3D TV Plasma Shootout Round 2: Samsung vs. Panasonic Samsung PN51C7000 vs. Panasonic TC-P50GT30

Upper-Tier Plasma 3D TV Comparison

by: Robert Wiley and Jack Burden
Summer 2011


Last year we conducted a comparison of the top end plasma models from these two manufacturers. This year we are choosing the next to highest end Plasma 3D TVs from these two manufacturers, both of which represent exceptional value in both 3D performance and top picture quality and features performance. Knowing how to calibrate and obtain maximum picture quality is important on these plasmas – especially today when the manufacturers are maneuvering to portray every better energy performance.

The results in this shootout apply to a post-calibration picture. You may also calibrate using our picture settings by clicking on the individual models at the bottom of the page.

3D TV programming still looks best on Plasma TVs from our perspective though the playing field is getting more competitive as many producers of LED-LCD TVs have solved some of their earlier shortcomings.

Picture Quality

HD picture quality of the NBA Finals shows excellent pictures on both. The Panasonic GT30 (Left) is capable of ramping up color and saturation and can be employed in brighter light rooms.

Calibration and Picture Capability

One difference we noted right off the bat with these two models is the ability of the Panasonic to increase brightness and color richness tremendously by pushing color in the 10 point settings. The Samsung D7000 was much more restricted in this are and thus, we were not able to obtain as much saturation through colors even though the Samsung calibration menu options were complete and we could dial it in to D6500K with no problem. This made a great difference in the picture.

Advantage: Panasonic TC-P50GT30

3D TV Viewing

Both of these TVs are full active 3D TVs so they both show considerable depth, detail and full 1080p to each eye when viewing. Both showed very well with 3D content from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Alice in Wonderland. Both TVs emitters and glasses eliminated the flashing effects we experienced last year. And neither displayed the blurring in the bottom right and left corners of the screen that we complained of last year. Since 3D viewing is very concentrated and typically in a low light or dark room, brightness was not an issue with the Samsung PND7000 and thus was a wash between the two. Both did an excellent job and the 3D glasses from each are much improved and more comfortable. Eye fatigue or strain was also greatly reduced.

Advantage: Draw

Both TVs displayed 3D material with excellent depth and detail without the drawbacks from last year.

HD Picture Quality

With the restricted amount of light we could push through the Samsung D7000 we could not get as vibrant or color saturated picture as with the GT30. Ultimately, in a very dark room this would not make any difference and the picture from the D7000 is very film-like. It's a great picture but not as versatile with ambient room light. Samsung is touting its energy guide rating and maybe that's the reason. I'm sure that with our calibrations on the Panasonic it will not last the entire 100,000 hours to half life, but who really expects their TV to last for 30 years anyway? In the end we have to go with Panasonic this year due to the lower contrast and light output from the Samsung D7000.

Advantage: Panasonic TC-P50GT30

Standard Definition Picture Quality

Some may ask, "Why is this even important these days?" The reason is that lots of streaming content from Internet TV services like Netflix and Hulu will not be shown in HD, but rather something more akin to 480 progressive lines of resolution. Even what they call HD is 720p and not full 1080p. The Samsung PND7000 does a very nice job of upconverting standard definition sources. The picture is smooth and still film-like. Panasonic also does a nice job in general, but while the picture might be brighter – there are more motion artifacts and slight picture wobble.

SD picture quality on the GT30 (left) and D7000 (right). The Samsung picture remains film-like and is especially good for low-light environments.

Advantage: Samsung PN51D7000

Contrast Ratio Measurement:

Measuring contrast on
the Samsung PN51D7000

The Panasonic TC-P50GT30 registers an impressive 2185:1 post calibration contrast while the Samsung only measure about half of last years total at around 805:1. Keep in mind that the Panasonic does not measure anywhere close to this at its standard or cinema picture mode settings. It's only after pushing the phosphors during calibration.

Advantage: Panasonic TC-P50GT30

Audio Quality:

Both TVs exhibited good sound quality, much fuller and richer than competing LED-LCD TVs on the market. Both TVs have some extra options with the Samsung even containing 5 sound modes.

Advantage: Draw

Internet Options:

Both TVs offer very complete Internet TV packages with Netflix, Twitter, facebook, USA Today, AP News, Sports Apps like NBA, Napster or Pandora and more. Both also offer some decent options in the Apps category. Samsung touts more Apps than any other manufacturer and Panasonic has Skype capability (with an optional accessory) where Samsung does not. Neither TV has a web browser.

Advantage: Draw

Panasonic (left) and Samsung's (right) Internet TV Options. Both have complete options even though Samsung's menu may look better.

Design and Appearance

The GT30 is a step in the right direction for Panasonic with a black gloss 1.2" framing bezel and 2.3" depth. It's not bewitching, but gets the job done. The Samsung D7000 is another matter with a brushed metal charcoal bezel framing of just an inch and only 1.4" depth for the entire panel. It also has a clear acrylic neck and trim. Both have a swivel table top stand.

Advantage: Samsung PN51D7000

Panasonic TC-P50GT30 (Left) and Samsung PN51D7000 (Right)

Remote Control and Menu Functionality

The menu system for both TVs is improved over last year and both have plenty of options and great ease of use. Both matte finish remotes are backlit have useful keys for direct dialing the Internet options. I like the looks and feel of the Samsung remote better but it's not enough to swing this category.

Advantage: Draw

Value/Price Considerations

Both TVs sell for around $1700 from the same authorized dealers. The winner of this category is the one offering free 3D glasses with the purchase (currently Sasmung). This is something you should check in addition to the price when shopping. Since the feature sets of these two TVs are so similar, it's difficult to pick a winner here.

Advantage: Draw

Overall Scoring

Panasonic TC-P50GT30 Winner 3 Categories

Samsung PN51D7000 Winner 2 Categories

5 Draws

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