Picked up a U54 at Costco and love it!!!
I had the LGPN9700 and GT50 which I returned to Best Buy over the last few weeks. LG PN9700 had a great picture but the blacks were a little on the dark grey side but very nice TV. So I went back to Best Buy and the magnolia rep pushed the panasonic, which they always seem to do when I was there several time before. So I tried the GT50...sitting home for a few days after watching it, I started to ask myself why I paid $1599 for a TV which I would never use 3D and Smart features? But the reps at Best Buy kept telling me that panasonic is best plasma and the GT50 was hands down the best in the panasonic 2012 lineup for 50". Get the GT50 because even if you don't use any other the features the TV is better than all other panasonic models in 2D.
Went to Costco and saw a 50" U54 a base model with no bell and whistles. I thought it could not be as good in 2D mode and would give me a sub par picture than the more expensive GT50. I decided to buy and set up next to the GT50. NO DIFFERENCE!!! Actually I felt the blacks, color depths and contrast was just slightly better or at least the same! I liked the bezel and base better too! Base seemed more secure with U54 vs GT. I liked the all black bezel better than the silver lined GT, although the GT was nice if cosmetics are important to you.
I returned the GT50 and saw magnolia rep at return desk. He asked why I was returning TV?. I told him that I got the U54 at costco and did not need the extras on GT50 and just saved $1000 and got a 2 year warranty. He said "big mistake cause GT50 has a superior processor". LOL!!!! Not for an extra $1000!!! I told him to take the U50 and set up next to GT50 in Magnolia Room on custom or cinema, even the THX cinema and see for himself. He disagreed and said GT50 was way better, but happy that I found the TV I wanted.They put the high$ money making stuff in there anyway. They would never put the U50 at that price in there cause they may lose on the VT and GT series. Remember there is a joint venture between best buy and panasonic.
U50 is an awesome plasma if you have a room with Low Lighting/Dark. I do not open the blinds when I watch TV, for those folks a GT50 may be better cause of the brightness modes, filters, blah blah blah. Maybe get an LCD if you want the sun shining in while you watch TV.
This TV ROCKS, Cheap and superior PQ. I use Custom Mode for everything and cinema for some movies. Standard and Vivid are dark and too bright. I also did not notice a difference from GT50 THX, LG THX and the standard U54 cinema mode. Also I am 10 feet from TV and screen size is PERFECT! Had a 60" and made me dizzy. Eyes can't handle bigger screen. My son sits 6 feet in front of his 55 and love's it. That's another topic.
I believe the panasonic U54 competes or same as GT model in 2D standard High Definition use. I also think LG and Samsung make good plasmas also. All are good with High Def signal. I called panasonic and they mentioned the U54 warehouse version has some upgrades but would not share with me details. Interesting? I think it's probably the warranty, but...who knows..maybe contrast or color?
If you are looking for 3D and bells and whistles then buy UT, ST, GT, VT etc. If you want a solid plasma performer get U50/54, another option would be the low end LGPA6500 or Samsung.
I hope all on this forum enjoys their U50/54. We just got the deal of the century!!! This TV 5 years ago would have been thousands. My friend has a Pioneer Kuro from few years ago and honestly the U50/54 looks competitive!!!