1st Jul 2009 | 09:00
Can Panasonic's P50V10B keep the plasma flag flying when other companies are pulling out left, right, and centre?
Three major plasma TV brands – Pioneer, Fujitsu, and Hitachi – have all shuttered their plasma-making facilities. But while the tech is being out-shouted by LCD and LED backlighting, it's still screaming for attention. The latest Panasonic TX-P50V10B proves that plasma has a lot of life in it yet.
Yes, recent LCD TVs have significantly raised the bar, but so have Panasonic's engineers – they've thrown so much tech at the V10 range that this set competes with the very best.
Aesthetics aren't generally part of Panasonic's talent set, but this 50in TV benefits greatly from the company's new one-glass design.
It looks especially good when wall-mounted, although remember to add Ethernet Cat-5 to your cable run as there's a LAN port on the back: the TV features both DLNA-compliant streaming of MP3, DivX, XviD and JPEG files stored on a remote PC or server, and Panasonic's proprietary Viera Cast service.
These network-savvy features are impressive, but more so is the panel's control over smooth motion. The V10's proprietary 600Hz processing is revelatory, especially for those interested in live sports. Both motor-racing and footy are handled with deft skill, presenting a fluid, crisp image, particularly with hi-def via the in-built Freesat tuner or a Sky+ HD box.
Oddly, the one aspect of this screen that makes it stand out more than any other is nothing more than a glorified picture preset. The P50V10 is THX-certified, the labours of which come in the form of an additional option in the Picture menu. Generally, I prefer to calibrate a flatpanel to my own preference, but this THX mode is easy to fall in love with.
UK-sold Panasonic screens have invariably skimped on image-tweaking options, making full calibration extremely difficult, so any choice of a preset that doesn't look like an accident in a nail-varnish factory is welcome. Secondly, this is fine-tuned by THX to make movies look their best. And they do. My prediction is you'll end up using this preset more than any other.
One minor criticism I have is that black levels aren't as deep or solid as those on a Samsung LED TV or Pioneer Kuro, but they're still more than acceptable. Also, although the THX mode is spectacular, all the other picture presets are decidedly not (except, perhaps, Game, which does its job rather well).
However, general AV performance is exemplary. Overall, the TX-P50V10 is a great example that, the tech behind the image can be irrelevant to its quality. At the end of the day, it's just a cracking good screen.
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