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Panasonic TC-P50GT25 3D HDTV Plasma Reviewed

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The TC-P50GT25's THX mode is certainly a fine choice for most viewers, but I appreciated the advanced controls available in the Custom mode--especially the gamma, white balance, and panel brightness. I felt that both the gamma and panel brightness were a bit too high in the THX mode, which revealed more noise in blacks and other low-level areas. In the Custom mode, I was able to lower the panel brightness and set gamma to my preference, which cleaned up the noise and produced a slightly more saturated image in a completely dark room. The TV's noise reduction control is set to "weak" by default, and the picture had a little more noise in dark-colored backgrounds than I've seen elsewhere. Luckily, turning up the noise reduction to "high" does not soften the image and did produce a cleaner picture.

Additional Resources
Read more top performing plasma 1080p HDTVs by clicking here. 

Next, it was time to check out some 3D. For source content, I used the Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs 3D Blu-ray disc (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment), played on Panasonic's DMP-BDT100 player. I also watched several programs on the DirecTV n3D channel, as well as college football broadcasts on ESPN 3D. The 3D Blu-ray disc presented a full 1080p 3D image, and the level of detail was excellent. The 3D image had great depth, and I didn't notice any blatant crosstalk (ghosting) or jagged edges, even in faster-moving scenes. Colors generally looked natural, but the color temp did veer green. The snow, for instance, had a bluish-green tint, as opposed to a true white. Some of the fine black details were lost in darker scenes, thanks to the glasses. Overall, though, I was impressed with the quality of the 3D Blu-ray image. The DirecTV programs, however, were less successful--not necessarily because of the TV's performance, but because the content just wasn't as effective. These programs have a reduced resolution because DirecTV embeds both the left-eye and right-eye image side by side in the same frame. The level of detail was solid but not as impressive as the Blu-ray. The depth of field also wasn't consistent, even within the same program, and I found the content to be more fatiguing to watch...especially the football. Broadcasters still have some work to do in figuring out how best to show a game in 3D, but again that's not Panasonic's fault. Thankfully, I still didn't notice crosstalk in the image. Last and definitely least, I tried out the 2D-to-3D conversion, which manufacturers like to tout as a big feature. I found it to be useless. I tested the conversion process with sports, primetime TV, and Blu-ray content. In all cases, the effect was so subtle, it bordered on non-existent, even with the depth function set to maximum.

Overall, I didn't see any significant issues with the TC-P50GT25's 3D picture, but admittedly I don't have a lot to compare it with at this point. I will certainly refer back to my experience here as I test other 3D-capable TVs.

The Downside
Beginning again with 2D performance, the TC-P50GT25 doesn't exactly wow with standard-definition content. It produces a slightly more detailed image than its predecessor, but the picture was still a little soft compared with other new HDTVs I've tested. The video processor was slow to pick up the 3:2 cadence in film-based 480i signals, resulting in a fair amount of moiré and jaggies in my SD demo scenes. The SD picture was also somewhat noisy, even with noise reduction set to its highest level. The TC-P50GT25 simply didn't do much to make standard-def look better, so I recommend you feed it upconverted SD images from a high-quality DVD or Blu-ray player.

In the 3D realm, the TY-EW3D10 glasses were pretty uncomfortable and way too big for me. I had to use the supplied strap to secure them around my face, and I was constantly adjusting them to try to find a more comfortable position. (Panasonic has since released a new series of 3D glasses that come in small, medium, and large sizes and sport rechargeable batteries; the model numbers are TY-EW3D2SU, TY-EW3D2MU, and TY-EW3D2LU.) More so, I simply did not like wearing 3D glasses while watching TV content. It's one thing to wear them for a few hours in a dark room while watching a movie, but it just felt awkward to have them on during a daytime football game, which is a more communal experience. Finally, as someone who seldom watches 3D content even in a movie theater, I found the experience fatiguing, both to my eyes and my brain as it tried to process the added depth information. I definitely think it helped to limit my 3D viewing to a dark room, where I was less distracted by peripheral information and could just focus on the TV screen.

With both 2D and 3D content, the TC-P50GT25 allows you to adjust the frame rate for 24p Blu-ray sources: You can choose between 60Hz, which produces film judder, or 48Hz, which slightly reduces judder but adds distracting flicker. Absent is the more desirable 96Hz option found in the VT25 Series, which results in less juddery motion without the flicker. Also, the TC-P50GT25 does not offer any type of "smooth" de-judder mode that uses motion interpolation to produce much smoother, video-like motion. I personally don't consider this to be a low point because I don't like the way these modes affect the quality of film motion; however, some people love that super-smooth, video-like look. For them, the absence of this feature may be a drawback.

Finally, as I wrote about in my review of the G25, the long-term stability of black levels in Panasonic plasmas has been called into question. Tests have indicated that the black levels in some 2009 models rose noticeably over time. Panasonic acknowledged the problem but said that, in new 2010 models, the black-level change would be more gradual and that it would level out at a point that still yields excellent picture quality. CNET has been tracking the black-level performance of its G25 review sample; while the level has risen slightly, the change hasn't been significant enough to hurt the TV's overall performance. It's likely that the same will be true of the TC-P50GT25.

Competition and Comparison
Compare the Panasonic TC-P50GT25 with its competition by reading the reviews for the Samsung PN58C8000 3D Plasma and UN55C7000 3D LED LCD, the Sony KDL-55HX800 3D LED LCD, and the Panasonic TC-P54VT25. Learn more about 3D HDTVs by visiting our 3D HDTV section.

Conclusion
With the GT25 Series, Panasonic provides a nice alternative to its top-shelf VT25 3D line. This TV offers good 2D and 3D performance, as well as a compelling list of features--such as Netflix and Amazon VOD, WiFi-readiness, and Skype functionality. With a street price under $2,000, it's a solid value in the 3D marketplace, although you can find lower-priced options in the plasma realm. Clearly, 3D is this TV's main selling point. If you don't care about 3D technology, you might as well save $600 get the TC-P50G25 instead. But, if you're intrigued by 3D, the TC-P50GT25 is a good way to ease in to this new era. You can enjoy an attractive 2D high-def picture on a daily basis and take in the occasional 3D Blu-ray movie as they become available.

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