Hands On: Panasonic 55-inch ST50 Plasma TV
Last year's best features trickled down into this model
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October 09, 2012 by Grant Clauser

Panasonic’s smart TV platform, called Viera Connect, includes the usual assortment of audio, video, news and other odds and ends widgets. There’s also a web browser, but navigating around the web with the remote is clumsy (it’s a little easier with Panasonic’s iPhone app).  Viera Connect works a bit differently than other TV’s online features—the entire system is cloud-based, so loading can take a bit longer than with TVs from Samsung or LG, but you also don’t have to put up with annoying update downloads every so often. If Panasonic wants to tweak the way it looks or change some widgets, then they do it at the cloud level without bothering you.

Picture setting are not as robust as on the upper level Panasonic TVs. There are custom settings, but no ISF or THX modes. On the other hand, this makes calibration pretty simple, and it won’t take long to get the TV looking near perfect.

This not the best-looking TV I’ve seen all year, but it’s definitely the best-looking one I’ve seen at this price, and for the price, you get very good blacks, excellent color saturation and a bright picture that holds up well even in a moderately bright room. Blu-ray movies and high-definition TV programming looked great. The TV includes a video feature for upgrading web-based content, though I thought Netflix content looked only fair—dark scenes especially suffered from a lot of macro blocking, but that’s more the fault of the content than the TV.

3D content also looked good with no crosstalk. The TV uses the active shutter method, which requires more expensive glasses than passive TVs (about $80 from Panasonic), so if you’re interested in 3D you’ll need to shell out more money. If that’s a factor for you, and you have a large family, then an LG LED TV with passive glasses may be your better choice.

Overall, this TV offers the best combination of performance and features for a moderate price.

Panasonic TC-P55ST50 Plasma TV
$1,296

• Progressive Full HD 3D
• 2500 FFD
• Infinite Black Pro Panel
• VIERA Connect Wi-Fi built-in with Web Browser
• 3D Real Sound with 8 train Speakers
• VIERA remote App Support
• Glass and Metal Design

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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