One of two models in Panasonic’s GT25 duo of 3D HDTV plasma models, the 50” TC-P50GT25 aims to provide a great viewing experience with both 2D and 3D content, and includes Internet connectivity (Panasonic calls the feature VIERA Cast), including pay TV/Movie providers Netflix and Amazon on Demand apps (the other GT25 model is a 42” set, similarly featured).
Although Panasonic has a broad range of LCD models in their HDTV flat panel lineup, for now at least, they’re only offering 3D via plasma sets like the GT25 featured here. That’s fine with us, as plasma typically offers a better all around viewing experience than LCD/LED sets (although some newer LED models are coming very close to plasma). As with other plasma flat panels, the GT25 excels in delivering a true wide viewing angle, with no noticeable contrast drop-off when viewed off to the side.
Consider this HDTV if: You’re looking for a solid performer from a respected veteran plasma flat panel maker.
Look elsewhere if: You’re looking for more Internet apps, or if you need a super-bright picture to handle a very brightly lit daytime viewing environment (the latest generation of LED-powered LCD sets has that capability, which plasma simply can’t match).
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced 3D plasma HDTVs):
· Overall picture quality (SD): 8
· Overall picture quality (HD): 8
· Features: 7
· Connectivity: 8
· User interface: 8
· Value: 6 (9 with the current bundle offer – see the Bottom Line section at the end of the review)
Obviously, 3D is the alluring feature here, and as with other 3D flat panel models, Panasonic went with active 3D (LCD shutter-type) technology, and offers a stylish and comfortable pair of 3D glasses ($149.99 SRP). With the GT series models, the eyewear is optional (pricier VT25 and VT20 3D models come with one pair of glasses). Panasonic touts their glasses’ ability to be comfortably worn over prescription glasses, and I indeed found that to be the case (but my spectacles aren’t large, as in Harry Caray-style). As with competitive 3D sets (e.g., LG, Samsung and Sony, to name three), the Panasonic is equipped to handle various 3D formats, including Blu-ray and broadcast, and comes with a 2D-3D conversion feature to get a 3D effect with standard 2D video content. The glasses are powered via the common and fairly inexpensive CR-3025 disc battery, which should last around 75 hours or so according to Panasonic. Another plus for the GT25 is the inclusion of an onboard infrared blaster that’s necessary to provide the requisite synchronization signals to the glasses—with some 3D sets, that’s an extra cost option.
The set features Internet connectivity via a wired LAN port, and at presstime, the GT25 offered a now-meager choice of only nine usable apps, the two most notable being content streaming from pay services Netflix and Amazon on Demand, both of which offer SD as well as HD content, including movies and TV shows. There’s also the requisite YouTube app, as well as Pandora Internet radio, Picassa photo viewer, with an icon showing that Fox Sports is coming soon. There’s also a beta version of Skype, which turns the set into a large screen video phone (you’ll need an optional camera/mic adapter—Panasonic offers two choices, one wired and one wireless).
I didn’t ask Panasonic for one of their camera/mic adapters to try it out, because if I did indeed test the feature, I’m sure Skype video callers would, more often than not, see me parked in front of the TV wearing just my shorts, holding a beer in one hand and the remote in the other, an image which would certainly have them reaching for the eye bleach. Weather and stock index quotes round out the apps package (note that I didn’t count the “tageschau” app, which is a German news clip service—why on earth that’s there on a North American model is beyond me). Compared to the rich and broad assortment of apps included with the Sony Bravia 3DTV we recently tested, the Panasonic’s sparse offering of Internet apps is most definitely wanting.