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Panasonic GT30 review: Panasonic GT30

Panasonic GT30

David Katzmaier
David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming
David runs CNET's home entertainment division, where he leads a team that covers TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home audio. If he doesn't know something about the gear you use to keep yourself entertained at home, it's not worth knowing.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
5 min read

The GT30 sits in the upper-middle end, a notch below the company's 2011 flagship in panel technology and, we assume, picture quality. It's not without its flaws, but it's still a superb TV overall that sets the bar high once again--although it's not a significantly better performer than its less-expensive (albeit plainer-styled) line-mate, the TC-PST30 series. The Panasonic TC-PGT30 series belongs on the short list for buyers who want the advantages of plasma in a thin form factor but don't want to pay the premium for a flagship TV.


Panasonic GT30

The Good

The <b>Panasonic TC-PGT30</b> has excellent overall picture quality, with deep black levels, accurate color, and solid video processing. It can handle 1080p/24 sources and bright rooms well and exhibits the nearly perfect screen uniformity of plasma, as well as very good 3D picture quality. It includes a Wi-Fi dongle, its Internet suite is simple to use yet content-rich, and the styling is handsome with a 1.5-inch-deep panel.

The Bad

Picture quality flaws include subtly fluctuating black and gray levels as well as inaccurate gamma that washes out shadows somewhat. The GT30 has fewer picture controls than the competition, doesn't include 3D glasses, and uses significantly more power than LCD TVs.

The Bottom Line

Excellent all-around picture quality combined with improved features and styling should make the Panasonic TC-PGT30 TV a favorite among bigger-spending plasma seekers.

Editors' note (September 1, 2011): The reviewed size of this TV is undergoing long-term testing, the results of which don't affect this review but may be interesting nonetheless. Click here for details.

Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50GT30, but this review also applies to the other screen sizes in the series. All sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
50 inches
Panasonic TC-P55GT30 55 inches
Panasonic TC-P60GT30 60 inches
Panasonic TC-P65GT30 65 inches


Panasonic's slim bezel is fattened a bit by the speaker lip along the bottom.

Design highlights
Panel depth 2.2 inches Bezel width 1.37 inches
Single-plane face No Swivel stand Yes

The GT30 represents the first major redesign of a Panasonic plasma in a couple of years, and is also the first to adopt the thin profile used by Samsung since 2009. We liked the clean, minimalist lines, rounded corners, and classy silver edge around the frame, and think the GT30 easily outstyles the step-down ST30 models.

The new panel measures 1.5 inches deep, but a speaker bulge along the bottom (you can't detach the speaker) brings the true depth to 2.2 inches. That's still slimmer than the ST30, with its 2.2-inch panel (2.8 inches with speaker), but doesn't compete with the 1.5-inch bulge-free depth of the 2011 Samsungs.

The bezel around the screen was trimmed to 1.4 inches on all sides (there's a shallow, set-back protrusion on the bottom for the speaker, however) compared with 1.8 inches on the ST30. Note that all of these dimensions might vary on the larger screen sizes in the series.

The swivel stand supports the panel with a low profile.

Remote control and menus
Remote size (LxW) 9x2 inches QWERTY keyboard No
Illuminated keys 31 IR device control No
Menu item explanations Yes Onscreen manual No

Panasonic's menus and remotes are basically unchanged from 2010. The menu system looks and acts quite a bit less sophisticated than a Samsung or Sony menu, and we didn't appreciate having to scroll through so many pages in the Picture menu. 3D Settings seems misplaced in the Setup menu, and onscreen support beyond basic explanations is nonexistent.

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.

The menu system looks rather primitive compared with the competition.


Key TV features
Display technology plasma LED backlight N/A
3D technology Active 3D glasses included No
Screen finish Glass Internet connection Wi-Fi adapter
Refresh rate(s) 60Hz, 48Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: THX display certification for 2D and 3D; includes Wi-Fi adapter; optional 3D glasses (TY-EW3D2SU (small)/TY-EW3D2MU (medium)/TY-EW3D2LU (large), $179 list each); optional Skype camera/speakerphone (TY-CC10W); optional network camera (wired BL-C210, $199; Wi-Fi BL-C230, $299)

The main step-up feature of the GT30 compared with the ST30 is THX certification, which can be made use of via a preset picture mode available in both 2D and 3D modes. Unlike the step-up VT30, the GT lacks a 96Hz refresh rate, but in our test it delivered proper film cadence, on 1080p/24 sources, anyway. New for 2011 Panasonic has added dejudder processing to its plasmas. See the performance section for more details.

Panasonic includes a Wi-Fi dongle with the GT30, occupying a USB slot but happily allowing you to use a wireless connection with this TV without paying an extra $80 or more for a dongle. On the downside, and unlike with the VT30, it doesn't any include 3D glasses, although given we wouldn't be surprised if that changed soon.

In the meantime the new 2011 glasses are still quite expensive at $179 list per 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.

Panasonic's new 3D glasses are not included with the GT30.

Streaming and apps
Netflix Yes YouTube Yes
Amazon Instant Yes Hulu Plus No
Vudu No Pandora Yes
Web browser No Skype Optional
Facebook Yes Twitter Yes
Other: CinemaNow, Dailymotion, Ustream.tv, MLB TV, Fox Sports widget, Napster, Shoutcast, Picasa, numerous games, Withings WiFi Body Scale

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, although the old Viera Cast moniker still applies for 2011 Blu-ray players.

Vudu video and Hulu Plus are still missing, and we could nitpick about the absence of Rhapsody since Napster gets a spot, but otherwise the selection is solid. Unfortunately the Netflix interface doesn't allow search and uses the old horizontal scroll instead of the new tiled layout, but at least you get genres.

Standouts include Shoutcast, a well-designed interface for the Internet radio service with search, genres, a favorites list, and bandwidth/format display of station. Another unique offering is the ability to interface with the Withings WiFi Body Scale ($159), letting the TV record your weight and graph it over time. Panasonic says additional fitness offerings with hardware tie-ins will be available soon along with more advanced games (Gameloft's Asphalt 5, for example, which Panasonic touted at CES, isn't available yet).

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's interface we liked the ability to arrange and reorder app tiles among the various screens.

On the downside, response times were slower than with Samsung's Smart Hub in many cases, but not slow enough to be annoying. We also wish you could activate apps from within the market, as opposed to having to back out to the main Viera Connect interface.

The Viera Connect home page uses a simple, tile-based layout for apps.

Picture settings
Adjustable picture modes 6 Fine dejudder control No
Color temperature presets 5 Fine color temperature control 2 points
Gamma presets 6 Color management system No

As we mentioned above, THX takes the form of a pair of picture settings, one for 3D and one for 2D, and you can adjust the basic settings of both (unlike with LG's THX presets). However, you only get the full gamut of picture adjustments, which includes the 2-point grayscale control (calibrators rejoice: green is available this year!), gamma, and a few others, when you're in the Custom setting. You'll need to input a 1080p/24 source to activate the 24p mode at 48Hz, but due to the flickering we don't recommend it.

Speaking of gamut, we'd like to see a color management system on this TV, but no dice. Notably the two-step Motion Smoother dejudder control is inactive in THX. You do get full picture control with Netflix and other streaming services--the TV basically treats Viera Connect as a separate "input"--but THX is renamed Cinema. Panasonic also offers 2D-to-3D conversion among its smattering of 3D settings, but it won't convert streaming video.

Advanced adjustments are only available in the Custom picture setting.

HDMI inputs 4 Component video inputs 1
Composite video input(s) 1 VGA-style PC input(s) 1
USB port 3 Ethernet (LAN) port Yes
Other: SD card slot on back

Like Samsung's slim plasmas and many companies' LEDs, the input bay of the GT30 series is so slim that breakout cables are required for many of the jacks: component and composite video, stereo audio, RF, optical digital, and even the VGA input. The four HDMI ports and three USB ports don't need extra cables, so that's a plus.

The slim input necessitates breakout cables for many connections.

Performance (How we test TVs)
Overall the GT30 delivered excellent picture quality, with deep black levels, accurate color, and the essentially perfect uniformity of plasma, with the surprising bonus of handling 1080p/24 content correctly. Compared with the GT25 from last year it evinced worse gamma, which washed out darker parts of the image (an issue that also caused us to slightly prefer the ST30's image overall to that of the GT30), and showed some subtle fluctuations in black and gray areas. The TC-PGT30 is still a superb performer, however, and its strengths more than outweigh its weaknesses.

THX was the most accurate picture mode before calibration, but it left something to be desired, especially in terms of gamma and, to a lesser extent, grayscale accuracy. For our calibration, as usual with Panasonic, we tried using both THX (since it lacks most fine adjustments our THX "calibration" consisted mainly of increasing light output from 30 fL to 40 fL) and Custom, which allows more picture control (we ruled out Cinema as a starting point because its light output maxed at 30 fL). In the end THX showed superior color decoding and secondary color points, as well as marginally better gamma (albeit significantly worse than we measured last year); Custom won for primary color luminance and grayscale.

For our evaluation below we went with THX, mainly due to Custom's terrible red and green push in its color decoding (per Calman, if you're keeping track, Custom's saturation error [Delta C] was 6.96 and 10.11 for red and green respectively, compared with 3.75 and 0.27 for THX). A proper color management system could help take care of that, but none is available on the GT30, so for our Custom calibration we had to desaturate the whole image (see picture settings for details). Overall Custom fared better in the Geek Box, but THX definitely looks better in person. Of course, the availability of color calibration controls would have improved THX's Geek Box scores considerably.

For our image quality tests we chose "Tron" on Blu-ray and used the comparison lineup below.

Comparison models (details)
Panasonic TC-P50ST30 50-inch plasma
50-inch plasma
50-inch plasma
46-inch edge-lit LED-based LCD
Samsung UN55D8000 55-inch edge-lit LED-based LCD
Vizio XVT553SV 55-inch full-array LED-based LCD
Pioneer PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasma

Black level: The GT30 delivered a deep level of black that equaled last year's excellent GT25 and measured a bit brighter than the UND6400--although the difference was nearly impossible to discern even in our side-by-side tests. It did measure a bit darker than the ST30, but side-by-side the visible difference was again nearly impossible to discern (we originally wrote that the GT30 was visibly darker, but that was because of improper adjustment, since corrected, of the ST30). The GT30 was quite a bit darker (better) than our Samsung PNC8000 review sample, but on the flip side visibly brighter (worse) than the Vizio, the Samsung UND8000, and of course the Kuro.

The differences were visible in areas like the letterbox bars above and below the image in most scenes, as well as dark scenes like the intro, with its bright blue lines on a black background that form into a computerized cityscape. In this scene we also noticed one major advantage the GT30, and other plasmas, had over the Samsung LED sets: the blue grid was brighter on the plasmas, creating a better sense of contrast.

On the other hand, we noticed abrupt yet relatively subtle shifts in the brightness of some shadowy areas. In the "dressing room" scene in Chapter 5, for example, the gray background of the room changed on three separate occasions we counted, getting a step darker or brighter in the shadows and, at the most noticeable point, the background to either side of a ring of light (28:16). We also noticed a shift in the bottom of the shaded window frame (Chapter 2, 5:41) as the camera pushed forward. None of the other TVs, including the ST30 and GT25, show similar shifts in these scenes.

Compared with the GT25 the GT30 maintained a more stable depth of black in one test. When we increased the brightness of a window pattern from 95 percent to 100 percent, the brightness of the surrounding measurement of "black" increased just 0.001 fL--a difference we found impossible to discern by eye--on the GT30, but on the GT25 it became visibly brighter to the eye, increasing 0.009 fL (which is still relatively subtle compared with the G20 we reviewed earlier).

These two tests are enough to convince us that the GT30 still exhibits the "floating blacks" we noted last year. They're somewhat uncommon and not a major performance issue for most people, but sharp-eyed viewers may find them distracting.

The GT30's gamma measured worse than the GT25 and differences were visible in program material. The face of the young Sam Flynn in Chapter 1, for example, seemed a bit flatter and more washed out than our reference. Shadowy and dark areas, such as in the rafters above the arena in Chapter 6, also looked too bright, robbing the scene of some contrast. Many of the other sets in our lineup looked better in this regard, and we consider this one of the GT30's most apparent performance issues.

Color accuracy: While the GT30 fared worse than some of the other TVs in our measurements, overall it was very good. In its favor, skin tones appeared relatively close to our reference, for example in the face of teenage Sam as he stands in the lobby of the police department. We did detect a greenish-reddish cast in some scenes compared with our reference, especially in brighter areas, but we doubt the difference would be visible outside of a side-by-side comparison. The GT30 also showed a significantly more accurate shade of black and near-black than most of the other sets.

Video processing: As we mentioned above, we were surprised that the TC-PGT30 passed our 1080p/24 test in its "60Hz" setting. It delivered a much smoother cadence with the proper look of film than did the GT25 from 2010, and was basically indistinguishable from the C8000 (in Cinema Smooth mode), the Pioneer, and the other sets with proper 1080p/24. The ST30 handled 1080p/24 the same way in 60Hz mode, so we assume Panasonic made a processing tweak this year. As usual we found the 48Hz mode flickered too much to be watchable.

[Update June 9] On the other hand we did notice some artifacts from 1080p/24 sources in 60Hz mode. On the "Digital Video Essentials" test Blu-ray we noticed shifting lines and minor instability in the downtown Philadelphia buildings during an upward-facing pan. We didn't see any similar issues during other program material, but assume they might crop up.

Panasonic also introduced dejudder processing this year with a setting entitled "Motion smoother." It delivers two options, Weak and Strong; they looked very similar to our eye, although Weak left a hint of more judder. As usual we found both relatively distasteful.

The GT25 from last year had a "Blur reduction control" that, when engaged, delivered full-motion resolution. That control has been dropped for 2011, but Motion smoother basically does the same thing: when it was engaged, in either Weak or Strong, we saw an increase in motion resolution in our test pattern (see the Geek Box). It's worth noting again that THX doesn't allow you to turn on Motion smoother at all, and as usual any blur was impossible for us to discern with real program material.

The GT30 passed our 1080i deinterlacing test with 3:2 pull-down set to On, but not when we used the default Auto (and, despite what the menu explanation says, this setting does affect HDMI sources).

Bright lighting: Panasonic modified the antireflective screen on the GT30, and as a result we saw deeper black levels and contrast under the bright lights than on the GT25 or the Samsung C8000, but not deeper than on the Kuro or the LCDs. We did notice brighter reflections in the GT30's screen compared with the GT25, but overall we still consider it an improvement and among the best plasma screens we've tested.

PC: The GT30 only accepts a maximum resolution of 1,366x768 pixels via VGA, so we don't consider it a good computer monitor. There's no auto adjustment we could find, so we had to manually dial in horizontal and vertical position using test patterns, and even then we had to crop a row along the bottom (or top). Text and other fine objects looked relatively soft.

3D performance: For our 3D tests we slipped in the appropriate disc from "Tron." Overall the GT30 was a very good 3D performer, showing minimal crosstalk compared with the others and delivering deeper black levels than the ST30.

In the dressing room scene, both of the 2011 Samsung LEDs failed to eliminate crosstalk to the same extent as the GT30, showing more obvious signs of the telltale doubling in areas like the edges of the room and the pattern in the floor below Sam (28:21). To be sure we still saw some crosstalk on the GT30, but it was mostly noticeable in very difficult white-on-black areas, like the title menus and the word "1989" superimposed over the image in Chapter 1.

We also appreciated that the GT30 (and ST30) lacked the annoying moire artifact we first noticed on the grid floor of the command room in "Avatar" (at 12:20, for example) when watching the GT25.

As usual we checked out 3D using the default settings--THX in the GT30's case--since we don't currently calibrate for 3D.

Power consumption: We did not test the power consumption of this size in the Panasonic TC-PGT30 series, but we did test the 50-inch model. For more information, refer to the .

Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.0082 Good
Avg. gamma 1.9175 Poor
Near-black x/y (5%) 0.3244/0.3412 Average
Dark gray x/y (20%) 0.3187/0.3346 Poor
Bright gray x/y (70%) 0.3181/0.3301 Average
Before avg. color temp. 6346 Average
After avg. color temp. 6370 Average
Red lum. error (de94_L) 5.1815 Poor
Green lum. error (de94_L) 3.0318 Poor
Blue lum. error (de94_L) 2.2478 Average
Cyan hue x/y 0.2242/0.3257 Good
Magenta hue x/y 0.3178/0.1542 Good
Yellow hue x/y 0.4254/0.4942 Average
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 800 Average
PC input resolution (VGA) 1,366x768 Poor

Panasonic TC-P50GT30 CNET review calibration results

(Read more about how we test TVs.)


Panasonic GT30

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8
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