Panasonic Viera TC-P50GT25 Review

Panasonic's Viera TC-P50GT25 offers an excellent 3D experience at only a fraction of the cost of most comparable 3D sets on the market.
Panasonic's Viera TC-P50GT25 offers an excellent 3D experience at only a fraction of the cost of most comparable 3D sets on the market.
Panasonic's Viera TC-P50GT25 offers an excellent 3D experience at only a fraction of the cost of most comparable 3D sets on the market.

Highs

  • Great price
  • Excellent 3D, 2D
  • THX option for 2D
  • Decent backlit remote

Lows

  • No glasses supplied
  • No wireless LAN adaptor
  • Blah styling

Panasonic GT25 series information: This review is based on our hands-on experience with the 50-inch TC-P50GT25. However, our observations also apply to the 42-inch TC-P42GT25. According to Panasonic, the two sets have identical specifications (save dimensions and weight) and should offer similar performance.

Panasonic has practically tied its fate to 3D. We don’t know how safe that bet is, but the company has one of widest selection of 3D HDTVs available. Now let’s see how their most affordable 50-inch edition stacks up.

panasonic viera tc p50gt25 reviewFeatures and Design

Taking the TC-P50GT25 out of the carton, Henry Ford’s saying about the Model T automobile came to mind—you can have any color you want, as long as it’s black. This HDTV/stand combo is somberly dressed in black. There is a bronze bezel accent and a silver edge on the stand but they hardly stand out. Panasonic always prides itself on its engineering expertise, design and frills not so much. This is one plain-looking television. This distinctly affordable 3D HDTV (legit online retailers have it for $1,399 or less) does not come with a single pair of active shutter glasses so prepare to spend around $150 for each set. The company is running a 3D Ultimate Pack promotion for $399 which includes two pair of glasses and the Avatar 3D BD disc. We imagine everyone buying this HDTV will pick up the bundle. While you’re at it, buy the wireless LAN adaptor for another $90 if you want to hit the ‘net for Netflix. You’ll also need a 3D BD player for $250 to enter the 3D world. Now you’re around $2K for a complete set-up, far cheaper than the introductory prices of less than a year ago. By way of comparison, a similarly-featured 2D Panasonic TC-P50G25 50-inch plasma sets you back around $1,100. The recently reviewed and much larger 60-inch Sharp LED LCD LC-60LE925UN comes with two sets of glasses and the LAN adaptor but costs buckets more ($2,899 and falling). As an aside: when we see these plasma prices, our collective heart sinks since we spent $2,800 for a 50-inch plasma three years ago.

The Viera panel weighs 57.3 pounds and the HDTV is 63.9 pounds with stand. The display measures 48 inches wide, 30.3 high, 3.5 inches deep. Some plasmas are much thicker than LED LCD televisions, but unless you’re hanging it on the wall for all to see or it’s the centerpiece of a SoHo loft, there shouldn’t be any complaints about depth.

There’s little marring the front with just a few subtle decals. It has a sensor on the lower bezel that reads ambient room light and adjusts brightness accordingly (Panasonic calls it C.A.T.S—Contrast Automatic Tracking System). There are also small 3D eyewear transmitters, a remote sensor and power indicators.

On the left side are basic button controls you’ll never use (channel up/down, volume up/down and so on). More important is an SD card slot that plays back JPEGs and AVCHD videos. On the down side, there are only 3 HDMI inputs but all the other bases are covered-USB, PC, component and others.

What’s in the carton

Indicative of the price, you just get the essentials—display, stand, relevant screws, AC cord, remote, 2 AA batteries and owner’s manual (68 pages in English). The remote is a shade better than usual as it has backlit keys but it only controls the set, no other components. Remember: you must buy glasses and a 3D BD player to really experience this television. You might consider Xpand X103 universal glasses ($129) if you don’t opt for the “Avatar” bundle to save some money. We tried them and they worked just fine. To stream videos, a wireless LAN adaptor also goes on the shopping list.

We connected our FiOS cable box and the Sharp BD-H90U 3D BD player, then settled in for a number of long viewing sessions.

panasonic viera tc p50gt25 reviewPerformance and Use

Setting up the TC-P50GT25 is a simple matter. Panasonic’s menu system is straightforward; it’s unlikely you’ll crack the manual. Like any advanced HDTV, the Viera gives you a palette of picture tweaks. Since this model has a THX setting, we used that for movies, even basic TV viewing but you might like the standard setting for ESPN and whatnot. It’s your call but avoid Vivid since it’s brighter than Taylor Swift’s smile. Unfortunately, this 3D HDTV does not have the THX 3D Cinema option that’s just hitting the scene. When you pop in a 3D disc, the set defaults to Cinema, which is quite good as we’ll detail in a moment.

Having spent many hours reviewing LED LCD HDTVs, testing a plasma was like putting on a pair of comfortable shoes. We knew there was a reason we preferred the technology and it was staring us in the face when we fired it up. Colors were more natural with good black levels that made everything pop off the screen. LED LCD HDTVs may have come a long way, but plasma is still king for more realistic images—and this wasn’t Panasonic’s best edition. Those feature Infinite Black Panel Pro displays rather than “just” the Infinite Black Panel found here. Video enthusiasts know Panasonic bought Pioneer’s plasma assets a few years ago and they’re incorporating the fabled Kuro technology in their best models, just calling it a different name. Kuros had fantastic black levels and you can see it in action with top-of-the-line Vieras (VT20/VT25 series). Of course, you pay more for this ($1,750 for a 50-inch). No one will complain about this picture however.

The TC-P50GT25 has an adequate sound system—nothing more—rated 10 watts x 2 channels. Panasonic offers an ersatz surround setting but it’s not as expansive as SRS TruSurround. The HDTV really begs for a soundbar or dedicated 5.1-surround audio system.

Since we’ve been on an Ironman BD riff, we popped that disc into the machine and immediately went to scene 5. Here Iron Man moves through a dark tunnel and into the light, battling Al-Qaeda bad guys. You could see plenty of detail on the tunnel walls and during the flying action as Stark smashes into the sand. Scene 11 of Iron Man chased by F-22s is a good test for blur; there was none except as intended.

Football games are also good barometers for motion and we had no troubles watching Aaron Rodgers’ passes against the NY Giants. Not quite as filled with motion was Kid Rock on Palladia-he was fine and so was the rest of 2D cable. The TC-P50GT25 has a 5 million-to-one dynamic contrast ratio and although we couldn’t keep count, the overall results were impressive—natural but with some pop.

panasonic viera tc p50gt25 reviewWe spent many hours watching 3D movies on the Sharp Quattron and as much with the Panasonic. Although the Sharp was good, the TC-P50GT25 is better. At the beginning of Avatar when Jake comes out of hibernation he sees spots in front of his eyes which float in front of the screen. They were far more detailed than the Quattron. This held true for all of the 3D effects in this movie that’s loaded with them from start to finish. Alice in Wonderland 3D also has many excellent effects. One of the more startling differences with the Sharp occurred at the end of Alice when the Blue Caterpillar morphs into the blue butterfly, coming toward you off the screen. This had far more impact. Simply put plasma 3D is demonstrably better.

Given the limited amount of 3D content, this set offers 2D-3D conversion for your run-of-the-mill shows. Like the Quattron, you get a sense of depth but nothing worth keeping your glasses on for hours on end.

Room reflections are one area where LCD sets have always topped plasmas. Our three-year-old plasma is almost unusable in a bright family room. We’re happy to say this model handles them far better. We used it in different situations—including fluorescents—and did not have any major issues.

The TC-P50GT25 has an SD Card slot and while it accepts newer SDXC media it only handles JPEG/MPO and AVCHD files—not 3D AVI videos which we took with the FujiFilm Real 3D W3. Hopefully, manufacturers will settle on a standard for 3D home videos in 2011. Right now, you’re on your own.

Using the Wi-Fi adaptor is easy and it has a simple menu system. The set uses the Viera Cast system so your online options are somewhat limited but you can access NetFlix, Amazon Video On Demand, YouTube and others. It’s also Skype videophone ready but we didn’t use that feature (the add-on camera costs around $150).

Conclusion

We have no problems whatsoever recommending this 3D HDTV. The price is right—only Samsung has a 50-inch 3D plasma that’s cheaper (PN50C680G5F) as of this writing but it’s not Internet-enabled. The 3D experience—why you’ll buy this particular Viera—is quite good, better than the recently reviewed Sharp LED Quattron. The fact you can get the whole 3D shooting match for less than $2,000 is great news (HDTV, glasses, 3D BD player). Hopefully more quality 3D programming will arrive in 2011 beyond Avatar and Alice; Tron will get here for sure. While you’re waiting for the 3D revolution to really hit, BD discs and high-def programming will keep you very pleasantly occupied and satisfied.

Highs:

  • Great price
  • Excellent 3D, 2D
  • THX option for 2D
  • Decent backlit remote

Lows:

  • No glasses supplied
  • No wireless LAN adaptor
  • Blah styling
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