Panasonic VIERA TC-P50VT25 Plasma 3D HDTV

toppick.jpgPrice: $2,600 At A Glance: Precise color gamut in THX mode • Near reference black level • Sparkling 3D—and 2D—performance

Walking the 3D Talk

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You might think that reviewing—and reading about—one flat panel after another would get boring, if not downright numbing. And it would, if the technology were static. Fee-fie-ho-hum, a new flat panel joins the scrum.

But the technology isn’t static. LCDs, plasmas, HDMI, LED back lighting, side lighting, local dimming, dramatically improved black levels, Internet features, and the future potential for higher-resolution displays and possibly even 21:9 (2.35:1) aspect ratio sets—all have kept our interest level high and given us plenty to learn and write about.

And oh yes, that little thing called 3D. It seems to be catching on big lately, particularly at your local multiplex. The 3D action promises to be just as intense this fall on the retail floor of your local video shop.

3D Gets Down
The 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50VT25 is the smallest of the four sets in the all-3D VT25 series. Apart from 3D, an optional Network camera (not tested here), and a few added features including a 96-hertz setting for playback of 1080p/24 sources, its features are nearly identical to those in the Panasonic TC-P50G20 (HT, August 2010). For more details on the TC-P50VT25’s basic features, see the sidebar “2D Forever After?”

The 3D sets we’ve seen so far—all two of them, including this one—have different and individually adjustable menus for 2D and 3D operation. While the TC-P50VT25 is THX certified for 2D in its THX Picture mode, it is not currently THX certified for 3D. The Cinema Picture mode replaces the THX option in the 3D Picture settings menu.

910oana3d.side.jpgOf the five Picture modes, Custom offers the widest range of controls, particularly in its Pro settings menu. The latter includes White Balance, a limited color management system, multiple Gamma levels, and three Panel Brightness options.

Because the Custom Picture mode offers additional controls to increase image brightness (in particular the Panel Brightness control) and because you need all the brightness you can get in 3D to overcome the format’s inherent losses, I used Custom for 3D viewing and THX mode for 2D.

Panasonic 3D sets don’t offer a 2D-to-3D conversion feature—a simulation of 3D from a 2D source. The company appears to feel that only the true 3D experience can make the format a long-term success rather than a short-term gimmick, and that’s certainly a defendable position. This omission meant that I couldn’t do a 3D calibration on the TC-P50VT25. 3D measurements must be made through functioning 3D glasses, and you can’t activate the glasses with 2D test patterns. We’ll have more on this with future 3D sets as 3D patterns become available, or on sets that offer a 2D-to-3D conversion feature. Incidentally, this is how we calibrated the Samsung UN46C8000 (HT, July 2010). While subjective color judgments are dicey. The Panasonic’s 3D color was more than acceptable in the Custom Picture mode on the limited 3D source material currently available.

The Panasonic’s setup menus also offer a number of specialized 3D controls. 3D Input format offers Auto, Native, Side by side, or Top and bottom options. You should normally leave this control in Auto, but if the set doesn’t display a 3D source correctly, you can try the other selections. There’s a Left/Right swap con- trol, in case the eye images have become reversed. This is unlikely, but you’ll know it when you see it, as it looks really weird. There’s also a Diagonal line filter. Accord- ing to the manual, this “resolves discomfort caused by receiving a quincunx matrix signal.” The last time I experienced a quincunx matrix was after I took the red pill.

3D Performance
I’ll discuss the Panasonic’s overall performance in the usual generic 2D categories (color, resolution, black level, video processing) a bit further on. The topic at hand is 3D performance, and the Panasonic was superb in this regard.

COMPANY INFO
Panasonic
(800) 211-PANA
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