Panasonic TC-P42ST30 Review
Model: Panasonic Viera TC-P42ST30
Description: 42" Full 1080P, HDTV Plasma, 3D TV Compatibility, 1.5" deep
Dimensions: 40.2" x 26.6" x 12.6"
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
This replacement for the G25 series from 2010 is the entry level 3D compatible plasma TV offering from Panasonic. It has the Inifinity Black 2 Panel, a Viera Image Viewer for photo and movie viewing through USB connection. It does not contain the Internet connectivity through Viera Connect (previously called Viera Cast). So for those who want the 3D ready ability without the need for Internet connectivity (for instance those in remote areas with no broadband connection) this will be a compelling 3D Plasma TV offering.)
Picture Quality Rating HD: 9/10
A shot from Wyatt Erp showing good contrast, flesh tone, and detail.
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).
A great shot from the Blu Ray of Wyatt Erp shows the difference our picture settings make in the color saturation.
Picture Quality Rating SD: 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).
This shot from Under the Tuscan Sun from 480i shows great clarity, brightness and how this TV (when properly calibrated) can bring lower end signals to life.
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.
Features Rating: 8/10
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 choices.
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.
Audio Output: The 42ST30 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.
Value Rating: 9/10
At around $975 from our recommended resellers the TC-P42ST30 is a value oriented plasma TV that just happens to also play 3D content, it is also the only 42 inch 3D plasma available. If you do not have broadband access for Internet and want a TV that future proofs you for 3D content this may be the TV for you. It provides a good vibrant picture quality (with our calibrated picture settings) sells for about $350 less than the same size GT30. There are a couple of less inputs, but it should still get the job done. Keep in mind that the active shutter 3D glasses will set you back $150 or so a pair. But you do have the option to wait until prices on the glasses come down. I like that option – future proof for 3D and get the glasses later. As well, you can always get your Internet content through a Blu Ray, or gaming console with those options.
Overall Rating: 8.75/10