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Panasonic TX-P46ST30B review: Panasonic TX-P46ST30B

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The Good Excellent contrast and black levels; Warm, cinematic colours; excellent 3D pictures; impressive Internet features.

The Bad Lacks media streaming support; 3D glasses are pricey.

The Bottom Line If you don’t need media streaming features or a Freesat tuner, then the Panasonic TX-P46ST30 is an excellent alternative to Panasonic's GT30, as it delivers much the same picture quality, yet costs around £300 less.

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8.3 Overall

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The ST30 line of TVs slots in beneath the mid-range GT30 models among Panasonic's Viera 3D plasma screen offering.

The main difference between this one and the GT30 is that it makes do with just a Freeview HD tuner rather than also including a Freesat HD one. While it has Internet TV features, it lacks media streaming capabilities from a PC or home network.

This does mean that you can buy the 46-inch TX-P46ST30B online for £750, which is around £300 cheaper than the GT30.

User interface and EPG

If there's one area where Panasonic needs to do some work, it's on the user interface elements of its TVs. When you're paying the best part of a grand for a big screen telly you expect it to have modern-looking menus. But the ones on all of Panasonic's current line-up of plasmas, including this model, look like they've been time warped from the 1990s. Next to the slick menus on the likes of Samsung's PS51D8000, they're dreadfully dated.

The menus simply lack the dynamic graphics and colourful icons that we've grown accustomed to on other manufacturers' sets. They're very flat and lifeless and are mostly made up of small graphical icons shown next to white text on a blue background. Nevertheless, it's easy to find your way around.

Panasonic TX-P46ST30B menu
The menu system looks dated next to Samsung's TVs.

This model doesn't have the THX certification or ISF calibration tools found on the GT30 and VT30 models. Instead you're left with the usual straightforward controls for stuff like contrast, brightness, colour and sharpness, as well as colour temperature and noise reduction. In the advanced menu you'll find a number of extra controls to allow you to tweak how Panasonic's Intelligent Frame Creation motion processing technology affects the picture.

Unfortunately the dated look of the menu system also extends to the electronic programme guide (EPG). What's worse is that Panasonic is still using the dreaded Guide Plus+ system. The main problem with this is that it reserves screen space on the left-hand side of the display for web-style adverts.

This, in turn, reduces the amount of space available for showing programming data in the EPG. But although the EPG may not look all that attractive, it does show a decent amount of programming data in one go. It's fairly quick to move around using the direction pad on the remote. You can also skip through pages of channels by using the channel up and down buttons.

Digital media and Internet features

This model is a bit weird because although it has an Ethernet port built in, you can't use it to stream digital media across a network from a PC or NAS drive. This is doubly odd, because the set can playback digital media files via both its two USB ports.

File format support is quite good as it'll play a range of video formats including Xvid, DviX and MKV files in both standard and high-definition.

There's an SD card slot, which is primarily designed to let you play 2D and 3D videos or stills captured using Panasonic digital cameras and camcorders.

While the GT30 and VT30 models can record programmes from their Freeview HD tuners directly to drives or memory keys plugged into their USB ports, this feature has been removed from this set. If you've already got a personal video recorder, such as a Sky HD box, this isn't much of a loss.

The TX-P46ST30B may not support media streaming, but thankfully it does include Panasonic's Viera Connect Internet TV platform. This has recently been updated and includes a newer version of the BBC's iPlayer, with a slicker looking interface, a favourites section and better search features. However, the Seek function needs a bit of work as it's difficult to position it at a particular point in a programme.

Panasonic TX-P46ST30B iPlayer
This model offers an updated version of the BBC's iPlayer.

Panasonic has also added the Aupeo online radio service as well as WealthTV in HD and 3D, just so you can check out how the other half lives in these austere times. These new services join the likes of YouTube and Dailymotion, the Acetrax movie rental services and news and weather offerings such as BBC News, Euronews and Accuweather.

Naturally there are also apps for Facebook and Twitter. There's an app store where you can download and install news apps, services and games. The range of services isn't as comprehensive as on Samsung and LG's latest tellies, but it's still a decent selection that caters for most tastes.

Design and connections

Panasonic's TVs have never exactly been renowned for their lush designs. Unfortunately the TX-P46ST30B is no different in this regard. It actually uses the same design as the previous generation of Panasonic's TVs, rather than the updated styling found on the GT30 and VT30 models.

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