Panasonic ST50 Plasma 3DTV Review: Good Picture, Great Value

Dropping four grand on a high-end television simply isn't possible for most households. Does that mean you should suffer with some $500 off-brand Fony set. No way. As Panasonic's second-best option in plasma reminds us that even if you can't get the VT50 you want, you can still go for the ST50 you need.

What Is It?

Panasonic's latest mid-level 60-inch 3D plasma display.

Who's it For?

Television aficionados who'd rather save $1000 than be able to brag that their set is the absolute top-of-the-line.

Design

The ST50 shares much of the same styling as the rest of Panasonic's plasma line. The 33kg display sits atop a broad, silver base and its 55-inch diagonal screen is surrounded by a 1.5-inch clear acrylic-over-black bezel.

Using It

The ST50 is big and bulky — 38kg with the stand attached — so get some help with the physical setup. Logging in to wireless, setting up streaming apps and calibrating the set took no longer than usual. The ST50 doesn't have as many advanced picture adjustment options as other sets in its class, but it does host a surprisingly exhaustive array of integrated apps — weather reports, breaking news, streaming music and movies — if you're looking for a TV that doubles as a home media server.

The Best Part

The picture quality is fantastic, especially for a 3D display under $3000. The blacks aren't quite as inky and colours don't pop quite as vibrantly as on the flagship VT50, but the image quality and black levels of the ST50 are still among the best in the price range — and totally superior to that of entry-level models.

Tragic Flaw

The set gets hot — like, even for a plasma. During Kill Bill marathons, you'll need be sure that you have adequate ventilation.

This Is Weird...

For some reason, it only includes three HDMI ports — one fewer than most other sets we've tested — and lacks a PC port.

Test Notes

  • No 3D glasses are included. A good universal pair can set you back a couple of hundred.
  • The motion-smoothing features can cause a disconcerting, overly smoothed "soap opera" effect when activated but can easily be turned off in the Display menu.
  • It withstands bright rooms better than most other plasma sets, but it struggles in direct sunlight.

Should You Buy It?

If you want this size and you're sold on plasma, then yeah. The ST50 is a solid television, and it's a good value for the money. The picture quality is noticeably better than similarly priced sets, both plasma and LED. It's not a stretch to say it approaches the level of the vaunted VT50 — for much less.

Panasonic Viera TC-P60ST50A60 specs

• Screen size: 60 inches • Display type: plasma • Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3x HDMI, 2x USB, DNLA • Weight: 38kg with stand • Price: $2599 RRP in Australia


Comments

    About 6 months ago I bought the previous version 50 inch Panny plasma and after years of using LCD's such as Sony,Hitachi and Toshiba and I am suffering somewhat from buyers remorse.
    The heat, the buzzing, extra power bills, temporary image burn-in and the glare are a real come down from LCD and in my opinion ain't worth the perceived "better blacks".
    Also the 3D is a ghostly dim headache inducing mess.
    I am now saving up for a LED in the January sales.

      I would have to say that you either have a dud or you are using it wrong. I also have the 50 inch and have none of these problems, other than the heat which you don't notice unless you are right in front of it. Maybe you should sit a bit further away? Or perhaps your TV is too big for your room?

      Yeah I've got to say if your getting image burn in on a new model plasma something is wrong with it, I have a 3 year old 42 inch panny plasma and a 64 inch Samsung from last year, neither have any problems with image retention (let alone image burn-in which are two different things), I also have a couple of LCDs in my house, which I also like, but definitely don't like the soap opera effect you get from the 100hz+ models.

      Glare is worse on Plasma's to LCDs. Plasma's are meant for dark rooms (which is how I like to watch my movies). As for 3D being too dim, I have set up a picture setting especially for 3D with higher brightness so I don't have any issues with it being too dim.

      Most high end plasmas have a big following among the enthusiasts so if you search engine it you should be able to find some decent calibration settings for your model to get you started, proper calibration will make the world of difference. Also if you really are getting image burn-in, take it back and get it replaced on warranty, that should not happen.

      Most expert reviews I have read place the cost for running a plasma at about $20-30 more than an LCD per year.

      Last edited 03/12/12 9:34 am

    Samsung e550's are comparable. Same price, great picture also, smart tv (though bit slow some times but I only use it to watch iview and thats quick). Comes with two sets of glasses. and it's 64".

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