Panasonic TX-P46ST30 3D TV review
Best Price: £729 from Pixmania
Date of review: July 2nd 2011
Key features: active 3D TV (no glasses included), Viera Connect online access, built-in Freeview HD tuner, multimedia playback from USB and SD cards, NeoPlasma technology, Intelligent Frame Creation, claimed 600Hz scanning via sub-field drive system, Infinite Black Pro technology
Screen size: 46in
Connections: RF input, four v1.4 HDMIs, three USB inputs, one RGB Scart, Ethernet, D-Sub PC port, wi-fi via optional dongle, CI Slot, Optical digital audio output, headphone jack, composite video input, component video input
Native resolution: 1920×1080
Screen technology: Plasma
Claimed contrast ratio/max brightness: 5,000,000:1/Not available
Dimensions: 1118(w) x 695(h) x 69(d)mm
Reasons to care
The P46ST30 belongs to Panasonic’s cheapest 2011 3D plasma TV range. Yet it still carries seemingly all the key picture and panel design technologies found on Panasonic’s more expensive 3D models. So if you’re looking for plasma-flavoured 3D for relatively little money, the P46ST30 could be the set for you.
Form - While the technology inside the P46ST30 might not be compromised by its bid to be affordable, its design certainly is. It’s markedly chunkier and less stylish than Panasonic’s GT30 and VT30 models, with a back end that sticks out twice as far as most of today’s TVs.
Build quality – Despite the bland design, the P46ST30 still feels extremely sturdily built compared with most flat TVs.
Ease of use
Operating manual – The P46ST30’s instructions manual is not for the faint hearted, as it runs to around 100 pages of dense type. The good news is that there are plenty of useful illustrations to break up the barrage of words, and that the words themselves are well written and easy to understand.
Remote control – The P46ST30‘s layout feels a touch old fashioned with respect to the buttons it tends to emphasise, and the main Menu button isn’t as easy to pick out as it should be. But for the most part we felt more than comfortable using it.
Onscreen menus – Panasonic has tried to inject a little visual life into its onscreen menus this year, with a few colourful icons heading up the different menu sections. But overall the menus still feel slightly drab and old-fashioned by today’s standards.
The interface for accessing Panasonic’s Viera Connect online service could be better too, as it’s not able to handle many services on the screen at once.
On the plus side, the menu structure is logical, and the TV helpfully provides you with a brief explanation of what each feature does when you highlight it in the menus.
Headliners – The P46ST30’s active 3D talents are probably going to be its key attraction for most people, especially as they’re supported by Panasonic’s latest NeoPlasma technology. This introduces a number of new plasma panel innovations aimed at boosting panel brightness and response time, in a bid to make 3D pictures look brighter and even less troubled by crosstalk noise than they were on Panasonic’s 2010 3D models.
Of course, these innovations don’t just improve 3D – they should also benefit 2D.
The P46ST30 also carries Panasonic’s Viera Connect suite of online services.
Connections – Four v1.4 HDMIs are provided for your HD and 3D sources, while multimedia duties are reasonably well served by a couple of USB ports (able to play photo, video and music files), an SD card slot and a LAN port for accessing Viera Connect. You can also add wi-fi to the TV via an optional USB dongle.
The RF input, meanwhile, feeds into a Freeview HD tuner.
Key set up tools – This is one area where the P46ST30 can be considered a let down. For it really doesn’t have many picture adjustments to its name – far less than the GT30 and VT30 models, at any rate (see Key Omissions).
The main bits and bobs you might want to experiment with are the set’s noise reduction systems and Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) system, which adds in extra frames of data to reduce judder. To be honest, though, we’d urge extreme caution with both of these processing systems, as they can actually reduce the quality of some sources – especially if you set them any higher than their lowest power levels.
Online features – Panasonic’s Viera Connect online system is decent enough, but it’s not quite up there with its key rivals in either content or presentation terms.
Among its key services are the BBC iPlayer, the AceTrax video rental/purchase service, Eurosport’s video news feed, YouTube and Skype (via an optional extra camera).
It’s good to see Panasonic focussing predominantly on video sources for its online TV services, but there are nowhere near as many of them as there are on Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform.
Panasonic is promising many more Viera Connect features in the coming months, though, including some intriguing-looking games and fitness applications.
Key omissions – The P46ST30 lacks a few tricks found on the higher level GT30 and VT30 models. For a start, it doesn’t allow you to stream multimedia files from DLNA PCs. You also can’t record via the USB ports, and there’s no LNB jack, for the simple reason that unlike its posher siblings, the P46ST30 doesn’t carry a satellite tuner.
The P46ST30 lacks the colour management and white balance adjustments sported by Panasonic’s GT30 and VT30 plasmas too, meaning it doesn’t enjoy any endorsement from either the ISF or THX organisations.