Panasonic Viera G20 (TX-P50G20B) review: Panasonic Viera G20 (TX-P50G20B)

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The Good Great picture quality; sturdy build quality; decent Internet features; slick user interface.

The Bad Built-in speakers are dreadful; fairly expensive; some picture-processing modes are too heavy-handed.

The Bottom Line We like the Panasonic Viera TX-P50G20B a great deal. Its performance with Blu-ray movies is really impressive, as is its handling of high-definition freesat and Freeview channels. Its design isn't very exciting, though, and Panasonic has a little way to go before its TVs are up to the same level as our reference TV, the 50-inch Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090

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8.3 Overall

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There are plenty of people who, for whatever reason, just don't care about the arrival of 3D TVs. The 50-inch, 1080p Panasonic Viera TX-P50G20B plasma TV is aimed at such folk -- it's full of amazing features that will appeal to picture-quality enthusiasts, but it doesn't cost the earth and you don't need daft glasses to watch it.

You might argue that buying a TV that isn't 3D-capable now is rather daft. But this set costs around £700 less than the 3D version, and has broadly the same set of features, including an identical panel. Come to think of it, we're surprised Panasonic isn't shipping this TV as '3D ready' and selling a glasses pack separately.

The TX-P50G20B costs around £1,400 and is available now. Let's take a look and find out if it's worth all that money.

Black ain't whack
We always feel rather uncharitable when we moan about the appearance of Panasonic TVs. After all, they aren't ugly -- they're just a little, erm, dull. But, while they aren't the most exciting sets to look at, they're sturdy and well built. Like most TVs, the TX-P50G20B sports a piano-black finish, and will look good in virtually all rooms, even bright pink ones, if that's your bag.

Freeview and freesat in HD
Panasonic's always embraced new ways to deliver TV channels. It was one of the first companies to integrate freesat HD tuners into its TVs, and now it's done the same with Freeview HD, which is potentially a more exciting development.

The TV isn't particularly stunning in terms of its design, but its pictures may cause your socks to fly across the room at considerable velocity

When you set up the TX-P50G20B, it scans DVB and analogue TV frequencies as any normal telly would. Once it's done, you probably won't notice much difference, but head to channel 50 or 51 and, as long as you're in a Freeview HD region, you'll see either BBC HD or ITV HD. The simplicity of this is really appealing -- take the TV out of the box and, minutes later, you're watching a high-definition channel.

If you don't know whether your region has Freeview HD yet, check the Freeview site, which has a postcode checker that will tell you.  If you aren't in a Freeview HD region, then hook the TV up to a satellite dish, and you'll get dozens of free channels via freesat, including HD channels from the BBC and ITV.

Electronic programme git 
As much as we love the fact that this TV has both Freeview HD and freesat HD tuners, we can't help being rather irked by the electronic programme guide. Why? Because the two systems -- freesat and Freeview -- aren't combined, so you have to switch between the two of them to view the listings. It would be much better if Panasonic offered you the option to combine all of the available services into one easy-to-use EPG.

We also have an ongoing hatred of the Guide Plus+ system that Panasonic insists on using in all its Freeview hardware. Not only is it festooned with annoying adverts, it also looks pretty hideous. It feels like something from the '90s, and we really don't care for it.

TV nut's delight
The TX-P50G20B is clearly aimed at people who care about picture quality. To that end, Panasonic has had this set THX-certified -- when the TV is in its THX picture mode, what you see on the screen is as close to the original image as possible. For us, watching movies in this mode is about as good as it gets with out-of-the-box settings -- we really liked the tones, colours and black levels of this TV when playing Blu-ray movies. Normal TV shows aren't quite as bright and gaudy as you might be used to, though, and we fear many people will plonk their TVs on the dynamic setting.

If you're a real nut for image quality, then you'll no doubt be stoked to hear that the TV can also be calibrated by an engineer certified by the Imaging Science Foundation. When this is done, the TV has two custom modes used for optimal viewing -- Pro1 and Pro2. One is designed to be used during the day, and one at night -- or with the blinds and curtains closed for cinema-style viewing. ISF calibration isn't cheap, but it will get your TV's pictures looking as good as the laws of physics allow.

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