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

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As a matter of artefact 
Overall, we liked the TX-P50G20B's picture quality a great deal. But there's something we should mention. Because we had a brand-new TV, pictures showed some solarisation effects -- random colours on moving objects and haloing around bright objects. (Plasma TV panels take around 100 hours to reach their best quality.) We're mentioning this here because we don't believe it to be a fault, and want you to understand that, when you get this TV home, you may notice some mild problems to start with. Sadly, we don't have a couple of months to spend with each TV we review, so inevitably we'll see these problems from time to time.

Despite some artefacts, we couldn't help but be impressed by the TX-P50G20B's pictures. In the case of Blu-ray material, we urge you to use the THX mode. This will give the best initial image quality. To get the picture to the point where we were really satisfied, however, we needed to perform a few more tweaks. For example, we dialled the brightness down a little more than the default setting, which improved the black levels and contrast. 

We also upped the contrast slightly, and made sure both the intelligent-frame-creation mode and other 'picture-enhancing' modes were switched off. As is the case with all TVs, creating extra frames to smooth motion is all well and good, but the TX-P50G20B, sadly, suffers from artefacts when the extra frames are generated. Run this panel without the trickery. It's much better that way.

Standard-definition Freeview picture quality was good but not exceptional. We found that the picture looked, for the most part, quite soft. This is to be expected on a large-screen TV. The screen proves how capable it is, however, when you switch to BBC HD and see something like Hustle in high definition. It looks totally amazing, and we can only hope that more TV shows are made in HD soon, because this is how pictures are supposed to look.

Plugging away
There are plenty of things you can plug into this TV, including a Wi-Fi dongle, four HDMI cables, an Ethernet connection and the usual array of analogue video connectors, such as Scart, component and composite video. There's also a pair of USB sockets -- one designed for the Wi-Fi dongle and one for a memory stick or portable hard drive. As with all Panasonic hardware, there's an SD-card slot too, for looking at photos and AVC video.

Get your Net on 
As you might have guessed by the talk of Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity, the Panasonic is very much an Internet-ready TV. It comes with Viera Cast, which allows you to connect with services specially selected by Panasonic. You can connect to Dailymotion and YouTube to watch short-form video, for example. There's no catch-up service yet, so iPlayer is just a pipe dream, as are Sky Player and movie streaming from LoveFilm. But the TX-P50G20B is capable of supporting all of these, so all that's really needed is for Panasonic to do a deal with the relevant companies.

The system itself works brilliantly, and we were very taken with how snappy the interface is. At the moment, we see the Internet functionality as a diversion -- for when you're really dying to watch cat videos, for example -- but we can see Panasonic offering some really cool content in the future. It's just a shame that it isn't here yet.

Sound's atrocious
As we expected, the TX-P50G20B's sound quality is utterly dire. Built-in speakers are never any good, and you should jolly well have a separate set of speakers attached to your new £1,400 HDTV. After all, sound is half the experience. The integrated speakers will, however, suffice for most TV viewing.

We think you should buy the Panasonic Viera TX-P50G20B. It will almost certainly make you very happy indeed. It's got a shed load of cool Internet features, and the picture is very good, with the potential to get even better if you get it calibrated properly. It's also a decent-looking TV and just about the only screen on the market that can claim to come anywhere close to the black levels of Pioneer TVs. That said, this TV isn't capable of the deep blacks displayed by our Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX5090, which remains our reference TV two years after it was discontinued.

Edited by Charles Kloet 

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