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50-inch 1080p panel; Records to USB (with compatible external HDD); 4 HDMI slots (all 3D-capable); 5,000,000:1 contrast ratio; DivX HD playback from USB/SD
The wait is finally over. After countless 3D-related press trips and technical forums, then some frustrating further delays created by the Icelandic ash cloud travel chaos, Panasonic has at last presented us with its debut 3D TV, the 50in TX-P50VT20B.
Thankfully, Panasonic has decided to celebrate - albeit moderately - the launch of its first 3D TV by taking its design blinkers off - or at least, shifting them a bit to the side! For instead of the usual muted black, the P50VT20B enjoys a bronzey brown colour that’s more appealing in the flesh than it sounds on paper.
The finish feels slightly plusher than with sets lower down Panasonic’s range, too, and the appearance of some bold silver trim to top and bottom doesn’t hurt the decently opulent overall look. We appreciated having a few degrees of angle adjustment via the TV’s rotating stand, too.
Despite all this, though, set beside Samsung’s UE55C8000 3D edge LED model, with its glinting metallic finish and ultra-slim body, the P50VT20B still looks chunky, plain and old-fashioned - bronze colour or no bronze colour.
Connection-wise, the P50VT20B covers all the important bases. Four HDMIs set the ball rolling - and yes, as you’d expect of a 3D TV, all these HDMIs are built to the new 3D-compatible v1.4 specification. Only one of the HDMIs is compatible with HDMI v1.4’s audio return channel - but this is fair enough, as it’s hard to imagine anyone needing more than one!
The P50VT20B is on the money in multimedia terms too, boasting not one but two USB inputs plus an SD card slot for direct playback of photo, music and video files, including DivX HD.
There’s also an Ethernet port for accessing either files on a DLNA PC, or Panasonic’s solid though hardly inspiring Viera Cast online service. Alternatively, you can make the TV Wi-Fi-enabled via a USB dongle that’s included as standard.
If we wanted to be churlish, we might wonder why the Wi-Fi abilities couldn’t just have been built into the TV’s chassis. But we’re just not in a churlish mood today!
Other connections of note include a D-Sub PC port, an optical digital audio output, and last but certainly not least, both RF and LNB inputs. These latter two jacks are significant because they prove that the P50VT20B carries both built-in Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners. Panasonic is currently the only brand offering such an integrated, all-encompassing free-to-air HD broadcast solution - handy given that currently only a few parts of the UK can receive Freeview HD broadcasts.
The USB Wi-Fi dongle mentioned earlier isn’t the only key accessory included in the P50VT20B’s packaging. For there are also not one but two pairs of active shutter 3D glasses. This is a significant act of generosity from Panasonic given that the EW3D10 glasses involved cost 100 quid apiece. And it throws into stark relief Samsung’s decision not to include any glasses as standard with their 3D TVs (though you can get one pair sent to you if you register your Samsung TV).
Of course, families will still be looking at forking out for at least one extra pair of glasses, but we still applaud Panasonic’s decision to include two.
I managed to pick this up under special offer, so for £1200, rather than the £1500 most retailers seem to be charging. The picture is very good, as you would expect from a full HD TV, and it works beautifully with my PS3. I have found that the frequency is very impressive, making watching fast sports such as cricket and ice hockey a joy. The connections are in a good location, unlike my last TV where they were split between the left and right sides. It is sleek, and works very well with a wall bracket, although you should be careful when choosing a bracket, as this TV is very big, and very heavy. And I almost forgot about the 3D. This 3D element makes it streaks ahead and is honestly the best 3D tv that I have seen. It is worth the money, and try playing a blueray on this or watching 3D football, amazing.