For its price, the ST60 is packed to the gills with value. Panasonic's plasmas have showcased consistent quality and care this year, and the ST60 series is no exception to that. This TV has the black level, color accuracy, and viewing angle to make it a winning choice for any room in your home. However, as with last year's models, the ST60 falls short in the realm of features. The ST60 is not packaged with any of Panasonic's new accessories, such as the TouchPen or TouchPad remote. Without these, its feature set is fairly lackluster—the ST60 is predestined for the picture purist pigeonhole.
The ST60's design is elegant and simple, like all of Panasonic's 2013 plasmas.
I really like Panasonic's design aesthetic for its 2013 plasmas. Not that there's anything very interesting about it, really, but that's why I like it. There's a certain minimalism at work here. A pessimist might simply call the ST60's design boring—Josh, one of TelevisionInfo's other writers, doesn't like it at all. I'm willing to bet that's how most people will react: Either they will like or dislike the plain black stand, dark-gray panel, and silver-wrapped bezel. This design is not jarring or "sci-fi" enough to warrant stronger feelings than that. To me, it's a design that says, "I don't need to look fancy. You're going to be too impressed by my picture to care."
Like the S60 series, the ST60 offers three HDMI inputs and two USB inputs, strung in like clusters along its left side. The remaining port options—a shared component composite, a LAN input, and digital/analog audio—are located on the back side of the TV, well-labeled and smartly spaced. Following the tradition of years past, the ST60's on-set controls sit along the far left edge of its bezel; these buttons provide excellent tactile feedback. Overall, the ST60 is a handsome TV with a smart, user-friendly design.
The new VieraConnect platform takes a big leap—perhaps in the wrong direction.
When we took a visit to Panasonic's Secaucus, NJ headquarters to get a preliminary look at the VT60 series, we also got a hands-on look at all of Panasonic's new smart features. The highlights of the visit were definitely Panasonic's new TouchPen, which worked with impressive fluidity, and the newly integrated pop-up camera, which snapped a particularly mortifying photo of my face.
Unfortunately, the ST60 doesn't feature the pop-up camera, Panasonic's TouchPad remote, or the sleek TouchPen. It is compatible with those accessories, but without them, Panasonic's smart offering is quite disappointing. Thus far this year, we are most impressed with Samsung's new Smart Hub, which focuses on cable and streaming integration over cheesy flash games. While the design of VieraConnect—Panasonic's smart platform—is a large improvement over last year's software, the content at hand is still missing something. The ability to customize and set personalized home pages for each member of the family isn't quite as cool without facial recognition (a big part of the pop-up camera) or the ability to hand write notes on the screen for other users (a big draw of the touch pen).
What's here beyond those new features is sort of a letdown. Yes, you've got all the streaming content you need—Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon. You're not going to find a smart TV that doesn't give you those, though (if you do find one, let us know).
Panasonic's app store is paltry in its selection (though some of it is hilarious), and the pre-installed content is just as bad: How long do they expect anyone over the age of three to play "WeeWee Kitty," after all (it's exactly what it sounds like)? I was really excited for the new VieraConnect after CES 2013, but without Panasonic's new accessories, it really fails to deliver. Toss in the browser, which is untenable using only the basic infrared remote, and you can see this performance-focused TV's score begin to fall.
We can say that the basic menu software ( Picture, Sound, etc.) is as usable and fleshed-out as ever, with the "Cinema" Picture Mode including Panasonic's pro settings, and a myriad of ways to adjust and tweak your picture settings.
If you're going to buy the ST60, buy it for its excellent performance.
Last week, I reviewed Samsung's new flagship plasma, the F8500. It is a very efficacious performer—we were all very impressed with its 10,000:1 contrast ratio. That was before getting the ST60 in for review, though.
While Panasonic's mid-tier plasma doesn't hit the same peak brightness as Samsung's flagship, it still manages to get bright enough for most uses, while maintaining the fathomless blacks that we've seen on every Panasonic plasma this year. The resulting contrast ratio is another five-digit number; you'll just have to read the numeric details on the Science page.
In terms of plasma tech's other big claim to fame—motion performance—the ST60's unassisted motion is decent, but not as blur-free as we were hoping for. While there's no tearing or artifacting (it's very good by average standards), there was just a little more blurring during our detail retention test than we would have liked. No major issues, and nothing that the Motion smoothing setting can't fix, but it's not the best we've ever seen. The ST60's excellent panel also provided what might be the widest viewing angle we've ever measured. That's two records broken in one day.
Where color adherence is concerned, the ST60 exhibits expert engineering. Its color gamut is very accurate, and it maintains perfect color temperature so long as its Panel Brightness (under Pro settings) is set to Low. The Medium and High settings caused odd red-tinting in the low-mid steps of the greyscale input. The end-day tally, though, is that this plasma has high-quality color accuracy and adherence, displaying the full spectrum of colors in smooth detail.
Perfect picture, marred by wee wee woes
The ST60 is a breathtaking machine. Its panel drive is perfectly controlled, allowing it to emit adequate brightness throughout most of the picture while maintaining deep, pure blacks, thus creating an on-screen contrast approaching the variety of real life. The technology at work here is some of the best in years; within the realms of color accuracy, viewing angle and contrast ratio, the ST60 is a masterful television. Panasonic's software allows users to make necessary tweaks towards desired color temperature, to correct minute imperfections in color gamut, and to create a balanced, detailed picture for any kind of content.
Unfortunately, the ST60 is married to a poorly implemented smart platform. The lack of internal processing makes for a sluggish internet experience, replete with campy flash games and a browser that is lost without the Panasonic touch pad. In an age where most cinephiles have at least an Xbox 360 or a PlayStation 3, if not both, the few good points of VieraConnect (streaming content) are rather unnecessary.
Our advice is: Buy the ST60 for its grand picture presentation, and just leave it off the internet. VieraConnect is just going to slow you down, and potentially cause some input lag as well. If you're looking for a fairly priced plasma with top-tier picture quality, the ST60 series is priced very well, internet or not. The 50-, 55-, 60-, and 65-inch iterations are $1,149; $1,499; $1,699; and $2,599 respectively.
Are you lost? No? So you want to read about all the nerdy numerals behind our Front Page claims? Okay... suit yourself. This is the Science Page, where we store the hard data behind our tests. All of our test results are gathered using DisplayMate's suite of test patterns and scripts, in conjunction with the Konica Minolta CS-200 chroma meter.
This the largest contrast ratio we've ever tested.
To determine a television's contrast ratio, you divide its peak luminance by its minimum luminance. We take readings based off of 20% APL (average picture level) screens, which is what most content looks like.
Like the S60 and VT60 series, the ST60 also supports a black level of 0.01 cd/m2 , which is very, very dark—an entire magnitude darker than 0.02 cd/m2 , for example. At a Panel Brightness of Low, and max contrast, the ST60's peak brightness at 20% APL was 131.56 cd/m2 , which is rather bright for a plasma, and is much brighter than most of Panasonic's 2012 plasmas. This gives the ST60 a contrast ratio of 13,156:1, which beats out Samsung's flagship by almost 3000 units. Considering that the ST60 is Panasonic's mid-range plasma, this is extremely impressive.
Wide-angle viewing that pushed our protractor to its limits.
The ST60's horizontal viewing angle is terrific. Viewing angle is an important measure of a TV's viewing flexibility, and is also a strong indicator of panel quality. The ST60 tested with a total viewing angle of 179°, or 89.65° from center to either side—essentially, you can watch from the most extreme off-angles possible to human eyes and the ST60 still maintains a viable picture. This is a great result, and is also the best one possible.
Very accurate colors
The ST60's color adherence—how well its peak red, green, blue, and white match Rec. 709—is very good. Red, green, and white are just about perfect, with blue being a tough oversaturated. This isn't something that will be terribly visible during viewing, as the human eye is not as sensitive to blue as it is to other colors/shades.
This plasma also tested with perfect color temperature adherence. Our color temperature test is a measure of how well a television maintains a consistent color temperature—the temperature, in degrees Kelvin, of its light. Swaying by more than 200° Kelvin across the greyscale input is visible to the human eye, but the ST60's errors were few, and imperceptible. This is a great result.
Finally, the ST60's color curves were decent. There was some bumpiness amongst each color and along the greyscale, which means the ST60 doesn't transition as smoothly between hues/shades as it could, but for the most part its curves describe the proper shape and are even in their luminance increase, which promises a balanced, color-rich picture.
We ran a simple input lag test, using a PlayStation 3 with an HDMI connection, while the ST60 was connected wirelessly to the internet. Despite reports to the contrary, we experienced little differentiation in amount of input lag between the lower-end Panasonic S60 and the ST60—perhaps 10-20ms at most. We currently have no concrete way of reporting objective data on input lag, but the consensus by our experts was that the ST60 did not exhibit audio-video display lag, nor a high amount input lag. However, it is important that gamers concerned with input lag be sure to turn off all of the ST60's post-processing and motion smoothing functions. Preferably, one should disconnect the TV from a network connection before playing any motion-intensive games as well, but this will not effect the presence of input lag as much as leaving on post-processing functions such as noise reduction.
We calibrated the P60ST60 in the Cinema picture mode. We bumped up Contrast from its default of 75 to 100; Brightness was left at 0; Color was left at 50; Tint was left at 0; and Sharpness was reduced from 50 to 0. We also turned off all post-processing and motion smoothing settings, and kept Panel Brightness at its Low setting. The Medium and High settings caused red-tinting in the lower steps of the greyscale, and their effect on overall luminance was not poignant enough to justify the aforementioned skewing.
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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