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DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
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Panasonic TC-P55ST60 3D Plasma HTF Equipment ReviewHardware
In the distant past, I have stayed away from Plasma – early plasmas were known for their deep, fantastic blacks.. but also issues with burn in, ghosting, and concerns about durability. But over the last few years, several have really refined the process of making a great plasma, and the things that made them most attractive in the past continues – Plasma still delivers, at least to me, the most beautiful picture on the market and closest to real film with in a set.
So when we started looking, I was immediately drawn to the Panasonic ST60. The ST60, Panasonic’s middle Plasma display with 3D technology doesn’t have all of the high end functions of its VT brother, but it delivers almost everything that I was after – a great display with full 3D performance, SmartTV functions with inbuilt WiFi and LAN support, DLNA compatibility and that rich quality picture.
2D Image Quality
The ST60’s 2D Picture quality is, frankly, exceptional. On almost every set I have ever owned, I go through full calibration using a combination of video essentials, and since I’m setup with Windows MCE in all rooms, I use a color calibration readout device (Spyder) as well as VE / etc. to get the results I want out of all my displays. It is rare that a display manages to get so much right out of the box. I tend to favor my color scheme a slight bit brighter than reference, and the Panasonic was able to deliver my desired output while maintaining an excellent picture quality with minimal effort. Even straight out of the box, color settings provided a decent to solid look that will satisfy most users.
But the real comparison for a monitor is how it looks in comparison to its competition. In my case, the Panasonic was replacing a Samsung LNT4665F 46", certainly no slouch on its own. Put side by side, the difference was like night and day; the Panasonic provided deep, dark blacks and fantastic viewing angles. What was most impressive about the Panasonic to me, though, was how it maintained such a great level of detail with fast movement. This is important because at the “low” smoothing option I was able to eliminate most signs of judder with minimal soap opera effect; this is a nice solution for those who like the smooth feel of a great HDTV but who dislike the feeling that some overly harsh smoothers have.
Plasmas traditionally are not as bright as an LCD, but the Panasonic had no problem holding my brightness settings and looking quite good doing it. Using my candle meter guide, the Panasonic on my default settings held about 178 cd/m^2 in my test setting on my set test image following the guide from my projector for test content. This isn’t as bright as my Samsung (244), but I found it more than satisfactory.
What will be a factor for some is the glossy screen, which when combined with the level of output may mean that the best way to view this set is in a slightly dimmed room.. which made it perfect for our bedroom.
One of the perks about the Panasonic ST60 is that they include in the box 2 pair of 3D Glasses. While these aren’t the higher end rechargeable that Panasonic sells on their website – they are powered by a non-rechargeable watch battery – I found them effective enough.
The Panasonic is the first 3D set that I’ve owned, having just finished installing and connecting the JVC 3D Projector and enjoying it a good deal, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from a set, whether or not it would be able to match what I considered the stunning images from the JVC.
The Panasonic didn’t let me down. The 3D performance on it is capable and effective and with a little tweaks, available in their menus I found it to be very satisfactory. No, the Panasonic doesn’t deliver the “holy cow” effect I get from the JVC, but it’s very hard to compare the two; what it does deliver is a very pristine, beautiful 3D image that has fantastic color presentation. When we began looking at 3D displays, this was one of the complaints I had even in LED sets that cost a good deal more – that the color quality and effect really suffered in 3D modes.
The Panasonic though really keeps a high level of color quality and it’s fantastic presentation of black level really helps make 3D look great. Over the last week, I’ve broken out several 3D films to give it a comparison: Avatar, Life of Pi, Harry Potter 7A/B, To the Artic, Wreck it Ralph.. and I found it an enjoyable watch.
The 3D effect did need some work to get it as I wanted, I found that chosing 3D+1 in the 3D setup really accomplished the results that I wanted and felt most comfortable with.
Since Panasonic is full HD-3D Compatible, one of the benefits is that you can use any HD-3D ready glasses with it; another pair of the Panasonics will run you about $70-$80 at our local stores, but reading forums, I discovered that it should work with any glasses.. so I used a pair of cheaply found Samsung SSG-4100GB, available for $23 locally.. and the effect stays true. So, if you need more than 2 pair but don’t want to pay a lot of money to get extra glasses, there are options out there for you.
Smart TV Functionality
I had absolutely no difficulty getting the Panasonic connected to my wired network, which it found immediately. In order to test both ways, I was also able to connect to my Wireless WPA2 network with no major issues.
The Panasonic includes many basic apps – Netflix, Social Media, a Clock, Accuweather, a Calendar.. the biggest issue I have with most of this is that while I understand the “SmartTV” format, most of the included apps are hit and miss. Netflix, Vudu and other video streaming are quite good; however, the DLNA client and its halting performance will definitely not distract you from a real streaming media device.
More perplexing is that Panasonic puts advertisements at the top of the SmartTV interface.. which is a baffling choice, I’m not sure who would be lured in by one of these static banners.
While the Panasonic provides two USB ports and an inbuilt Skype interface, don’t plan on hooking up any webcam. In just a lark of an attempt, the Panasonic failed to recognize or use my Microsoft Lifecam or Logitech camera, leaving me to believe the only option if you want this functionality is the $120 Panasonic camera which they list as “out of stock”.
The remote control for the Panasonic isn’t really a cheap remote, but has the feel of being a mid-level device control. There are no backlit buttons, the feel is a bit bulky and plastic but the layout and usability are quite good. I have no real complaints about the remote control – which is a single device remote, you cannot add or program in other devices.
The ST60 provides 2 5W L/R speakers with an inbuilt 10W “sub”. Also provided are an optical out, making placement of a soundbar easy. I had connected the ST60 to a soundbar in our bedroom, but for this review, I gave the inbuilt speakers a try. The inbuilt speakers are functional, though not spectacular. I found the inbuilt speakers a bit of a let down in comparison to my Samsung, but they still gave a decent feel for those who will be using this device on its own in their bedrooms.
I will admit, one of the things I wanted to keep track of was how much power the Plasma would use. One of the complaints about Plasma is how much power these devices use in comparison to their LED counterparts. Using my Kill-O-Watt wall meter, I gave the Panasonic a test run to see what you might be looking at in your day to day use. In Standby mode, the Panasonic goes true off; it rarely fluctuated over 0.0W on my meter, which means it’s too low to be read. That’s a good sign for those who want to combat power vampires.
In use, however, the Plasma does show that it uses quite a bit more power than your standard LED.. the Panasonic pulled between 301-344W on an average for me, which is quite a bit higher than similar LEDs. Depending on how much you use it, that may be a factor for you.
Excellent Picture Quality and Color
Solid 3D Performance
Great value/price for a 3D set of this quality
3D Glasses are a nice bundled item
Smart Features do provide you complete access to common items in many settings (Vudu/Netflix/Skype/Facebook/Twitter)
Uses more power than a newer LED
Front bright Red LED can be distracting during 3D Presentations***
Has a bit more weight (~65lbs without the stand) than it’s LED cousins… so you will need a friend to help you put up and a better mount.
Some SmartTV functions aren’t that Smart.
Before I get to my final thoughts, I want to add a small note to my review, specifically a complaint and a solution. Panasonic has sent out this set with two functions that I would recommend disable. One can be done through the menus (CATS, a Contrast Auto Adjust System) and the second is a bright red LED that tells you the unit is powered on. I am baffled by the inclusion of an LED that tells you the unit is “ON”, you can obviously tell it is “ON”. The reason why this is concerning to me is that the bright red LED can seem as though it “flickers” during 3D presentations making it even more distracting. While you can disable CATS in the menus, disabling the LED isn’t a solution I’ve found in the setup and features.. but if you are someone like me who doesn’t need a bright red LED on the device we’re watching then buy this set with a small roll of electrical tape in your hand at check out. That small expense can significantly improve your viewing experience.
With that said, I have to say that the Panasonic ST60-55” is one of the finest sets I’ve seen, and easily a fantastic bang for the buck. When we looked and evaluated options, I sat and watched LED screens with an almost 50% price hike over the ST60 that didn’t deliver the strong blacks and deep rich color that the ST60 does. If you are one of those people like me who avoided Plasmas based on early history, then I would tell you now is definitely the time to take a second look.
I cannot recommend the ST60 enough for the value.
Stats from Panasonic are available here: http://shop.panasoni...P55ST60?t=specs
Reviewed by: MattCR