The year 2011 witnessed a range of televisions that could be touted as the best in its category. When it came to LED LCD televisions, it was undoubtedly the Sony Bravia KDL-55HX925 and as far as plasma panels were concerned, Panasonic was the brand to beat with their TH-P65VT30D. Panasonic has been at the forefront when it comes to televisions with plasma panels and the brand is pushing this technology to the extremes by manufacturing the world’s largest 3D plasma panel measuring 152-inches.

No buttons located at the front

No buttons located at the front

Last year the brand introduced 3D plasma panels that were rather slim, thereby taking away the notion that plasma televisions are only those fat HDTVs that consume a lot of electricity. Building up on their range of slim 3D plasma televisions, the brand has introduced the TH-P50ST30, a 50-inch full HD television that boasts of features such as 2D to 3D conversion, smart TV capabilities and a range of other features. Read on to know if this 50-inch HDTV from Panasonic is worth your money or not.

Design and Build Quality
Panasonic did really well with the design of the TH-P65VT30D as it featured a single sheet design and in the process there was no physical bezel to speak of. This design had made it classy and extravagant. However, with the TH-P50ST30D, the brand has used a bezel once more making it look a bit dated in comparison to the other higher end televisions which they manufacture. Though, this model features a bezel that is slightly on the thicker side, it does ooze style and will definitely compliment a person’s home. The bezel for the television measures at a quarter less than two inches making it quite slim too. The bottom of the bezel is a tad bit larger but an interesting design implementation done here is that it does not feature any controls except for the power button. Brands tend to add a lot of controls here which sometimes tend to take away the look of the TV. Overall the bezel is really sturdy and it did not feel cheap at all.

VIERA branding located at the top left corner

VIERA branding located at the top left corner

Panasonic has instead added these controls at the side on the back and they include options to control settings like brightness, contrast, colour, volume, etc. all by merely tapping on the function option. Apart from this, there is an up and down arrow button that is meant for adjusting these settings along with buttons for switching between TV and AV modes. The location of these controls are good as one can easily adjust the settings while viewing it on the television itself. There are a slew of connectivity options at the back of the TV. Like most flat panel televisions available in the market, these I/O ports are located towards the side at the back for easy connectivity. As far as connectivity options are concerned, there are three USB ports, four HDMI ports, two composite video ports, one component video port, a mini D-Sub PC input, LAN port, an analogue audio connector, an optical output and a headphone jack. These options are more than sufficient and can easily be used to be paired up with an AV receiver, a gaming console and a range of other devices. All these connectivity options are either down facing or side facing, with a majority of them being the former. The panel at the back is made of metal which gives it a sturdy look and feel. Cooling of the television is taken care of by four fans which are placed on the upper portion of the back panel. The television does not get too hot even after using it for a considerable amount of time.

The stand that is featured with the TV allows one to swivel the television to an extent. This can come in handy while adding inputs at the back. The base is sturdy and there was no wobble observed at all. The remote that comes bundled with the TV feels cheap in comparison to the rest of the television as it feels rather plasticy. The layout of the buttons are good though and one can easily get accustomed to it within a matter of minutes.

Features
With a television of this quality, packed with features, it is hard to isolate one to choose as its main attribute. However, having an extremely slim depth, we can say that this can be its chief feature. Panasonic have pushed the boundaries when it comes to flat panel plasma televisions and have negated the fact that plasma televisions need to be thick. With this television they use a high end panel called NeoPlasma which helps in maintaining this slim profile. With the NeoPlasma panel, one can expect 2D as well as 3D picture quality to be really good. Apart from this, the panel also helps in consuming less power as compared to other plasma panels available in the market.

The main menu of the TV

The main menu of the TV

As far as the interface of the television goes, it follows the same lines as most of the other Panasonic models that are available in the market. Upon pressing the menu button, one is greeted with the interface for adjusting various settings such as picture, sound timer and setup. A useful feature of the menu is that it provides information about the setting that is highlighted. This helps one in understanding the different settings a little better. The layout for the menu of VIERA tools is designed well and all one needs to do is merely select the type of content they wish to see from an external drive and the television does the rest. For example if one wants to watch videos, then one needs to just select this option from the menu and a screen will appear displaying all the videos that are present on the drive. It not only shows the files that are available but also a preview of the highlighted video. The television supports a wide variety of formats and to name a few, it can read containers like DivXPlusHD, MKV, WMV, JPEG, MPO, MP3, AAC and WMA. These formats are very common and having the ability to play it gives one the option to quickly play back files that they have on their drives. Being a full HD television, it can read all formats of video in 1080p whether they are from Blu-rays or external hard drives. The television reads both NTFS as well as FAT32 drives. The drive takes a few seconds to be read but one should not be too concerned with this as this load time is due to the television processing the preview of the videos.

Interface of VIERA Cast

Interface of VIERA Cast

Another major feature of this television is that it supports 3D. This feature though is very common on high end televisions these days and the only thing that separates one from the other is the quality of 3D. Like a range of televisions that are available in the market, this model too comes with the option to convert 2D content into 3D allowing one to watch all their 2D videos or images in 3D. However, one needs to have a set of active 3D glasses to view this content. Panasonic bundles a pair with the television, however, one may need to buy additional glasses if they want to watch 3D content with others. These glasses can be purchased from a Panasonic outlet. Apart from the above mentioned attributes, the TH-P50ST30D features a refresh rate of 600hz, DLNA and Wi-Fi ready. Panasonic have added their smart TV features on this television by using VIERA Cast. In this function there are a range of apps which include YouTube, WOW TV, Facebook and Picasa amongst others. If one is not content with these apps then they can always head to the VIERA Market in VIERA Cast and download some more. The 3D converting feature works in all menus except for the Internet one.

Performance
To test the performance of the TH-P50ST30D, we ran videos of Blu-rays, external hard drives, DisplayMate and a range of other tests. To start off, the remote control is extremely responsive and one need not point it directly at the television. We found that handling of the remote was good as it is ergonomically designed. The buttons are large and this plays a big role in navigating through the different menus. The speakers on this television are pretty good and are sufficient for a medium-sized home. One need not turn them up too high for it to be audible.

Extremely slim for a plasma television

Extremely slim for a plasma television

DisplayMate
We did not need to adjust the brightness or contrast levels at all as in normal picture mode, the words on-screen appeared detailed and the greys and whites appeared accurate. While checking the extreme grey scales with colour bars we observed that all basic colours had been properly reproduced. However, the seam between the blue and green bars was a bit soft in comparison to others. In the defocusing, blooming and halos check we observed that there was a lot of detail. In the reverse video contrast check all the characters had sharp edges and appeared uniformly. The colours in this test appeared accurate and all characters appeared in focus. While checking the primary colours, we noticed that all colours appeared natural except for yellow, which was dull, and green which appeared vibrant. In the colour intensity scales test we observed that all scales were visible and there was no bleeding noticed across all the bars.

SD Playback
During playback of standard definition content we observed  that image quality was really good and all skin tones appeared natural. During the tests we turned all the enhancements down and we observed that there was no extra smooth effects visible. With the enhancements on we noticed that though it appeared smooth, it did not make much of a difference overall. The black levels of this television are something that really stood out. With the lights turned down in the room, one can really enjoy watching dark scenes on this television. The TV handles external bright environments really well and even with the lights on, one can make out the deep black levels.

Base is very sturdy

Base is very sturdy

HD Playback
To test the high definition quality of this TV, we connected a number of Blu-ray players. There is a strange issue which occurs between Philips players when paired with Philips Blu-ray players wherein the disc starts playing but after that an error occurs on-screen and then none of the controls of the television can be accessed. This was prevalent with two Philips players. We also paired it with a Panasonic home theatre system and this error did not occur. Viewing HD content on this television is a thrill as one can certainly enjoy the movie experience. This can also be felt while watching HD files from a portable hard drive. All colours appeared natural and one can enjoy this television the best when the picture mode is set to Cinema.

3D Playback
Switching to 3D is as simple as a tap of  button. The television instantly switches on to 3D mode and the depth is apparent. Black levels while in 3D mode are really good as well and a notable mention regarding  this TV is that there is a very slight amount of crosstalk.

The stylish P50ST30D offering from Panasonic

The stylish P50ST30D offering from Panasonic

Verdict
The Panasonic TH-P50ST30D is sold in India at an MRP of Rs. 1,19,900. The television does well when it comes to its design and build quality. The features and performance is where the television really excels. There is nothing that is going wrong for this television at all except for maybe the price in comparison to the cost of LED LCD TVs nowadays. However, this television is also priced very attractively and given its features and performance, Panasonic have truly hit the sweet spot when it comes to the price, design and features. If one is in the market with a lakh and twenty thousand to spend and plasma is their choice of panel; then this model is a sure shot.

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