the CNET review compares the VT50 to a couple of LED-LCDs: Sony KDL-55HX850 and Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD
(How we test TVs)
The VT50 is the best-performing plasma I've tested since 2008, beating out the Samsung PNE8000 and Panasonic's own ST50 and GT50. I don't expect any other 2012 plasma to beat it. Its black-level performance, shadow detail, color accuracy, and bright-room picture quality outdo the Samsung's handily, and while the ST50 puts up a stronger fight than the Samsung, it also ultimately falls short of the VT50's picture quality, if not value. I haven't fully reviewed the GT50 yet but it's a closer match to the ST50 than to the VT50 from what I've seen so far.
The only TVs that can compete with the Panasonic VT50 are the Sharp Elite and, yes, that hoary veteran the Pioneer Kuro (circa 2008). Ignoring size differences (the Kuro maxed out at 60 inches) and the fact that you can't get one anymore, I actually would still rather watch the Kuro than this Panasonic -- but it's very close. The VT50 is a better TV overall than the Sharp Elite, however, despite the latter's arguably superior black-level performance. My vote goes to the Panasonic for its more accurate color and perfect screen uniformity.
Of course if you sit anywhere but the sweet spot in front of the middle of the screen, the Panasonic's advantages increase. The only reason I'd recommend the Sharp Elite instead is if you need the Elite's better light output to combat ambient light in the room, you really value 3D performance, or you really want the 70-inch Elite's larger screen.
As you can probably guess by now, the VT50 earned a "10" in this category. Its only flaws are minor crosstalk in 3D and some wonkiness during my calibration, but neither of those can keep it from taking the 2012 TV picture-quality crown -- and serving as my new reference TV. It's clearly Panasonic's best plasma ever, and creates some stiff competition for the OLEDs arriving later this year.
Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.
Comparison models (details)
Samsung PN60E8000 60-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P55ST50 55-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P55GT50 55-inch plasma
Sony KDL-55HX850 55-inch full-array LED
Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD 60-inch full-array LED
Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD (reference) 50-inch plasmaBlack level:
Blacks on the VT50 had an inky quality visibly superior to what I saw on any other TV in the lineup aside from the two Elites. The letterbox bars and numerous black and shadowy areas from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2" looked and measured a notch lighter on the Panasonic ST50 and GT50, the Samsung, and the Sony in most scenes, and the darker the scene, the more superior the VT50 looked than those four. Its true 0 percent measurement of 0.0024 is the lowest we've ever recorded for a non-Kuro plasma.
In brighter scenes and mixed content the advantage was much less noticeable, but in our lineup the VT50 still won against the non-Elites. Its advantage in light output compared with the PNE8000 was also readily apparent, and contributed to its better overall punch and impression of contrast.
In a few extremely dark scenes, such as the gathering of Voldemort's host on the hilltop (45:52), the superior black levels of the two Elites were discernible. The VT50 couldn't quite approach their depths of black, but the gap between the VT50 and the Elites was much narrower than between the VT50 and the others in our side-by-side comparison.
Compared with the LEDs, the dimmer image produced by the VT50 and the other plasmas in very bright scenes, like the all-white world of Harry's vision of the foetal Voldemort in chapter 22 (1:31:48), could be seen as a disadvantage. In my experience however the light-output limitations of plasmas in such scenes are only visible in side-by-side comparisons, and don't detract at all from critical viewing in dim and dark rooms.
Details in the shadows, such as the snake carvings in the watery cave (52:25), were essentially perfect, distinct and perfectly visible yet not too bright. The VT50 was probably the best in the room in this regard, although the Sharp Elite was extremely close. I didn't notice any instances of floating black or other anomalies in my viewing sessions.Color accuracy:
The VT50 was subjectively the best TV in the room overall in this area, despite its imperfect charts (see my notes on picture settings above). It trounced the cyan-poor Sharp Elite and also outdid the Kuro as well as the other Panasonics. Its closest non-Kuro color competition was provided by the Samsung PNE8000, although I'd give the nod to the VT50 for its less bluish cast.
Harry's vision in chapter 19 (1:15:48) showed the VT50's colors to good effect, from the grass to the blue sky (it looked more purplish on the Sharp) to the delicate skin tone of the young redhead. The bright scene dripped with saturation and lushness, another advantage of the deep black levels.
I looked hard for evidence of the slightly redder cast of the low grayscale, fluctuation in grayscale in the midtones, improper primary color balance, and a greenish cast to cyan -- all of which I measured during calibration -- but found these issues impossible to spot. Colors on the VT50 looked rich and yet accurate across the board, with the exception of a greenish-reddish tinge in the very brightest white areas like Harry's chapter 22 vision. Dark areas and shadows looked more neutral than on any other TV in the room.Bright lighting:
Under the lights the VT50 is simply the best non-matte TV I've ever tested. While it can't match the light output of LCD or the antireflective properties of a matte screen, it still manages to mute reflections better than any glossy LED I've seen. Next to the Sharp Elite, for example, my face appeared quite a bit dimmer and less noticeable when the screen went black.
The VT50's bigger strength is its ability to preserve black-level performance under the lights, lending its picture pop and contrast to spare. The Samsung plasma looked dull by comparison, due to its combination of more washed-out blacks under the light and dimmer highlights (despite being smaller than the 65-inch Panasonic I tested, the 60-inch Samsung is more limited in its light output unless you choose an inferior picture mode like Relax or Dynamic). The VT50 was also better than either the GT50 or the ST50 at preserving blacks; only the Sony and Sharp Elite LCDs outdid it in this department.
Panasonic's louvre filter acts like Venetian blinds to reject light coming from above. Compared with last year's sets the VT50's filter did dim the image a bit more when seen from high off-angle vertically. In practice, this difference is only visible from angles that are roughly equivalent to placing the TV on the floor or standing directly above it. As usual for a plasma, horizontal off-angle viewing, which is far more important than vertical in typical living-room situations, looked essentially perfect, in marked contrast to both LCDs."