The time has come and the 42UT50 arrived at my house earlier this week. The reason for my late post was to get it set up, running misc content, and get it calibrated. So I'll be giving you a review of my 42UT50 based on the limited time I've had with it thus far. As I mentioned earlier.. I planned on ordering both the 42 and 55UT50 but I decided to hold off on the 55" until I at least got the 42" for the bedroom to see how it met my standards (which are high).
First off I want to get this outta the way.... HOLY ****! What a tv this is. Mind you I'm coming from some pretty high end sets over the years including several Sony 34XBR960s, Samsung locally dimmed 46A950, Pioneer 4270HD, and eventually a Pioneer 5020FD Kuro that I used D-Nice's settings (after service menu offsets) for the past 3.5 years. So to say I'm accustomed to jet blacks, near perfect color accuracy, fluid motion, and a tv able to handle any content (pal, ntsc, sd, hd, etc) with ease is an understatement.
There is no one area that my Kuro outperforms the 42UT50. Let me repeat that... NO AREA in which it outperforms. I'll break this review down in segments hoping not to leave anything off.
Obviously we all know contrast ratio is the most important aspect of picture quality, rivaling color and resolution itself. The blacks your tv is able to reproduce tells us exactly what we're dealing with. I was expecting the worse here from my previous experience with Panasonic plasmas, and in general every other tv that didn't bare the logo "Kuro" or "Pioneer" on it. I will ignore local dimming LCDs due to the fact that their pixels shut off and to me it's not a proper measurement. Black crush, blooming, etc not in the same league. This is the second tv I've personally seen/had to date that passed the grueling Pioneer Blu-ray demo disc. I had a 42ST30 for a short time before returning it last year. It was a long shot from my Kuro to the point blacks looked grey with this demo disc, and nearly every Blu-ray movie I tried on it. Even calibrated I wasn't satisfied with the color either, but I'll cover that later. The blacks on this tv will satisfy anyone. The scene in particular with objects and fish swimming in an all-black environment had my jaw dropped. In my man cave in which I do all my critical viewing in the dark you could see nothing but the fish or object on screen. The bezel of the tv, along with the walls and room itself vanished. I could barely make out the black on the tv. It looked like a less than 1% pattern which is crazy. In fact it at times it had more pop than my Kuro due to a brighter picture. I tested this with some of my favorite movies with dark scenes including The Thing, Sin City, and Batman and not once did I pay attention to the anamorphic black bars. Outside of the Kuro there is no other tv that impressed me like this. Even with last year's top of the line sets I found myself distracted by the greyish bars to the point I couldn't enjoy dark films. It was certainly not the case here.
Anamorphic Black Bars-
Not including LCDs with local dimming, this is the only other tv other than the Kuro with black bars vanishing in all but extreme dark scenes. When the screen goes black then yeah you can see a slight glow.. but the same can be said about the Kuro. No winner here. With a 0% background showing, both are as close to 'black hole black' as plasma gets at this point. The only difference is with any content present and I give the nod to the UT50 due to more brightness and pop (not lcd fake pop but overall natural pop). During the first couple minutes of Sin City I sorta noticed the bars like any other quality plasma (Kuro) but for the rest of the film it vanished once your eyes get used to seeing that much dark. I sound like a broken record here but I don't know how to describe it other than being very Kuroish.
I dialed it in using a blue filter with several calibration discs including Disney's Wow, AVSHD, DVE HD, etc and they all showed the same results of 48 (Tint at 0) using the graphics output for hdmi settings. At first I wasn't satisfied with the default hdmi settings similar to the ST30 it just lacked. But as soon as I changed it to graphics is where it came alive. Now the colors aren't overblown in your face and more subdued like the Kuro. Skin tones are spot on.. in fact more so than my XBR960 which was my reference up till this point. I'm sure if I had the Kuro professionally calibrated it could be better but to me there was always a reddish skin tone that I couldn't defeat. It's still okay but I'd notice it now and then. I haven't seen any skin tone problems yet with the UT50. I've only spent about 10 hours with it now but this is a problem I usually notice right away with any panel so I believe this one is good to go.
This is an area I feel bests my Kuro. I don't think it's a question. I prefer no motion interpolation as to watch films smooth like you'd see at the cinema with proper judder. None of my tvs ever got this right but this one does. The first thing I did was turn the motion smoother OFF.. along with any other digital enhancements (after all it's digital). Pans are now butter smooth without the side effect of motion smoothing. I watched a few scenes of Pirates of the Caribbean in which even my Kuro makes my head turn during slow pans that are now watchable. The only other way for me to defeat this in the past was with a low setting of motion interpolation (ST30, LCDs, etc). But now with it disabled it's as smooth as ever while still preserving natural motion. I don't know how they did it, but they did it. I'm very impressed here.
48hz mode is unusable, as it flickers like the models before it. This is fine with me since 60hz is perfect. This tv also doubles nicely as a PC monitor. I hooked it up via hdmi to my Nvidia equipped desktop and everything syncs smoothly and the mouse glides naturally. Haven't tested it with games but if it's anything like the ST30 it should be good. I'll update later.
Green Blob / Uniformity-
The ST30 I had last year had a green blob in the middle of the screen with contrast set too high. I haven't noticed a green blob with this one with it dialed up yet. I tested this with a white background. Uniformity seems really good on this set. There is no blobs, clouding, etc black screens are black and white screens are white with no noticeable artifacts on color patterns. Probably not the best I've seen in the world, but should satisfy even demanding users.
I haven't had enough time with this set to be fair. I will say that I noticed the Disney logo burned onto the screen with it turned off after calibrating. But after watching content that filled the screen for a few minutes it vanished. This is a normal trait for plasmas so what can I say...par for the course? My Kuro did the same thing when new and I still notice it now and then but it's never been a long term problem. The fact that the logo went away so quickly tells me that hopefully it won't be a problem.
Yes this tv reflects a lot with windows and/or lighting in the room during the day. More so than most. I can see how this will be a problem for some. Compared to the Kuro it acts similar, if not maybe a little worse. This is a tradeoff that I'm willing to take in order to achieve IMO the best picture possible currently on the market. If it bothers you then the ST50 will suit you better. I don't test tvs during the daytime as I'm strictly an after dark movie buff, and if that's you than I suggest the UT50. This is something you'd have to see in store for yourself, but can tell you it's like most plasmas if you can deal with it. To sum it up it's similar to the 46A950 I had which looked like a mirror turned off. To me this only adds to the vibrancy, sharpness, and natural pop with the lights out but to others will take away value during the day. To each his own.
This tv IMO is the deal of the decade. It's what us videophiles crave here at AVS every day. It's crazy how much I paid for this UT50 to get a picture I thought wouldn't be possible until the next couple years. The reason I didn't go for the ST50 was because of that aggressive anti-glare filter that's on it (louver filter). Not due to cost. Not due to hype. Not due to bang-for-buck, not due to any other reason. Hell.. I'd pay double what I did for even a 42" to get the picture that I'm after. After inspecting the ST50 up close I came to the conclusion that the UT50 is a more suitable Kuro replacement for me. It's plain and simple. The UT50 has more pop, feels like it has more brightness than it does, is actually sharper, and overall very solid on all fronts and it's all due to the fact that it's using 2012 Panasonic tech and doesn't include that all-miraculous filter than hundreds on this board rant and rave about. I've even been told ppl here wouldn't consider a tv without some sort of filter like that. Well I'm here to tell you that they blew it out of proportion. The Kuro doesn't have an aggressive filter like the ST50..and frankly I'm unaware of many other plasmas that do either. I personally don't like looking at a screen that seems to have a layer of vasoline of sort smeared over.
I'm also sure some will say it's not a proper comparison with the Kuro due to the difference in size (42" vs 50") with some of my comments regarding sharpness and brightness. But I've had a 42ST30 and smaller sets in my home before and this tv had their number. I also gave the Kuro the benefit of the doubt to be fair. I stand by what I said. If your looking for the next best thing then look no further. With the tiniest difference in blacks between them I just can't recommend the Kuro to someone shopping now.. even if they could buy them both new. The benefits of the UT50 outweighs it. The ability to display 3D, the faster phosphors, 16ms input lag in Game Mode if that's your thing, certain critical scenes in film have equal impressive blacks and bars that literally vanish. The Kuro I'd say has overall more solid stable blacks but at peak times the UT50 I thought impressed me more (and this is in a pitch black room). Like I said.. the difference is null. We really need to get a MLL reading of the UT50 because I highly doubt the ST50 is lower. It also has natural sharpness and fluid motion that's beautiful.. something the Kuro has as well but it's certainly not downgraded here. Like I said, IMO I don't believe the Kuro actually bests anything here in the real world outside of technical labs.
Calibration Results for a Dark Room
Picture mode - Custom
Contrast - 78 (76-82 is within ballpark but any higher will result in white clipping)
Brightness - 56 (D-Nice's ST30 reference is spot on)
Color - 48
Tint - 0
Sharpness - 0
Color Temp - Warm 2
Color Mgmt - Off
C.A.T.S. - Off
Video NR - Off
RGB Range - Auto
Content type - Graphics (probably the most important setting to change, colors too saturated left OFF/Auto)
Block NR - Off
Mosquito NR - Off
Motion Smoother - Off (Weak showed little to no artifacts)
Black Level - Light
3:2 Pulldown - Auto
This was the results I achieved using the Disney Wow Blu-ray disc. I backed it up using Digital Video Essentials HD. In both cases using Graphics content type resulted in more accurate colors and less exaggerated saturation. I came up with Contrast at 76-82 using different patterns but ended up using 78. Your mileage may vary. Brightness was on the money at 56. Color was tested with the included Disney's blue filter. On a motion test pattern it smoothed the bar ever so slightly. But a Medium setting resulted in obvious smoothing. I will say the Medium setting far outperformed motion interpolations I've seen in the past..if that's your thing. I saw almost zero artifacts at this setting during pans which just a couple years ago I would have thrown the tv out the window lol. But purists will keep it Off and it does a fantastic job set to Off. It doesn't need any sharpness either. With the same patterns this tv is sharper than my Kuro set to -15 (lowest it goes). So purists will have a ball here enjoying natural razor sharp motion pictures. Sharpness at 0 on this set is as good as hdtv can be.
I'll get the 55" in sometime next week and will post my impressions along with settings shortly after.