Panasonic’s TC-P55VT50 is an excellent television, probably the best on the market. Its awe-inspiring contrast ratio, incredibly deep black level, and near-perfect color combine to produce one of the best pictures I’ve seen. The TV’s “Smart” features, though not as elegantly implemented as the competition’s, nevertheless offer just about all the services you’d want. While $2,500 isn’t cheap for a 55-inch TV these days, those looking for the ultimate in picture quality need look no further.
The TC-P55VT50 measures slightly cool across the grayscale range in its Custom picture and Warm 1 color temperature modes. There are 2- and 10-step color temperature adjustments, though it tracks well enough that the 2-step mode gets within an average of 60 kelvins across the range. In the Normal color space mode, the TC-P55VT50 produces near-perfect primary and secondary colors, with cyan only slightly green and magenta very slightly red.
A THX mode is available, and it’s a good starting-off point for making adjustments, though some picture settings are blocked. Interestingly, in all modes the TV’s contrast control lacks the required range: The contrast control either has too much or too little adjustment, depending on how you look at it. In the Custom mode, at 100, the TV still allows about 3% of “above white” information (>235). However, if you want to get all the above-white info (255), you need to turn the contrast control down into the 50s, significantly darkening the image and thus ruining its superb contrast. Perhaps more disturbing, it clips above-white information in the THX mode as well. In fact, the Contrast control does nothing in this mode above 51 (51 looking like 100 in the Custom mode).
With a full-black field, black level measures 0.003 ftL. With a full-white field, the maximum light output is 16.01 ftL. Please note, this number is not indicative of actual brightness. All plasmas automatically limit their brightness with a full-white image (for more info, check out my Tech^2 blog on the subject: bit.ly/PlasmaCR). A more realistic measurement of the light output and contrast ratio is a with a 100-IRE white window (25% of the screen). With this, the TC-P55VT50 measures 41.7 ftL, for an impressive contrast ratio of 13,900:1. An Eco Power save mode limits maximum light output to 10.61 and 29.6 ftL with full-white and window patterns, respectively, but does not decrease black level. — G.M.
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