Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A 3D plasma TV

Panasonic’s cheapest 3D plasma is good value for money

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Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A
  • Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A
  • Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A
  • Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Good picture quality
  • Good motion control
  • Value for money

Cons

  • App interface and variety could be better
  • Default settings don’t look great

Bottom Line

As the cheapest possible 3D plasma TV available from Panasonic, the VIERA TH-P50UT30A has a lot to deliver: it’s a 50in screen that can be found for under $1000, with built-in Web apps and video on demand. Premium features are at a minimum, but anyone wanting them can easily purchase an appropriate Blu-ray player with these extras built in.

Would you buy this?

Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A: Picture quality

We found that the default Home settings for the Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A were too bright and high-contrast, robbing detail from both highlights and shadow areas of the The Dark Knight Blu-ray we used to test the screen’s Full HD performance. We can’t stress strongly enough the importance of calibrating your television to suit both bright and dark variants of your viewing environment — getting a professional ISF-certified technician to do this is always advisable, especially if you have a high-end TV that has the appropriate settings for fine adjustment.

We opted for switching the TV into the True Cinema mode in our dimly-lit test room, lowering sharpness and screen brightness until we found a pleasing setting.

What initially surprised us with the Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A was how well (for a $1299 RRP TV, under $1000 with some bargain) it displayed Full HD video content. We tried The Dark Knight, Terminator: Salvation and Planet Earth Blu-rays on the VIERA UT30A and found that its levels of detail weren’t far off Panasonic plasma TVs costing $1000 more. The main difference that exists is with overall image contrast, with more expensive panels revealing more highlight and shadow detail in video — the Panasonic UT30 can’t quite extract the detail in the darkest shadowed areas of the The Dark Knight opening scenes.

Panasonic VIERA UT30 picture menu The default settings of the Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A rob it of valuable image detail -- but can be fixed.

The Panasonic UT30A’s internal TV tuner and free-to-air digital TV playback is OK, but not great — some images, especially on standard definition channels, look slightly smudged. The same is true of DVD video, which doesn’t look as detailed or as crisp as we’ve seen on more expensive televisions this year. The difference is mostly academic, though — unless you’ve got the televisions side-by-side you’d be hard-pressed to find a discernable difference.

Panasonic VIERA UT30 3D menu As well as true 3D playback, the VIERA UT30 can simulate 3D with a 2D-3D mode.

We tested the VIERA TH-P50UT30A with Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs in 3D, and found a few instances of stereo cross-talk, where the 3D glasses can’t perfectly create a tri-dimensional effect and object edges look blurred. This is most prevalent on scenes of fast motion and doesn’t generally detract from the majority of the 3D viewing ‘experience’.

The VIERA UT30 also impressed us with its handling of on-screen motion. This is an area where plasma screens are immeasurably superior to LED and LCD TVs: take the rolling of the credits at the end of a movie as an example. The VIERA UT30 doesn’t display any visible stuttering or break-up in the image, where some LED and LCD sets look like a flickery stop-motion movie. Similarly, wide panning shots in our Planet Earth test footage looked clean and didn’t flicker.

Panasonic VIERA TH-P50UT30A: Conclusion

Buying accessories for the VIERA UT30A drives the price up, but even with a few pairs of 3D glasses and the optional Wi-Fi adapter (or a Wi-Fi-enabled Blu-ray player) this is a cheap and accessible plasma TV. If you can find a good special on 3D glasses, stock up on them and use the UT30A as a distraction for precocious kids and teenagers. We think the VIERA TH-P50UT30A hits a great compromise between low price and good image quality and features.

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