Panasonic TC-PxxGT50

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Last week Chris from Cleveland Plasma called and asked, “How would you like to come over and check out the new GT50? Looks like I could even get a Samsung E8000 series plasma in for a face off!” Remembering how impressed I was with Panasonic’s ST50 just a short time ago and how last year’s top Panasonic and Samsung plasmas had such a competitive race, I didn’t take to long to think that one through. Before I knew it, I was making the drive up to Cleveland.

The GT50, like the ST50, has an excellent ability to soak up ambient light and preserve contrast in normal lighting. Even with bright lights on, reflections were very muted with the TV powered off, and the screen stayed commendably dark. If your spouse insists on turning the overhead light on while watching TV, as my wife does, the GT50 just may help keep peace and sanity in your home.

The feature list includes a built in wireless adapter, and the GT50 updated it’s firmware from 1.03 to 1.08 after setting up the network connection. I was pleased to see THX Cinema and THX Bright Room picture modes, and 3D mode had a THX3D Cinema picture mode in addition to the common Standard, Vivid, Cinema, Game, and Custom modes.

Before calibration:

Unfortunately for many less technically inclined owners, the GT50, after initial setup, reverts to one of it’s least attractive picture modes: Standard. The image was very muted and dim in this state, and, while there was a decent sense of depth to the image, the picture was totally lacking in excitement. Flesh tones were on the ruddy side, though I was pleasantly surprised that they were not screaming red fireballs as I have seen in the past in this mode. Pans and motion were too smooth with 1080P/24 Blu Ray content.

Switching to Cinema brought relief, though a slightly greenish tinge plagued the picture.

THX Cinema looked fairly similar to Cinema, though THX brought a slight increase in sharpness and pop over Cinema mode. Blacks were excellent, often blending into the bezel even in a fairly dark environment, though fades to black still did not match that of the 9G Kuro. Color shades still didn’t look spot on, but overall, THX Cinema gave a very impressive picture. Skin tones were fairly natural, and dark images did not sink down into black. In fact, shadow detail seemed to be handled very well in this mode, looking well balanced and with a good amount of detail visible. The Dark Knight looked stunning, with tons of pop and detail. Despite some lingering questions about subtle color shades, THX Cinema mode came very close to the best out of the box performance I’ve seen on a television, and it let the GT50’s excellent qualities shine through.

THX Bright Room was very impressive. It brought out shadow detail while keeping the blacks dark and whites bright. With the lights on, the image had plenty of pizzazz, and the tuning seemed well suited to it’s intended use in bright rooms. On the downside, there appeared to be some added graininess in many scenes which robbed the image of some naturalness. Colors looked good, though they lacked a bit of richness. At times, it seemed that there was something a bit unnatural in the highlights of brightly lit faces. However, despite these criticisms, THX Bright Room did it’s job, giving people who value accuracy a good looking mode for bright viewing.

Custom mode looked impressive at first glance, though shadow detail was lacking and the picture looked too garish and enhanced overall.


Minimum Luminance Level measured .0053 fL. The modified ANSI contrast was 5371:1, with white measuring an impressive 33.3 fL and black .0062 fL.
Maximum light output with a full white field was between 20.36 and 21 fL depending on the picture mode, and a 100% white field shifted slightly warm (+4% R, -6% B) in comparison with a small window of the same intensity. All this means that the GT50 is able to keep larger areas of the screen brighter and with less serious color shift than most plasmas.
Initially both THX Cinema and Custom mode were calibrated, but after evaluation THX was chosen to be the reference mode. Either mode would be a good candidate for calibration.
The Dynamic Brightness torture test on the AVS 709 disc showed noticeable fluctuation, but I have not done this test on enough plasmas to comment on how this result compares.
The light output from Custom and THX Bright Room modes were astonishingly high; they are the highest numbers I ever remember measuring on a plasma!
Difference in measurements between small 10% size window and larger 25% window was very slight.

The ChromaPure Advanced Color Management measurements were run in calibrated THX mode; the results were impressive with no strange behavior and nearly all dE below 2. This means that colors will be accurate no matter what shade of purity or intensity.

After calibration:

One of the GT50’s main strengths is it’s excellent contrast, which when combined with the strong light output gives an image with extraordinary pop. Images with a mixture of bright and dark objects have a depth and liveliness that is seldom seen in other plasmas. Disregarding the flickery 48 Hz mode, the GT50 had great motion when fed a 1080P/24 source. No, it was not displayed at a multiple of 24; but most people would be hard pressed to tell, including yours truly. Movie pans were not too choppy or too smooth; they just looked right. Shadow detail was very good in THX mode before calibration, and after calibration they were even more neutral. Despite the low gamma coming out of black, dark objects did not look washed out in the least. The picture appeared stable, with no visible pumping or fluctuation. I saw no signs of the Dirty Screen Effect and whites were brighter and purer than on most plasmas.
In a few fleeting moments I got the impression that the brightness layering in brightly lit faces and clouds was not quite right, but it was more an occasional impression than a real problem. Colors and skin tones were excellent; easy on the eyes but accurate and realistic.

THX Bright Room looked great with the lights on, though it lacked the depth and richness of THX Cinema in a dark room. Combined with the GT50’s light sponge of a screen filter, THX Bright Room makes the GT50 the best plasma for brighter environments that I have ever seen, by far.

The GT50 is an outstanding plasma that looks simply amazing in anything from dark theater rooms to average living rooms. The colors and contrast are extremely satisfying and put the GT50 among the top tier of all displays.

Shootout with Samsung D8000 plasma to come!

Face off: GT50 vs. E8000

Contrast was reduced in the GT50’s THX Cinema mode to match the light output of the E8000 in Movie mode. Sources included 1080P/24 Blu Ray and 1080i DirecTV. Cinema Smooth was turned on in the E8000.

Lights on, TV off:

GT50 is slightly better at reducing reflections. Both stay quite dark, but the GT50 is slightly better in that regard.

Lights off, Blu Ray:
Black levels are more similar than different, though the GT50 is darker by a hair. Certain times the black difference is more easily seen that other times.
E8000’s overall presentation is a bit more earthy-toned, giving it a slightly more cinematic feel as opposed to the GT50’s video feel.
Though the measurements would suggest a large difference in shadow detail, with real content the difference is extremely slim, with the GT50 just barely coming out of black faster. I have to look for the difference, but there’s a little more texture visible in dark clothes and objects on the GT50. The E8000 is actually more accurate in that regard, but many people like a bit of extra shadow detail.
Sometimes skin tones are just a tiny bit less red on the E8000. Usually the difference is slight. However, in the Digital Video Essentials Restaurant scene, the difference is more pronounced. I feel the E8000’s skin tones look more true to life in this clip.
The E8000 handles texture and layering in brightly lit faces and other very bright objects more naturally at times.
The GT50 has a tiny bit more pop in bright scenes, with whites looking a bit brighter. Whites can take on a slightly bluish and/or violet hue on the GT50, in comparison to the E8000’s slightly duller, greener toned whites.
Both have excellent depth.
I can see just a bit more fluctuation in the E8000’s image.
Overall presentation is just a bit more lifelike on the E8000 as opposed to more enhanced looking on the GT50.

Lights off, 1080i DirecTV:
Fades to black a are little better on the GT50. Hockey rink looks far more realistic on GT50, with brighter, purer whites. Neither shows much Dirty Screen Effect on hockey with movement and pans, but the GT50 shows more ice texture. A few fleeting times I thought I saw slight DSE, but I might have been looking too hard for it. Neither set fluctuates too much, both are seemingly stable.
The E8000’s skin tones can be a bit greenish, or the GT50’s skin tones can be a bit reddish, depending on the programming.

Conclusion: The E8000 is my preference by a nose for Blu Ray movies played in light controlled environments, with a slightly more cinematic, relaxed, and lifelike image. However, in other instances the GT50 is a very clear winner: viewing in typical living room lighting is much better on the GT50, as is hockey.

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