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Panasonic TX-P50VT50B review: Panasonic TX-P50VT50B

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The remote has been redesigned slightly. The button layout and shape remain largely unchanged, which is a positive as all the key buttons are sensibly placed. The remote now has a glossy finish to better match the high-end styling of the TV. Panasonic also supplies a secondary touchpad controller, but I can't say I'm a fan of it as I found it quite cumbersome to use. I doubt many people will prefer it over the standard zapper.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50B remote
The touchpad remote needs a rethink as it's not very user friendly.

You'd expect a flagship TV to have an abundance of ports and the VT50 doesn't disappoint. The TV's four HDMI inputs are positioned on the left-hand edge of the set. Sitting above these you'll find three USB ports, as well as the SD memory card reader and CAM slot.

The rest of the connections are found on a downward-facing panel on the rear. This is home to both the RF input for the Freeview HD tuner, as well as the F-connector for the Freesat HD tuner. Wi-Fi is now built in and there's an Ethernet port if you'd prefer to use a wired connection. This panel also has mini-jack inputs for the component and Scart breakout cables, as well as an optical audio output.

Audio quality

Some of Panasonic's latest TVs have been somewhat iffy when it comes to audio (the ET5 series, I'm looking at you). The VT50, on the other hand, is actually quite meaty when it comes to sonics.

This is partly due to the fact Panasonic has integrated a small 80mm woofer into the rear of the set. This really helps it add extra low-end thump when you're watching a movie, making it sound much more bassy than most of its LED rivals.

2D picture quality

You can sum up the VT50's 2D picture performance in one word -- awesome. It produces the deepest black levels I've ever seen from a TV. Unlike LED models that use tricks like local dimming to increase the depth of their blacks -- something that generally leads to haloing, light pooling and other backlight inconsistencies -- the VT50 doesn't have to use any of these gimmicks. Its blacks are consistent right across the display.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50B contrast
The VT50's black levels and contrast performance is absolutely top notch.

This set has finer gradient control than the cheaper GT50 model, and while the differences are subtle, it does have slightly more refined handling of detail in dimly-lit scenes. That's saying something as the GT50 is no slouch in this area.

Motion clarity is fantastic, achieving levels of smoothness and crispness that most other TVs could only dream of. Fast-paced sports like football and F1 are a pleasure to watch.

Handling of colour also seems much improved from previous models. Graduations between colours are extremely smooth and natural and hues have a lot of punch, while retaining their warmth and naturalness.

Panasonic says the VT50's panel is brighter than that used on last year's models. To my eyes, there isn't a massive difference. It's still capable of producing very bright images by plasma standards, but it's a long way off what today's LED screens are capable of. Because of this, the VT50, as with most plasmas, is not the ideal choice if you tend to watch TV either during daylight hours or with very bright lights in your room. Other than that, there's little to fault with its 2D picture quality.

3D picture quality

Unlike the GT50, Panasonic ships the VT50 with two pairs of 3D glasses included. By the usual standards of active 3D specs, these are actually very light and relatively comfortable to wear.

The set's 3D pictures are strong. Panasonic's plasmas have traditionally offered up some of the most crosstalk-free 3D pictures you'll find on any TV. Thankfully, that trend continues on the VT50. In fact, it performs so well that for all intents and purposes, images are almost completely free of crosstalk (where there's ghosting of images). The active 3D pictures look sharp and the sense of depth is very believable, helping to suck you into the 3D experience.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50B 3D glasses
The active specs are quite light and comfortable by usual standards.

On the negative side, the dimming effect of the active glasses, and that fact that plasma screens are inherently less bright than LED screens, means 3D images do look quite a lot darker than on the majority of LED sets. That's particularly noticeable if you're watching 3D material during the day.

Conclusion

There's no doubting the TX-P50VT50B is a stunning TV. It offers arguably the best picture quality of any set on the market today, has good audio quality, a sterling line-up of smart TV apps and an attractive design. The problem is that the differences with the TX-P50GT50B are relatively small, yet there's a huge £500 hike in price. This is actually one of the reasons why Panasonic doesn't offer the GT50 in screen sizes over 50 inches -- to avoid the two competing with each other at the very top of the market.

If you're a picture quality purist and have money to burn, by all means go for the VT50, as it's the best TV out there at the moment. But for the vast majority of people buying a 50-inch screen, the excellent GT50 is the better option.

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