50VT25 (2010/2011) vs. 50S64 (2013)
For purposes of having on file for future web surfers and lurkers like me who use AVS for research, I recently brought home a Panasonic plasma 50” S64 from Costco to supplant my 50VT25 which was suffering from a line in the screen. Of course after suffering the line for a week and finally purchasing the S64 and hauling it home, the line went away the following day (this is the 2nd time this year the line has happened, loose connector in panel maybe?)
My wife and I decided to give the S64 a try for a weekend anyhow and see how it compared to the slightly older screen - if it was better, we’d keep it as main TV and relegate VT25 to exercise room, otherwise back to Costco to return it. I was also especially interested in how a 2.5yr old (I bought spring 2011) ‘flagship’ top-end model would compare to a brand new mid (low?) level set – do the advancements really trickle down over subsequent years or would the VT still have the edge? There is a lack of this type of info on the internet and reviews, no one compares across different model years which really is how consumers would be looking at it (as in, “is the new one better than my old one”, not “which one of the new ones is best compared to its peers.”) Especially in a home environment, outside the stores with their Vivid settings jacked and shady input sources (some composite, some HDMI)
For reference this was a TC-50PS64 manufactured July 2013 in Mexico; I let it run for 100hrs with slides then plugged in the ‘Fairchild’ current S60 settings on Cinema. Here are some thoughts having watched Netflix, cable (1080i) and Xbox360, all in HD over HDMI from receiver. The S64 is considered to be the same as the S60 but with the anti-glare panel from the ST60 line added at Costco's request to combat warehouse lighting glare.
Blacks – deeper blacks than my VT25, which has unfortunately suffered from both the lame rising blacks 'by design' (bull) and floating blacks when dark scenes happen. However, despite the deeper blacks, contrary to some reports I could still discern the bezel of the S64 from the screen (AKA no seamless black at edge of screen.) In otherwords while the blacks were darker than the VT25, they were not as dark as I expected for a newer home-calibrated set. My VT25 has Infinite Black Pro panel while the S64 has Infinite Black panel (the non-pro was the stepdown back in 2010, so maybe the S64 is still a behind from a panel perspective?)
Motion –the worst of the shortcomings on the S64. On camera pans in programming the screen would show some motion blur, and the credits at the end of my Splinter Cell Blacklist game were a near perpetual blur as they moved across the screen, almost enough to induce motion sickness. I have never seen motion blur on the VT25. On still images the S64 was perfect.
Background images – streaming HD from Netflix and also in some of the cable programming, the screen would have trouble with some background patterns (wallpaper, textured shirts, etc) and these would jiggle around a bit, enough to be noticeable to the eye. – not sure if this is from pixel orbiter? (which was on) Again, not something I’ve seen with VT25.
Buzzing – no buzzing sound at all unless within 1ft earshot of panel while doing hookups, which was good (my VT doesn't buzz either)
Input lag – none on either. As mentioned, played through the last few missions of Splinter Cell Blacklist on Xbox360 using the S64 and noticed no sign of any input lag, the experience was comparable to my gaming on the VT25.
Image Retention - none noticed on S64 even after playing Xbox360 with Splinter Cell HUD's etc
Overall – set was returned --- my wife and I gave this a shot with ~15 hours of watching and gaming, post-break and tweaking, and both of us agreed that we still like the VT25 better. The VT25 has definitely been a disappointment for me given its rising blacks and floating blacks for the expensive price, yet watching the S64 I was forced to acknowledge that my VT25 still had the edge in overall picture quality on other merits, with colours and motion being much more natural to the eye than the cheaper newer set. Simply put, other than the blacks issues on my VT25 it has outstanding colours and picture in all other aspects and trounced the S64 in those areas. The S64 would be great three quarters of the time and then all of a sudden there would be a scene with odd pixellation or motion blur where you would could tell that the picture quality wasn't the best and you would know you were watching a cheaper set. (and no, it wasn't Netflix buffering etc)
I think that for its street/sale price of ~$800 here in Canada, the S64 represents good value in its own right, and it is indeed hard to justify spending $1200+ more for the features inherent in the $2000+ VT line. However, there is a noticeable difference in panels. Someone buying the S64 willing to overlook the quibbles I’ve mentioned will get a good value, but those who get irritated by those things (motion blur etc) like me may find the panel to be lacking and wishing they’d stepped up in price to a different set. I dread having to replace my VT now, even though I want to because of the brightened blacks, because this experience has shown me that I probably have to grit my teeth and buy a flagship-type VT/ZT type of set to achieve the same overall picture quality as the VT25, blacks aside. The ST line falls somewhere in the middle in specs and price, but by the time I made the leap to $1500 for an ST I'd probably rather also pay up for the VT experience, especially with the ST's notorious input lag (at least until that is resolved via firmware update)