Panasonic TC-P50ST30 Price

Panasonic TC-P50ST30 Review

Model: Panasonic Viera TC-P50ST30
Description: 50" Full 1080P, HDTV Plasma, 3D TV Compatibility
Dimensions: 46.4" X 28.3" X 2.8" depth
Includes: Table Top Stand, Breakout Cables for Component/Composite, (No glasses or glasses chargers included)
Reviewer: Robert Wiley and Jack Burden
Date: Spring/Summer 2011


The ST30 series 3D plasma represents the most budget minded 3D TV plasma in the market place. It is specially designed for those that want 3D and a good picture quality but want to forgo some of the other most prominent features on TVs today.

A shot from Wyatt Erp showing good contrast
A shot from Wyatt Erp showing good contrast, flesh tone, and detail.

Picture Quality Rating (HD): 9/10

One big recommendation with the ST30 plasma from Panasonic is to follow our calibrated picture settings exactly. This TVs color has lots of horse power, but it has to be unleashed. The ST30 does not contain the THX certification and the Cinema, and Standard picture modes that come preset will look dull and muted compared to our settings. The Vivid picture mode setting is a joke, with totally blown out colors and false edges. The Standard setting is obviously set to qualify Panasonic for energy stars and is dim. Of the available preset picture mode options the Cinema setting option is best, but take the time a go to the Pro Settings menu (under Custom Mode only) and follow our settings. One other key to a great picture on this TV is to turn off the Motion Smoother (directions below under features).

Another great shot from the Blu Ray of Wyatt Erp
A great shot from the Blu Ray of Wyatt Erp shows the difference our picture settings make in the color saturation.

Once the phosphors are ramped up in the right direction, the colors on this TV really pop. Dark shadow detail is superb, and black levels look saturated though not the best we've seen. There is some background motion artifacts present, no doubt brought to light by increasing phospor output, but it's worth it to see the picture in such fresh detail.

Picture Quality Rating (Non-HD): 9/10

With our picture settings, the ST30 can bring older DVDs to life like you have never seen them. As mentioned in the HD section they do contain some background motion artifacts and even judder, but the image detail and color will involve you more in the picture. There is also some instability in the picture which was also reflected in our processor testing. It's a bit jumpy no matter your picture setting and has something to do with the sizing algorithm (we think).

A shot from Under the Tuscan Sun in 480i
This shot from Under the Tuscan Sun in 480i shows great clarity, brightness and how this TV (when properly calibrated) can bring lower end signals to life.

Viewing angle is perfect on this TV and such a relief after testing a couple of LED-LCD and LCD TVs. Images and contrast remain as true at side angles as from the front. There is little to no motion lag on this TV from fast moving images as evidenced by some car racing test scenes that we tested. There is however on the negative side judder (a jerky effect around edges of images) when the camera pans side to side or up and down slowly.

3D TV Viewing: Plasma is the best technology for 3D programming since the plasma displays full 1080p HD to each eye. 3D viewing is getting better as evidenced by this display. The flashing from the sides of the 3D glasses which were evident on almost all 3D TVs we tested from last year is all but gone. As well, the blurring in the left and right bottom corners is almost gone. What's left is a picture that gives you a more immersion through the experience. I cant say whether my eyes are just getting more used to the 3D programming or whether the glasses, 3D transmitters, and 3D content quality is what's causing less strain on my eyes when I have viewed 3D programming this year on the Panasonic and Sony TVs. But regardless, it does seem more comfortable and enjoyable.

The ST30 series does not include 3D glasses nor the 3D glasses charger that comes with the GT30 series (nor the USB wireless dongle).

Features Rating: 8/10

A shot from the NBA App on Panasonic's ST30
A shot from the NBA App on Panasonic's ST30.

Internet Options: Panasonic's Internet suite seems much more robust this year. We were not crazy about the way the Internet menu folds out in layers. It's a bit difficult to navigate rather than seeing them all on one screen. The options include Netflix, MLB, NBA, AP news from different sources, Pandora Internet Radio, You Tube, Accuweather, Amazon VoD, Fox Sports, Facebook and many more. The Apps are much improved with choices ranging from free to $10, and consist mostly of games available for purchase through Viera Connect Market. Skype is an optional included feature if you purchase the TY-CC10W camera to support it.

Viera Market for Panasonic's Internet Apps
Viera Market for Panasonic's Internet Apps.

TV Appearance: This year's ST30 is a minor improvement over its predecessor in design appeal. The depth of the panel is just a little over 2" when including the bottom speaker area. It's only 1.5" deep in the top 90% of the panel so from the side viewing angel it looks a lot thinner than its peak 2.3". It will not win any awards for best design of 2011, but is "just good enough" in the looks department not to get a downgraded score in this area. The frame is 1.2" in width which is a big improvement over the imposingly wide bezel frames from last years Panasonic plasmas. It does not contain infinity glass over the top of the bezel frame. The bottom left and right corners slope inward slightly to add a little design and keep the TV from appearing as a big rectangular box.

The accompanying table top stand is much improved on previous modes. It's heavy, solid, charcoal gloss gray, and assembly is easy and secure. This year it even swivels 10 degrees side to side.

Remote Control/Menu Function: I like the menu improvements Panasonic over last year's system. The blue overlay menu flows down the left half of the screen and is very fast to use. It's a practical, well laid out design. Some controls are hidden (probably with the intent to protect the average consumer from changing them). Unfortunately one of those controls is the Motion Smoother feature which you will want to change to the Off position due to the soap opera effect it produces by eliminating natural depth and background blur. To turn off click the menu button/picture/scroll down to Advanced Settings/click on/scroll down to Smooth Motion/turn off.

Panasonic TC-P50ST30 Remote

The back lit remote control is reminiscent of the last few years Panasonic remote controls. It's basic and boring with a new 3D key at the top for initiating TV set for 3D programming intake. The format key controls the aspect ratio sizing options 4:3, Zoom, Full, and Just. There is another option deep within the menu for pixel by pixel called HD Size 2.

Inputs: The TC-P50ST30 has less inputs than higher priced plasmas with 3 HDMI 1.4 inputs, 2 USB ports and analog connections for component and composite video through breakout cables. It does not have an RS-232 port for ISF interface or built-in WiFi.

Included breakout cables for the ST30
Included breakout cables for the ST30 for use with composite or component inputs.

Audio Output: The 50ST30 includes 2 X 10Watt speakers. We were impressed in many ways by the sound quality on the ST30. It yields a fuller, richer sound than most thin TVs. Give the tradeoff between a bit more TV depth at the bottom back of the TV to allow for better speakers, I would take that choice every time (unless of course I planned to listen to everything through a home theater system). The speakers add .8" to the depth of the TV and it's a good deal. We noticed immediately that voice was clear and audible, and not overwhelmed by music or surround noise. Sound is not thin or hollow as with most TVs. The A-1 option is there to even out volume (especially for ads). I dont know why Panasonic started focusing on the audio quality, but it's a pleasant surprise.

Power Consumption: 50ST30 – 399Watts

see Value Rating and Overall Score on Page 2


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