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