Cheap and cheerful, the ST30 was without a doubt the best bang-for-buck TV in 2011 and we’re expecting big things from the follow-up. The TV is shipping now, and you can look forward to seeing the full review very soon.
The good: The affordable Panasonic TC-PST50 series exhibited outstanding overall picture quality, characterized by exceedingly deep black levels with great shadow detail, accurate colors, and solid bright-room performance. Unlike LCDs, as a plasma it has superb off-angle and uniformity characteristics. The styling is attractive and the feature set well-chosen, including excellent onscreen help options.
The bad: The ST50 uses more power than competing LCD TVs, and doesn’t perform as well in bright rooms as those with matte screens. It doesn’t include 3D glasses, and 3D picture quality showed more crosstalk than many competitors’ models. The ST50 is only available in 50-inch and larger sizes. Three HDMI inputs is one fewer than most midrange TVs offer.
The bottom line: With flagship-level picture quality for a midlevel price, the Panasonic ST50 series sets the value standard among videophile-grade TVs.
Speaking of “full review” and “bang for the buck,” this Sharp has both. It served to introduce our new “Value” score with an excellent score of 8. No, it’s not going to reach the picture quality or features scores seen on the other TVs we’re previewing, but we doubt most of them will hit its value.
The good: The relatively inexpensive Sharp LC-LE640U series delivers accurate color thanks to ample picture controls, as well as a matte screen that works well in bright rooms. Its feature set hits all of the right notes for the price, including excellent help and support options, built-in Wi-Fi, and a remote with three programmable keys to easily access favorite apps. I appreciated its understated styling, especially with such a large screen.
The bad: I noted lighter black levels and uneven lighting across the screen, both especially obvious in dark scenes under home theater lighting. The Sharp also failed to properly handle film-based (1080p/24) sources, causing slight stutter in certain scenes.
The bottom line: With decent picture quality and great pricing, the Sharp LC-LE640U series makes a strong case for mainstream TV shoppers who want to go bigger.
The Samsung E8000 is the follow-up to last year’s excellent D8000 plasma, and Samsung promises that this model has even better picture quality. Look out for enhanced features such as Smart Interaction with built-in Skypeing and gesture control.
The good: The Samsung PNE8000 series exhibited outstanding overall picture quality, characterized by exceedingly deep black levels, accurate colors, superb video processing, and very good 3D. Unlike LCDs, as a plasma TV it has superb off-angle and uniformity characteristics. Its massive feature set includes a touch-pad remote, IR blaster, two pairs of 3D glasses, motion and voice command, and the industry’s most capable Smart TV platform. This Samsung is also one of the best plasma designs around.
The bad: Samsung charges too much for extra features that are largely unnecessary and poorly implemented. Its picture delivers slightly worse shadow detail and bright-room performance than some competitive plasmas, and its maximum light output is somewhat dim.
The bottom line: The expensive Samsung PNE8000 series comes through with stellar picture quality, but its main appeal is to people who crave the latest gadgetry in their plasma TV.