Panasonic ST50A plasma TV (preview)

Panasonic’s ST50 plasma may be the best value TV this year

Panasonic ST50A
  • Panasonic ST50A
  • Panasonic ST50A
  • Panasonic ST50A
  • Expert Rating

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Pros

  • Astonishingly low street price
  • Strong Panasonic picture quality heritage
  • Good design

Cons

  • Inferior Smart TV implementation may be a problem

Bottom Line

Panasonic’s ST50A plasma should have great image quality, but a middling Smart TV implementation might hold it back from being a jack of all trades. We already know that it’s exceptionally good value.

Would you buy this?

The Panasonic TH-P50ST50A, a 50-inch Full HD 3D-ready plasma, is the second best TV in Panasonic’s 2012 line-up. Although the company is slowly shifting away from plasma to LED (and eventually OLED) technology, the ST50A might prove to be the best value TV in Australia this year.

Panasonic ST50A: Design

Panasonic’s plasmas are getting thinner, lighter and better looking with each year that goes on. We’ve got a 50-inch Pioneer KURO as a benchmark, and while the ST50A doesn’t have the same tank-like build quality it’s a hell of a lot thinner and less imposing.

The dark grey surround and transparent bezel look nice, the TV can swivel on its stand, the screen is glossy without being a mirror: all of this adds up to a good-looking package.

Panasonic ST50A: Features

The Panasonic ST50A, like Panasonic’s other plasma and LED TVs, has a more basic Smart TV implementation than Samsung and (and Sony, to a lesser extent).

VIERA Connect has direct access to YouTube, Facebook, Quickflix, BigPond Movies, ABC iView, Skype, PLUS7 and the VIERA Market app store. From our initial testing the interface is a little slow and the app selection isn’t fantastic — but whether this second-rate service is a problem remains to be seen.

We’ve always given most importance to TV’s picture quality over any other feature, because for a mere $150 you can buy a Smart Blu-ray player (we’d pick a Samsung) for all the extra content you’d ever need. For what it’s worth, the Panasonic ST50A scores marks for including a built-in Wi-Fi b/g/n adapter and Bluetooth for trouble-free 3D glasses syncing.

Panasonic ST50A: Picture quality

From our half-hour sit-down with the ST50A so far, its True Cinema picture mode looks like one of the best all-round quality picture settings we’ve seen straight out of the box (short of the aforementioned Pioneer KURO’s Optimum mode).

ISF calibration options seem to be missing or at least well-hidden, so cinemaphiles might have to stump up for the more expensive DT50A.

The Panasonic ST50A is a Full HD 1080p panel that’s the 15th generation of plasmas produced by the company. Pioneer’s technicians defected to Panasonic in 2009, so the Japanese plasma manufacturer is at least the spiritual home of the world’s best plasma TVs.

We’ve always liked the 50-inch screen size — 1080p content looks great on that pixel size from a regular viewing distance, and it’s not imposingly large. We’re keen to give this Panasonic TH-P50ST50A more of a test run soon.

We already know the Panasonic ST50A is excellent value. Its $1749 RRP for the 50-inch is impressively low, but we've found it with a street price of $1249 — that kind of cost-cutting so soon after launch goes to show how competitive the TV market is at the moment.

Is there anything you’d like us to test when we review the Panasonic ST50A? Let us know in the comments below.

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