The first of Panasonic's 2011 HDTVs have arrived, many of which are lower-priced entry-level models. The X3 Series is Panasonic's entry-level plasma line, and it includes screen sizes of 42 and 50 inches. We have not performed a hands-on review of the TC-P50X3, but here is an overview of its features. The 50-inch TC-P50X3 is a 2D-only plasma with a 1024 x 768 resolution. It does not use the Infinite Black 2 panel found on higher-end Panasonic plasma models, but it does include 600Hz Sub-field Drive to improve motion resolution. It is wireless-ready, with the addition of an optional USB adapter. This TV does not have the full VIERA Connect Web platform that will appear on many step-up 2011 models; instead, it has Panasonic's basic Web platform, dubbed Easy IPTV, that includes the six most popular services: Netflix, Amazon VOD, Napster, Pandora, CinemaNow, and Facebook. It can also receive streamed content from DLNA media servers.
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• Look for some low-profile on-wall speakers to complement the TC-P50X3 plasma.
The TC-P50X3's connection panel includes two HDMI inputs, one component video input, and one RF input to access the internal ATSC and Clear-QAM tuners. There's no PC (D-sub 15-pin) input. On the side panel, you'll find two USB ports and an SD card reader that support media playback. The USB ports also support the addition of a keyboard and/or WiFi adapter; you can also use the back-panel Ethernet port for a wired network connection. The TC-P50X3 lacks a control port like RS-232 for integration into an advanced control system.
As an entry-level TV, the TC-P50X3 includes basic picture adjustments but lacks advanced options like precise white balance, gamma, and full color management. Picture settings include five picture modes, five color-temperature presets, noise reduction, and a C.A.T.S. feature that automatically adjusts the panel brightness based on ambient light. This model does offer the 24p Direct In mode, which lets you dictate whether to output 24p film content at 60 Hz (which involves 3:2 pulldown) or 48 Hz (which involves 2:2 pulldown and produces less judder); however, it does not offer the new Motion Smoother function that uses frame interpolation to produce smoother movement with film sources. The TC-P50X3 includes several features to prevent or counteract the effects of short-term image retention, including a pixel orbiter, a scrolling bar, and the option to use gray sidebars instead of black. The TC-P50X3 has five aspect-ratio options.
The audio setup menu includes bass, treble, and balance controls, as well as bass boost, a basic surround mode, an A.I Sound function that equalizes volume level across all channels and inputs, and a volume leveler that deals specifically with the external inputs.
The ECO menu includes options to turn off the TV when no signal is present or no activity occurs for a designated time period.
Read about the high points and the low points of the TC-P50X3 plasma on Page 2.