As is the case with many HDTVs these days, the ST30 provides a setup menu that initially asks the user to choose between Retail and Home modes, where Home is the obvious choice. Note, however, that selecting the Home mode will in turn set the TVs default picture mode to the Standard option. But the Standard picture mode is not the one most viewers will want, as it presents an image that is ridiculously dim (most likely so that the TV can meet the more stringent recent Energy Star power consumption requirements). Choosing the Cinema picture mode instead fixes that problem, and it delivers the best overall picture quality compared to the ST30’s other available picture mode options.
A quick check of the set’s power consumption shows that with a fairly brightly lit scene, the very dim Standard mode draws a little under 80 watts, while the same scene in the much brighter Cinema mode ups the consumption three-fold. Still, at around 230 watts the ST30 is drawing much less juice than predecessor plasma models of its size typically consumed.
• Color: 41
• Tint: 0
• Sharpness: 0
• Picture Mode: Cinema
• Color Temp: Warm2
• HD size (pixel-to-pixel): Full; HD Size 1
• Video NR: Off
• Block NR: Off
• Mosquito NR: Off
• Color Management: Off
• C.A.T.S.: Off
• Black Level: Light
• 3:2 Pulldown: Auto
3D Blu-ray Evaluation: Ice Age: Dawn Of The Dinosaurs
To get the sharpest image, you’ll need to choose the Full aspect ratio size, and then also adjust the image size to HD Size 1. Once that’s done, the ST30 delivers a pinpoint perfect 1920x1080 image, with excellent detail uniformity across the entire screen.
The default color saturation level in Cinema mode is spot-on, and helps deliver a natural looking picture that’s colorful without excessive color exaggeration.
When it comes to blacks, plasmas still rule the roost. Here the ST30 delivers excellent blacks with no evidence of black crush.
A nighttime scene has the various critters strategizing as to how to win against the invading dinosaurs, and features clearly defined details in the shadows. When in 3D mode, the ST30 ups the picture brightness a bit to compensate for the dimming effect of the active shutter LCD glasses, so that overall picture brightness remains the same for both 2D and 3D viewing.
Broadcast HDTV Evaluation: Stanley Cup Playoffs (NBC)
A close-up shot of one of the goalies’ helmets clearly shows the intricacies of the various colorful decals. Checking the detail via a 1:1 pixel 1920x1080 test pattern from a reference video generator shows the ST30 indeed delivers a true full HD 1080p experience.
During breaks in the action, the commentators in the studio are rendered with natural flesh tones, always a true test of color accuracy and believability. Unlike some select Panasonic plasma models from last year, the ST30 is not THX certified, but it nonetheless delivers a superb picture (with the Cinema picture mode engaged, of course). On the test bench, the ST30 scores a hat trick, delivering excellent color accuracy, optimum neutral color temperature and a commendably flat gray scale, all of which are necessary for realistic looking color.
The score ticker at the top of the screen features deep black borders, which the ST30 has no problem properly rendering. Compared to the typical performance of value-tier LCD sets in this regard, the ST30 delivers lovely deep blacks. Placed right next to a 50” Pioneer Elite Kuro plasma, the ST30 proved its mettle in a direct side-by-side comparison, and that’s noteworthy considering the fact that the Kuro was, and still is, a top performer, that carried a retail price fully three times that of the ST30 just a few years ago.
Shots of the fans at Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena in the upper balconies and very much in the shadows are clearly depicted.
Although the ST30 is very reasonably priced, the set delivers solid performance in both 2D and 3D modes. The inclusion of the wireless Wi-Fi adapter is a plus, and the re-designed VIERA Connect system looks great. Although the set doesn’t ship with 3D glasses, the optional current bundle that includes two pairs of rechargeable specs and comes with Avatar on 3D Blu-ray disc is fairly reasonably priced with an SRP of $360. Combine the 50” ST30 with the 3D specs/Avatar bundle, and you’re still looking at a total SRP of just under $2K for a well performing 3D plasma setup that’s fully Internet enabled.