Panasonic TC-P65VT50 Review
The Panasonic TC-P65VT50 is the largest 65-Inch model from Panasonic’s new top of the line, flagship VT50 plasma series.
After gaining a huge amount of attention at its launch, the VT50 is finally available. We’re proud to be able to provide you with an excellent user review written exclusively for HDTV-News.Com by Brandon Kalaskie. If you’re interested in providing a user review, please contact us.
One of the difficulties in becoming an early adopter of a new TV is deciding how confident you should be before making the big purchase, especially without the benefit of a peer review. Allow me to alleviate this fear concerning the Panasonic VIERA TC-P65VT50 plasma television. Believe the hype. Truth in advertising may have fallen by the way side in recent years, but Panasonic went against the mold in publicizing its VT50 series. You may treat every press release about this TV as gospel. The VT50 quite handily set the high mark for this year’s crop of televisions.
I’ll try to keep this review confined to the more underwhelming or confusing aspects surrounding the VT50 plasma, as listing its many praises would just become tedious. This plasma set really is that good.
I purchased the 65-inch model from an online retailer (Amazon) at just shy of full price. Deals may be forthcoming, but don’t expect huge discounts for some time. Inventory is low and this is the flagship series of plasma TV to beat. At Panasonic’s $3,699.99 list price, a $400 premium over the step-down GT50 model which has already received top marks from other reviewers, one might wonder what’s left to improve. Apparently, the screen, the remote, and what’s displayed all receive a little more attention in the VT50 series. Do these modifications warrant a significant mark-up? I’ll touch on each aspect a little further in a moment, but I can tell you right now I live by the phrases “Go big or go home” and “You get what you pay for.”
Aesthetically, the Panasonic TC-P65VT50 is stunning. As the only model in Panasonic’s line-up to sport a single plate of glass (or anyone’s 2012 inventory to my knowledge), the VT50 front panel looks like modern art even when it’s off. The set begs to be a center-piece in any room that it’s placed; though hanging the 65-inch model could easily become a chore. The VT50 has no hand grips. Once situated, this becomes a moot point, but the last thing you’ll want to do after unboxing a VT50 is mar its face with fingerprints or smudges. Panasonic goes as far as warning that with every cleaning the front face may lose some of its luster. As long as you’re not using Windex and a Brillo Pad, you should be alright. The stand also has no swivel, which might have caused issues if the viewing angle wasn’t so superb. You won’t miss this function once you truly grasp the scale of a 65-inch plasma. Oh, and the speakers aren’t anything to write home about. They’re tucked neatly behind and inside the rear wall of the VT50 along with a small sub-woofer. They’ll work in pinch, but owning a VT50 begs a decent AV receiver and surround sound combo.
On first power-up, you will note that the VT50 is set extremely dark. For home theater use this setting might get by, but the vast majority of buyers will opt for one of the two THX settings or just build a custom configuration. At any rate, it will become readily apparent that the Infinite Black Ultra filter lives up to its hype. The black menu screens and 16:9 letterboxing of every Blu-ray I tested literally melted into the panel’s background. “The Dark Knight’s” epic IMAX scenes were particularly stunning. Whatever 24,576 shades of gradation actually means, rest assured you will see more in any dark area of a film on the VT50 than you could on anything else, save maybe the fabled Kuro of old (you’re welcome Pioneer fanboys).
Yet, as good as the VT50 performs in the dark, it never quite blows you away in the bright color reproduction department. Again, non-professional tweaking of different settings can achieve more than acceptable results for any viewing condition, but buyers moving from an LCD/LED will note a distinct lack of “Pop” in vividly colored scenes or pictures. This can become especially obvious when watching animation, gaming, or viewing cartoons. If the majority of your viewing consists solely of these 3 items: buyer beware. Call it a limitation of plasma’s phosphor technology or a design decision by Panasonic, the VT50 is unapologetically designed around reproducing “realistic” images under any lighting condition. Your kids will adapt.
In this realist imagery vein, the inclusion of 96Hz/24p film playback really shines. The VT50’s integrated film smoothing all but eliminates HD jitter and optimizes quick action/panning shots. These settings can be highlighted by viewing heavy action sequences in films like Inception or any of the Transformers features. The set auto adjusts out of the box depending on what type of media is being viewed, greying out an option if it’s not supported. The dual core processor never hiccups whether video is streamed, played via SD card, or through any of the 3 USB 2.0 ports. Codec support is also top notch. If fault exists, it arises in the odd moment where video playback does exhibit an abnormal quirk and you can’t engage the option you think will fix it. After much experimentation, it seems that the root causes of my events could all be traced back to either the source file or a streaming device issue located within the PC, X-box, or DNLA server.
Panasonic’s VIERA suite can run either hard-wired or wirelessly through a decent router and Internet connection. Most apps involve subscription based content of which I’m not a subscriber. So, I don’t know how well many of VIERA’s apps function, but all of the ones I did try, loaded quickly. The web browser easily surfed through heavy flash based sites and is designed to prohibit pop-ups. Speed-wise, the VIERA browser feels like something in late BETA. It combines the ease of big tablety push buttons with an on screen keyboard, but just feels sluggish. Chrome and Firefox she is not.
The touch-remote is an interesting addition, but its responsiveness and fine movement control leave a lot to be desired. It does not operate like a laptop’s touch-pad. Luckily, my android smart phone quickly synched with the VT50 and functions way better for VIERA navigation. Another gimmicky addition that I liked was the ability to transfer media from the TV to the phone with a swipe of a finger. However, moving from the phone to the TV has proven elusive. Attempts to “flick” a picture or video from my phone have all ended in the ubiquitous triangle inset with an “!” on-screen. Over a month in and I still haven’t found a solution all by my lonesome. There’s probably a work around, but I just don’t care or use the function enough to figure it out.
Now for the only legitimate disappointment I faced with the VT50. As I mentioned from the start, the TC-P65VT50 commands a premium price. One would expect a flagship product to include everything you need to perform its basic functions out of the box. Yet, there are no 3D glasses included with purchase. True, Panasonic doesn’t include a pair with any of its offerings, but without access to their specific active shutter lenses, I have no idea how well the VT50 plays 3D content or converts 2D to 3D. The winds whisper that Samsung’s newest Bluetooth glasses will work on the VT50, but I’ve done the early adopter thing once this month already and am tapped out.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m elated with the performance and looks of everything surrounding the VT50 series. I knew from the beginning that I would need to buy 3D glasses separately, but, never the less, it still stings not to have the ability to test such a significant function of my new plasma. Additionally, don’t let some snake at your local big-box store attempt to sell you last year’s glasses (not that this happened to me… even though it did). 3D glasses for the VT30 & VT50 are incompatible.
Finally, I’d like to touch on a topic only a select few might have an interest in, but I feel still holds merit given the technology behind the plasmas in general. I live in Colorado, and my front door opens at around 6,170ft. The plasma I’m replacing with the VT50 was built in 2003 and disagreed with this altitude. It ran extremely hot and buzzed incessantly. Before buying another plasma TV I needed assurances that altitude adjustments had been integrated into its design. I had a Panasonic tech support email in hand before I purchased the VT50, ensuring me that all of their plasmas were rated to 8,000ft. I even went so far as to ask a local installer who told me that I’d be safe up to 11,000ft. I’m happy to report that almost a month in, and the TC-P65VT50 is running cool and quiet.
So that about covers it. The VT50’s expensive. It doesn’t come with bundled 3D glasses (or an HDMI cord, or web-cam for that matter). The touch remote will quickly become relegated to a paper weight. The speakers are “meh”, and color vividity never quite makes Sponge Bob hurt your eyes. And still, I love this television. Everything I’ve mentioned that sounds even remotely negative I’ve pried out of an honest assessment of the VT50’s total package. Hell, I almost had to manufacture the altitude, android, and 3D complaints just so the LG & Samsung fanboys won’t call me biased.. even though I am. Panasonic touted every aspect of the VT series worth noting prior to release, and god’s honest truth, they did not tell a lie. The Panasonic VIERA TC-P65VT50 is the best performing and looking television I have ever seen, and now I own one. You should too.
This was a user review written exclusively for HDTV-News.Com by Brandon Kalaskie. We’re actively looking for more users to contribute their own reviews of a new 2012 HDTV. If you would like to submit your own review, please contact us. You will be fully credited for your review, with a link to your own personal site if desired.