Ever since Pioneer pulled the plug on its highly-rated Kuro line of plasma screens, enthusiasts have been looking for a new hero brand to fill the void. Panasonic has always been the favoured candidate, not only because it has consistently enjoyed critical success with its PDPs, but because it also became a bolt hole for a goodly number of Pioneer’s Kuro engineers when the axe fell.
However, its screens have never quite hit the same legendary stride as the late Pioneers - until now. The brand’s new VT30 line is (very possibly) its best to date. So does this screen have what it takes to claim pioneer’s vacated throne?
The back panel is peppered with connections. There are four sideways facing HDMI inputs, plus Scart and Component via adaptor, Ethernet and a digital audio output. There’s also a CI slot, an SD card reader for digital images and AVCHD (2D and 3D) footage, plus three USB. However there’s no integrated Wi-Fi, although Panasonic does include a big, fat dongle, if you can’t get a wired connection to the TV.
If you’re looking for a screen to stream your media you’ve come to the right place. The VT30 shows the likes of Samsung and Sony a clean pair of heels when it comes to playing files. Once on our test network, the TX-P42VT30 spotted all our NAS devices and PCs, and readily identified a host of popular file formats. We were soon catching up on all our AVI, AVCHD, MOV and MKV booty. Even better, the screen correctly read all the MP3 metadata from a music server and displayed relevant cover art.
Naturally, this supermodel also has IPTV on tap, courtesy of Panasonic’s Viera Connect content portal. There’s plenty to see and do here. Video on Demand options include BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Daily Motion. There are also apps to download from the Viera market including a number of games. Socialites can take advantage of clients for Facebook, Twitter and Skype. To use the latter you’ll want to invest in Panasonic’s optional Skype HD webcam. There’s upward facing USB on the rear principally for this gizmo.
Hip Hip display
As good as its media streaming and net connectivity is, the prime reason to invest in the TX-P42VT30 is picture quality: both its 2D and 3D images can be considered outstanding. The set is certified by THX for both 2D and 3D.
Arguably the biggest leap forward from last year’s VT20 models can be seen in its 3D performance. Thanks to faster phosphors and some refined picture processing, there’s no double imaging evident its 3D images. Troublesome movie sequences which have tripped up rival screens, are displayed here looking clean and crosstalk-free.
There are two pairs of Active Shutter 3D glasses bundled in the box. To be honest, we still have issues with Panasonic’s stereoscopic eyeware. They appear to have been designed for people with eyeballs in their foreheads. There’s not much that can be done about this, as only Panasonic 3D shades work with the VT30.
The screen’s 2D presentation is equally scintillating. High-def images are blisteringly sharp, with dramatic depth and contrast. Motion picture resolution is excellent, hitting a clear 1080 lines. This screen is well suited for sports and fast action content. One key difference between this and the GT30 model priced beneath it is that the Infinite Black Pro panel they both utilise here comes with the Pro iteration of the brand’s High Contrast Filter, for greater levels of contrast.
Consequently, if you haven’t calibrated the set well, its image can look overly contrasty. Yes, it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Images from the screen’s HD channels also sparkle.
Audio is traditionally a weak point for super-thin screens, but this Panasonic whistles a well balanced (if slightly undernourished) tune. The 2x 6w stereo amp is bolstered by a dedicated 10W woofer.
We think the TX-P42VT30 is a fabulous 3D TV. Its picture performance, whatever the dimension, is outstanding. The screen also sets the pace when it comes to media streaming and online connectivity. The TX-P42VT30 may be a little rich for some pockets, but if you’re keen to indulge, then there’s no finer all-rounder available. This is a monarch of a panel. The game of thrones has a new champion.