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Very nice upgrade
Nov 13, 2012 (Updated Jan 6, 2013)
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
I will first start out saying that a plasma TV was not my first choice of sets to replace a recently deceased 47" rear projection Panasonic, that lasted almost 10 years (but actual lamp life was more like 20 years with how much it was on.) I, like many people, was lured to the world of LCD and LED tvs. I had picked out a nice Samsung 55", but was apprehensive about buying it online (Fassie) since I had never heard of it. So I took a drive to the Best Buy and looked at the Samsung sets (running a round $1800 for the 8 series sets). When I was helped by a personable young employee who took me to the sound room and played the Batman DVD in an LCD set and then asked if I considered a plasma set at all.
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At this I told him know I was pretty much set on the Samsung LED set. but I allowed him to put the movie into a plasma set and although there was not a real big appreciable difference in the picture I did see that the black areas were superior especially at an angle. I didn't realize that LEDs had so much bleed over from the back lights. He then took me out front to show me the GT series they had on display and after playing around with the functions I was starting to change my mind. Now when I bought the original Panasonic plasmas were the new cool thing and they that dreaded burn in that everyone was afraid of and I wasn't aware of how much better that plasmas had become at avoiding that. he showed me the cool feature that allows you to scroll white and black bars across the screen to help erase any burn in (if any does start to be come noticeable) and about the pixel rotation to help with this as well.
After some more playing around with the remote and the 3D glasses (of which 3D is not a big concern of mine for a TV), I left the store bound to rethink my LED Samsung obsession. I ended up deciding to go with this Panasonic in the 50" size since it would not be too much of a difference from my old 47" set and I have the TVs in the basement (which will become important later) and I'm not wall mounting it anyway.
Now that the background dribble is taken care of, lets get down to the important stuff. I already hit upon the burn in elimination features and I hope I won't have to use them, but I do notice a slight left over image after first turning the TV on where the "smart viera" logo first appears. Oh and one VERY important thing to do if you buy this TV. Go into the setup menu once your all done doing the initial set up stuff and DEACTIVATE THAT ANNOYING COMMERCIAL POPUP STUFF! I HATE that, I buy a TV to WATCH TV not look at friggin ads when I turn it on and when I change volume. Just go under the "set up" menu, then advanced setup and turn the "Viera connect banner" to off. I know its neat to have a internet connected TV and all but COME ON!
Anyway, as for the internet, the viera tools and built in WiFi and bluetooth are nice since you don't have to worry about dongles and such additional expenses unless you are planning on using it Skype (2012 camera is required- got mine on Amazon for around $85) also the 3D glasses are not included and are going for around $55 a pair right now, also on Amazon. Again the 2012 version are required for this set as the neither camera nor the previous generation glasses will work apparently (but like I said I don't care about 3D so I don't have them -plus I'd have to upgrade my blueray and I'm happy with my current one as is).
Unlike the Samsung that I was looking at, this set did come with usual preinstalled apps like skype, hulu, you tube . . . yada yada yada, but unlike the Samsung I was able to actually use the REST of the internet, Google searches and all, its a little annoying to use the remote control and scroll across the TVs visual keyboard to type anything, but I'm sure there is a way to add a keyboard via the bluetooth or the USB ports (of which there are two.) You can add different bookmark type places too. Currently there is about 14 already installed on the internet page, but you can clear those off and put your own in if you wish. The only one you can't delete is the annoying ad box at the bottom center. Go figure. But while you are messing around with the web stuff you can also watch the TV in a sort of PIP view so you don't miss anything. even when you are skyping you can watch TV and skype at the same time.
The 50" only has 3 HDMI ports, so if you need more than that either pony up the extra $100 and go for the 55" which has 4 or you're going to have to use a multi port switcher. 3 is enough for me right now. There is also an SD slot in the read left of the TV as well.
The remote is as straight forward as you can get. Relatively large buttons and large print. Simple layout. The light function is a little on the dim side unless you're watching in the dark, but you really don't need it anyway.
As for the picture of this set I am really impressed and happy that I decided to go with the plasma set instead of the LED. Like I said earlier this Tv is in the finished basement so the only outside light that gets down to it is from a little basement type window which I have a curtain, even though it doesn't really need it. But this brings me to the first bad point on this Tv. The Panasonic web site says that the screen is better at absorbing ambient light and presenting a truer picture, which is nice an all if it didn't have a gloss screen to it. If there is any light behind you as you are watching the thing your going to keep focusing on that instead of the show. I have a floor/torch style lamp directly behind the corner of a sectional and even on lighter shows it can get annoying. So much so that I have tried to improvise a cardboard shade to help eliminate the reflection of the bulb. It helps alittle, but on darker shows I have to turn the TV alittle bit to the side to not reflect that area of the room, OR turn the lights off. Which, now thinking about it is another good reason for the plasma, as the LED would have started getting to the off angle where the backlight might start have washing out the pictures. Apparently there are no matte screens for plasmas since around 2008, so i'm guessing it affects the picture, but I'm not techie geek, but besides turning off the lights or moving the furniture around there doesn't seem to be a good answer for this. So bright room buyers beware.
Another thing about the picture, now maybe its just because I'm going from a projection to a newer technology, but I've noticed that sometimes the picture can get a bit stuttery on fast moving items. You can play with the motion smoother function, of which there are 4 settings; off, weak, medium, and strong. I have it set to the weak setting, as sometime on even medium it jutters around, more so on blue rays and high resolution shows. On cartoon type movies, I like to set it to high and it makes Cars, Nemo, and the like really pop.
Oh the best thing to know about the picture is that I also purchased the WOW Disney HDTV calibration disc to see when adjustments to the color and so on would be needed, and I'm glad to say that the only thing I had to adjust was add +5 to the brightness and +2 to the contrast in the cinema setting and it was perfect. (According to the instructions) So instead of splurging on some TV nerd coming and charging upwards of $200 to twiddle with the thing, leave it alone, or buy the Disney WOW disc if you feel it really needs some tweaking. But like i said it didn't seem to need anything in way of adjustment, so you could even save the $ on the WOW disc and just leave it alone.
As for the sound on this set, well, that's probably the other weak point. Panasonic touts the "8 train speakers and thin subwoofer" as a new sound experience. Frankly I'm not impressed. I'd rather have my rear projection speakers. Even with the super slim (22mm) subwoofer, the sound seems too quiet for anything. On some shows (Polar Express most recently) I had to turn the volume upto 100% to hear some of the conversations. I have played with all the sound settings, even turning up the equalizer to the maxes on everything, stereo, mono, matrix, and so on but nothing really makes the sound pop. I'm not into spending more for a surround sound or even going for a sound bar (just don't want to deal with a dedicated soundbar remote in case it doesn't jive with the cable boxes remote). but that seems to be the only solution to the sound. I will say that going between the stereo setting and the 3D sound setting does make a noticeable difference (and also the distance to the wall setting - 1 foot or more and 1 foot or less).
So aside from the shallow sound and glossy screen there is nothing that I can really pick on for now. I just hope this set lives up to the 100,000 hours it "says" it will last. I was happy with my old panasonic, so hopefully they haven't backslid in their quality.
The setup of the set if very easy. and the 50" size makes it easily a 1 person job, even though the delivery people from Pilot (Amazon's shippers) unpack it for you, plug it in to make sure it works and make sure the remote works. They even ask if they can take the box away for you. I declined because my kids wanted to color the box. but after pulling the base out, popping the mount onto it screwing in 4 screws, setting the set down, 4 more screws, then the cover plate and one more screw. All that is left to start plugging the HDMI cables and your ready to go through the set up menu questions. And the questions are all simple language questions, language, what type of connections are you using, name the connections [blue ray, cable, etc]. I was going from a component setup to the HDMI so that was a nice a bump in clarity too. The best the old set would do was 1080i, but this looks so much better. Granted the old screen was slightly warped after 10 years, but that aside it looks great. And I would strongly recommend using the Amazon basic cables as CNET suggests. No sense in blowing another $50 for Monster or similar cables when $10 ones do the same.
So, in conclusion, I would say go for this set, or its bigger siblings (55", 60" or 65") if you want a great TV at a nice lower price. There are a lot of reviews written about this set and even CNET has awarded it the best plasma set for 2012 (and the 30 series for last year as 2011 best). This ST series is kind'a the middle of the road for the Panasonic plasmas, but for price vs features, don't bother spending hundred more for the GT of XT series when this is just perfect as is.
One thing of note that I don't know if i can attribute to the TV, the blueray player, or the HDMI cable, but worth noting. The other night i started to play a blueray disc and the whole screen only showed black and magenta. I fiddled with the HDMI cable by removing it and replugging it and it was fine so I don't know if it was the port and a loose cable or what. but if it haooens again, i'll renote it after further investigation. Otherthan that still over joyed with the set.
Oh one more thing of slight annoyance. The "light" function on the remote control is just like the speakers in the TV; underwhelming. If you are one who likes or needs to use the remote backlight when watching, good luck. it is quite dim.
I purchased a pair of Samsung SSG-4100GB 3d glasses to try out. I know what I said above about 3d, but I figured what the heck, the TV can do it so lets try it. I was NOT about to spend $80 for a pair of PAnasonic glasses, so I went to eBay and found a burst auction of a nice man in Korea selling these glasses for 9.99 a pair and free shipping. I figured what the heck, its half the Amazon price and since the "50" models support the universal standard and these glasses are universal standard, whats $20 right? Now I don't have a 3d blue ray player either but since the TV can upvert (if thats the correct term for this) a regular picture to a 3D one, I tried it. The glasses work great with the TV and the picture (although not significantly) does stand out in a minor 3d fashion, I am pleased with it. Where I see a 3d picture the most is when I pull up the cable menu and the TV names and highlight box jump off the screen. I might just have to plunk down a $100 for a nice 3d blue ray player now. It's all just a big conspiracy to make you spend more money LOL. (Panasonic the TV crack dealers lure you in with a taste and then you're hooked on all the fancy pants features.) Even got into watching a movie on through the YouTube app of the 1935 Scrooge. tsk Tsk, I guess I'll be playing the games app next . . .
Been kicking around teh idea of if the sound needed a little boost or not and I finally kicked in for a Panasonic SC-HTB20 sound bar. It is a BIG help in the bass department (relatively speaking) against the stock "subwoofer" that is in the TV, but in the big picture its not going to blow you away. But for $149 it was worth it. Set up was a little wonky and setting needing fiddleing were none too apparent what needed to be what. But once you get it set right its is a marked improvement and since it is Viera link enabled the universal cable remote works just fine as the ARC HDMI port and the ARC capability of the speakers allowed for the TV to control the volume and the power. See my review on the Panasonic SC-HTB20 sound bar for a more detailed description.
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