Panasonic Viera TC-P50G20 Plasma HDTV Page 2
You can view still photos and full-motion images and listen to music through the set’s USB and SD card inputs. Viera Link is Panasonic’s version of the industry-wide CEC (Consumer Electronics Control). Via the TV remote, it offers simultaneous control of all Panasonic HDAVI Control–equipped components.
Viera Cast provides access to select Internet apps through a LAN connection directly to your computer or to a home network. At present, the available apps include Netflix Streaming Video, Picasa, Pandora, YouTube, Amazon Video on Demand, and a number of others. This list will continue to grow as Panasonic signs agreements with additional content partners.
The remote is an improvement on past Panasonic designs. It doesn’t offer direct input selection, but most of the important controls are now backlit. The backlighting on many of the buttons doesn’t include the lettering that identifies them, but the small icons on the buttons themselves are a reasonable substitute. Even without the backlighting, most of the important buttons are large and have distinct shapes. With some practice, you can easily locate them, even in the dark.
The Panasonic’s video processing is merely satisfactory. As you can see from the Video Test Bench chart, it failed both our 3:2 and 2:2 HD (1080i-to-1080p) pulldown tests. We have to make a pass/fail decision in a film mode Auto setting, if available. I conducted these tests in the Auto setting of the 3:2 pulldown control. When I changed the control’s setting to On, the set passed the 3:2 tests. But it still didn’t pass 2:2 in any setting. I also checked 3:2 and 2:2 in SD (480i to 1080p—not shown in the chart), and the results were the same. Since no setting improved the Panasonic’s 2:2 performance, the On setting is the best option for the 3:2 pulldown control.
The Panasonic passed the Video Clipping test, which checks whether the set passes above white and below black. The response didn’t extend very far below black, but it went low enough for proper adjustment of the brightness (black level) control.
While HDTV manufacturers aren’t giving a lot of love these days to standard-definition performance, the Panasonic performed reasonably well on some of the most grungy-looking channels on my cable box’s analog band. However, apart from 24/7 news and an occasional program on the Syfy channel, I don’t get around much there anymore.
The digital SD cable channels where I spend more time, such as History International and National Geographic, often looked impressive enough to fool some viewers into thinking they are watching HD—apart from some occasional jaggies.
It was on true high-definition programming, both from cable and Blu-ray, that the TC-P50G20 showed the right stuff. Its subjective color and resolution were beyond criticism. These days, most HDTVs perform more than competently in both of these important aspects (provided the set has been properly adjusted and offers adequate controls for a good calibration). But the Panasonic’s color and detail equal or exceed any other HDTV I have tested. For a $1,500 set, that’s remarkable.
The recent HBO series The Pacific isn’t quite up to the dramatic standards that 2001’s Band of Brothers set. No realistic war drama can be upbeat, but there’s a lot less character development and a lot more angst here than there is in Band of Brothers. The cinematography and overall picture quality are superb. The show manages to look both slick and gritty at the same time. The colors are deliberately muted to near-sepia tones, and the Panasonic extracted exceptional detail from this material.