CNET First Look
Panasonic ST50 series TVWith flagship-level picture quality for a midlevel price, the Panasonic ST50 series sets the value standard among videophile-grade TVs.
Hi. I'm David Katzmaier from CNET. And I'm standing next to the Panasonic TCP55ST50. This is a 55-inch Plasma TV. This review will also play to the 50, the 60 and the 65-inch member of the series. It doesn't come in any size smaller than that. This is Panasonic's mid-range Plasma TV. It has 3D. It also has the company's high end Neo-PDP Plasma Technology for all that picture quality goodness. We'll get to that in a little bit. But first, let's talk a little bit about one of the biggest improvement this year over the ST30 which was our pick last year for best bang for the back-mount Plasma TVs. That's the styling. This TV has pretty sleek styling for a Panasonic Plasma. It actually looks almost as good as some of the Samsung Plasmas out there and that is a compliment. Around in the edge of the screen, it's a pretty thin bezel. There's also the sort of acrylic boarder. The bottom edge is a little bit thicker and there's a little bit of indent there to get a little bit of accent and the TV is also thinner than it was last year. The stand however does not swivel. The set includes a Viera Cast Smart TV Functionality which has the usual apps, Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Voodoo. There's also a couple of audio apps including Pandora. There's a few additional apps. Panasonic did include the Social TV app this year which places Twitter or Facebook right next to the TV screens. You can (sound plays?) as you watch TV and Twit if that's your thing. This TV does not have the higher end touch pad remote. However, Panasonic reserves that for the more expensive VT and WT Series this year. The ST50 does get built-in WiFi however so we figured that's a big convenience bonus. Of course a lot of 2012 TVs do also include that feature. Compared to competition, the ST50 has fewer picture controls than seen on a lot of the high end TVs. It doesn't have the 10 Point grace scale. It gets by with the 2 Point. There's also a fewer settings for color management but on the flip side, we found that the presets were pretty darn good this year for the custom mode and that's a big improvement compared to last year. Let's talk a little bit about picture quality now which is the real reason why we like the ST50. This set has extremely deep black levels for a plasma. In fact, it's even deeper than last year's Flagship TV, the VT30 by just a little bit. That deep black as usual adds to a lot of punch, a lot of proceed contrast. A great looking picture over all under different lighting conditions. Speaking of lighting conditions, Panasonic did improve the filter on this TV. This year, it actually rejects ambient light even better than before which means that those blacks can stay deeper even in the brighter lighting situations which is again among the best we've seen on any Plasma TV. It has also pretty accurate color once you play around with the settings in the Custom Mode. So all told, we really like the picture quality of this TV. Did we mention it's also a 3D? Panasonic does not include 3D glasses. Then quite 3D glasses are new for this year. They're about $70 bucks a piece. They use Bluetooth functionality. The 3D picture quality wasn't quite as good as we expected. We did see more cross talk than a lot of competition but that's not really a deal breaker and this TV does still produce pretty good 3D images. Around back, the ST50 is a little bit spars. So however instead of the normal 4 HDMI, there's only 3. There are 2 USB and a rare SD Card Slot however in addition to 1 Analog Input. Of course the real kicker on the ST50 is it's bang for the buck. This TV does produce a very good picture for the price and I think it would be hard for us to see other TVs this year that can match its value preposition. And that's a quick look at the Panasonic TCPST50 Series. I'm David Katzmaier.