD cards, gamepads and Logitech's DiNovo keyboard (everything is list price, unfortunately).
12 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Main picture menu

Panasonic's menu system is spartan compared to its competitors.
13 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Anti image retention menu

Like all Panasonic plasmas, the VT30 offers a few settings for combating burn-in.
14 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

3D settings

A few picture settings are available for 3D, too.
15 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Color Management System

Custom mode offers a full CMS.
16 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Gamma detail adjustments

In addition to gamma presets like 2.2, 2.4 etc, the VT30's custom setting offers fine control of gamma at 10 IRE intervals.
17 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

96Hz mode

A dedicated 96Hz mode is available for 1080p/24 sources, but the standard 60Hz mode also handles them well.
18 of 18 Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture quality

The Panasonic TC-PVT30 is the best-performing TV we've tested this year. Its black levels are among the deepest we've seen, outdoing the competing Samsung PND8000 plasma, and its shadow detail is also superior. Color accuracy is very good, albeit not as accurate as the Samsung, video processing is excellent, and of course it enjoys the near-perfect uniformity of plasma. 3D picture quality was excellent as well in the THX 3D mode, although Samsung's flagship plasma and LCD were better at reducing crosstalk.

More Galleries

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera
A houseplant

My Favorite Shots From the Galaxy S24 Ultra's Camera

20 Photos
Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

Honor's Magic V2 Foldable Is Lighter Than Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra

10 Photos
The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum
Samsung Galaxy S24

The Samsung Galaxy S24 and S24 Plus Looks Sweet in Aluminum

23 Photos
Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design
The Galaxy S24 Ultra in multiple colors

Samsung's Galaxy S24 Ultra Now Has a Titanium Design

23 Photos
I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

I Took 600+ Photos With the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max. Look at My Favorites

34 Photos
Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?
Invitation for the Apple September iPhone 15 event

Do You Know About These 17 Hidden iOS 17 Features?

18 Photos
AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

AI or Not AI: Can You Spot the Real Photos?

17 Photos