PANASONIC TX-P55VT30 TV REVIEW
Price: £2700 RRP (£2,549.99 from Amazon)
Date of review: June 2nd 2011
Key features: active 3D TV (two pairs of glasses included), Viera Connect online access, built-in Freeview HD/Freesat HD tuners, Colour management, THX and ISF certification, DLNA PC compatibility, multimedia playback from USB and SD cards, recording to USB HDD and SD cards, NeoPlasma technology
Screen size: 55in
Connections: Four v1.4 HDMIs, three USBs, SD card slot, component video, D-Sub PC input, composite video input, RF input, LNB input, one Scart (RGB), PCMCIA slot, LAN port, optional wi-fi, PCM and digital audio output
Native resolution: 1920×1080
Screen technology: plasma
Claimed contrast ratio/max brightness: 5,000,000:1 (native!)/not available
Dimensions (on stand): 1329(w) x 810(h) x 55(d)mm
Weight: 38.5kg net
REASONS TO CARE
You know how much we liked Panasonic’s P50GT30 3D plasma TV? Well, the P55VT30 is 5in bigger (a big deal when you’re talking about a 3D TV) and is reckoned to be even better. Interested? Of course you are.
Form – The P55VT30’s design is let down, perhaps, by the width of the bezel around the screen. However, its rear is fashionably slim, and it’s distinguished in fine style from the GT30 series by the addition across its whole front – bezel and screen – of a single layer of glass.
Build quality – Although its nearly 40kg of weight make it a challenge for people wanting to mount the P55VT30 on a wall, it also hints at the truly outstanding build quality that oozes from every pore of this TV’s chassis. If there’s a better built TV this year, we’ll be very surprised.
EASE OF USE
Operating manual – The P55VT30’s manual is pretty scary. Not because it’s bad; in fact, it’s better written than most, and features lots of illustrations. Its scariness comes from its sheer size; over 100 pages of densely typed, gap-free text. One to tackle with a stiff whisky to hand, then.
Remote control – The remote Panasonic supplies with the P55VT30 differs from the one shipped with the P50GT30, and its extra weight and sturdy finish are a fine match for the indomitable build quality of the TV. Its button layout is mostly sensible too, and key buttons fall quite easily to hand.
Given that the P55VT30 might well find itself within a dedicated darkened home cinema room, we were also chuffed to find that you can illuminate some of the remote’s buttons in a rather fetching red light.
Onscreen menus - The first thing to note here is that the P55VT30 introduces an excellent new feature for Panasonic: onscreen interactive instructions, which explain in a box along the bottom of the screen what each feature does when you select it in the menus.
The menus look slightly prettier than last year’s too – though this isn’t saying much given how drab they looked before. More importantly, they’re more intuitively structured.
There’s still room for improvement, especially presentationally, and the Viera Connect menus are cumbersome. But overall the P55VT30’s menus are a big step in the right direction.
Headliners: Panasonic plasmas have set the bar where active 3D playback is concerned, so it’s hard not to be excited by what the brand’s latest flagship 3D model might do. Especially given its healthy 55in screen size, and the fact that it ships with two pairs of 3D glasses.
We’re also intrigued to see how the P55VT30’s extra contrast filter might affect its performance versus Panasonic’s already terrific P50GT30, and we’re mightily impressed by the extensive multimedia capabilities (DLNA PC compatibility, file playback from USB and SD, and recording from the digital tuners to SD card or USB HDD). The presence of a Freesat HD tuner alongside a Freeview HD one is welcome too, given that Freeview HD coverage is still far from 100%.
Connections: It’s hard to see what more Panasonic could have offered here. For video the highlights are four V1.4 HDMIs and a component video input, while multimedia features are served by three USB ports, an SD card slot, a LAN port, and a D-Sub PC port.
The P55VT30 differs from the GT30 models by allowing you to record from the Freeview and Freesat HD tuners to SD card as well as USB HDD, and by providing for free the necessary dongle for making the TV wi-fi ready.
Key setup tools – The P55VT30 features Panasonic’s most comprehensive suite of setup tools to date. This extends to a fairly comprehensive colour management system, gamma presets, and some decent if not exhaustive tools for adjusting the set’s white balance.
It’s clear from all this that the P55VT30 has been set up with an eye to potential professional installation, so it’s no surprise to find it endorsed by the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF). It’s also endorsed by THX, which means that a) it should be good and b) there’s a very nice (for film viewing) THX picture preset.
Online features – The P55VT30‘s Viera Connect system is currently neither the most content rich nor best presented online system in town. But it’s still a very worthwhile addition to the TV’s feature set.
Among the highlights at the time of writing are the BBC iPlayer (a very welcome addition from last year’s VieraCast online service), the AceTrax movie rental and purchase service, YouTube, Eurosport, and Skype (if you cough up extra for a webcam).
Since the Viera Connect service is a cloud-based system, you can expect new services to be added to it pretty regularly. These are supposed include some surprisingly good quality games, as well as health and fitness programmes that can be used in conjunction with special Viera accessories.
Key omissions – As we’ll see in the Performance section, it would have been helpful if Panasonic had provided a 3D picture preset. Plus a few more English-language video services on Viera Connect would have been good. Otherwise, though, the P55VT30 seems pretty comprehensive to us.