Panasonic Viera TX-P50ST30 review
55in, Freeview HD, analogue, 1,920x1,080 resolution, 3D: yes, 4x HDMI
For this review we tested the 50in model in the ST30 range, but it's also available in 42in (TX-P42ST30) and 46in (TX-P46ST30) screen sizes. All three models have identical specifications except for their dimensions and power usage. We're confident that image quality will be practically identical across all three.
3DTVs used to carry a huge price premium over standard high definition sets, but Panasonic’s ST30 proves this is no longer the case. It might be the company’s mid-range plasma TV for 2011, but it packs in a huge array of features that we would normally expect to see in a more expensive set, including internet TV.
We wouldn’t call the plain grey screen bezel stylish, but it’s at least reasonably compact. A minimalist stand serves its purpose, but can of course be removed if you prefer to wall mount the set. Around the back there’s an ample array of ports, including four HDMI ports, component video and digital optical audio. The TV tuner supports Freeview HD, but not FreeSat. Two USB ports let you attach an external hard disk to play back video files, but recording TV broadcasts isn’t supported. There’s no built-in WiFi, only an Ethernet port, but if you can’t stand the thought of cables an optional adaptor is available separately to add wireless connectivity.
There’s a good reason to connect the ST30 to the internet; Panasonic’s VIERA Connect web TV system lets you access video streaming sites like YouTube, as well as catch-up TV. The highlight is definitely BBC iPlayer integration; it lets you access the BBC HD stream and has a very responsive interface that proved easy to navigate using the remote control. Panasonic can add further channels in the future as licensing deals are agreed, updating VIERA Connect automatically over the internet.
The 50in panel itself has an anti-reflective coating, designed to create a clear picture even in brightly lit rooms and make blacks appear more prominent. In practice, this made darker movie scenes look absolutely stunning; plasma screens tend to have far better black levels than LCD panels, but the ST30 was so dark that in some cases it looked blacker than the bezel that surrounds it. Other options to improve image quality include Panasonic’s 24p Smooth Film intelligent frame creation (IFC), which interpolates frames to make 24p Blu-ray films smoother. There are only two settings to choose from, but the medium option proved more than capable at handling the fast-paced action sequences of our test footage, without creating overtly visible artefacts.