Panasonic ST50 Plasma Television Review: Good Picture, Great Value

Dropping two grandon a high-end television simply isn't possible for most households. Does that mean you should suffer with some $100 off-brand Fony set. No way. As Panasonic's second-best option in plasma reminds us that even if you can't get the VT50 you want, you can still go for the ST50 you need.

What Is It?

Panasonic's latest mid-level 55-inch 3D plasma display.

Who's it For?

Television aficionados who'd rather save $1,000 than be able to brag that their set is the absolute top-of-the-line.

Design

The ST50 shares much of the same styling as the rest of Panasonic's plasma line. The 60-pound display sits atop a broad, silver base and its 55-inch diagonal screen is surrounded by an 1.5 inch clear acrylic-over-black bezel.

Using It

The ST50 is big and bulky—71 pounds with the stand attached—so get some help with the physical setup. Logging in to wireless, setting up streaming apps, and calibrating the set took no longer than usual. The ST50 doesn't have as many advanced picture adjustment options as other sets in its class, but it does host a surprisingly exhaustive array of integrated apps—weather reports, breaking news, streaming music and movies—if you're looking for a TV that doubles as a home media server.

The Best Part

The picture quality is fantastic, especially coming from a set that only set you back $1200. The blacks aren't quite as inky and colors don't pop quite as vibrantly as on the flagship VT50, but the image quality and black levels of the ST50 are still among the best in the price range—and totally superior to that of entry-level models.

Tragic Flaw

The set gets hot—like, even for a plasma. During Kill Bill marathons, you'll need be sure that you have adequate ventilation.

This Is Weird...

For some reason, it only includes three HDMI ports—one fewer than most other sets we've tested—and lacks a PC port.

Test Notes

  • No 3D glasses are included. A good universal pair can set you back nearly $100.
  • The motion-smoothing features can cause a disconcerting, overly-smoothed "soap opera" effect when activated but can easily be turned off in the Display menu.
  • It withstands bright rooms better than most other plasma sets, but it struggles in direct sunlight.

Should You Buy It?

If you want this size and you're sold on plasma, then yeah. The ST50 is a solid television, and it's a good value for the money. The picture quality is noticeably better than similarly priced sets, both plasma and LED. It's not a stretch to say it approaches the level of the vaunted VT50—for $900 less.

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Panasonic Viera TC-P55ST50 Specs

• Screen Size: 55"
• Display Type: Plasma
• Connectivity: Wi-Fi, 3 HDMI, 2 USB, DNLA
• Weight: 71 pounds with stand
• Price: $1,200
• Gizrank: 3.5 Stars