Panasonic has made huge leaps in design since last year.
The VT30 represents a big step forward in terms of design. For the last few years, it appeared that Panasonic was actually incapable of making anything but big, ugly rectangles (with good screens, granted). Lo and behold its top-of-the-line model for 2011, the Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30. The TV is attractive and a lot of the unnecessary bulk has been scraped away to the point where it looks nearly as thin as an LED set. The materials look sleeker and less boxy. It’s heavy as hell, but you probably weren’t counting on toting this around from room to room.
The VT30 has an interesting selection of ports on the back of it which may or may not become more common as TV sets begin to abandon analog connectivity options. Along with the oddly-laid out ports come a host of adapters you’ll need to use in order to get older external media devices working. We find that this is a huge hassle and if you ever lose an adapter, where are you going to get a replacement in a hurry? This isn’t a big deal if you’re only going to use HDMI cables, but it’s something to remember when you are deciding what you want in your TV.
On the back of the set, there are three separate input panels, two on the back and one on the side. The panels on the back are home to the component/composite hybrid ports, the cable/ANT input, an ethernet port and a lonely USB port. On the side of the Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 there is an input panel with all four HDMI ports, 2 USB ports and an SD Card slot.
The online content is expanding, but remains mired in the same awkward interface.
The Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 honestly disappointed us a bit with its internet features, as it is still using the same clunky interface as last year’s high-end TV sets. Sometimes continuity is a good thing, but the menus are still slow and awkward to navigate. Panasonic can’t really afford to be left behind in this area if it expects to compete.
The menu interface for the VT30 is virtually identical to what we’ve seen on other 2011 Panasonics. It isn’t going to win a beauty pageant, but it’s a functional menu that’s not difficult to navigate. Everything is clearly marked, even if you sometimes have to dig a bit for the option you want if you’re looking for an advanced feature.
The VT30 showcased decent color accuracy and deep black levels, but it wasn't without a handful of flaws.
One of the things we most look forward to when reviewing one of Panasonic's plasmas is testing its black level—the VT30 tested with an exceptionally impressive black level, pushing its all-important contrast ratio to solid width. As far as color accuracy goes, the VT30 is no slouch, though it's not entirely perfect either.
The Panasonic VT30 provides a smooth motion performance. They clearly equipped the TV with a pretty good processor because we don’t see the flickering or color trailing of cheaper TVs. There’s a feature in the menu called “Motion smoother,” but it doesn’t seem to improve anything. In fact, it’s harmful to film-based content, as it makes the picture too smooth and uncanny.
The VT30 did have some issues with artifacting, though we only saw it in certain instances. When we tried moving still photos across the screen, areas of fine detail immediately clouded up with mosquitoes. It’s not pretty.
The VT30's 3D performance was excellent, though extremely dim while wearing the glasses.
The Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 is one of the best, perhaps the best, home theater 3D display we’ve seen so far. We admit, it takes a lot for us to admit that, because last year’s batch of 3D TVs were generally awful. Even when Panasonic was leading the pack last year with the VT20/VT25 series, it was a pathetic pack to be leading.
Once again, we can conclude that plasma TVs had a distinct advantage over LCDs when it comes to minimizing crosstalk. It’s still measurable, but the overall effect is not nearly as distracting as it once was. The Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 did a great job of creating an immersive experience.
The Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 is a really great display in most regards, but there’s no perfect TV.
We’ve learned to stop looking for a perfect television. In terms of features, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better plasma. Panasonic, already the leader in plasma TVs, has finally taken design seriously and the VT30 is as good looking as the best LCDs out there. The 3D performance is better than any of the competing LCDs, so you’ve already got a winner here. In terms of core performance, the color reproduction is great and the motion performance is good.
The TV’s brightness is still an issue. Although Panasonic has made improvements since last year, the whites just aren’t all that bright, and when you put the 3D glasses on—which are essentially sunglasses—you lose a tremendous amount of contrast. Without the glasses, this TV will have a harder time competing with ambient light in a sunny room than almost any LCD TV. With the glasses, you have to watch movies in a dark room. Finally, there's the issue of the slow, laggy smart interface.
If you’re comfortable with these issues, you’ve got yourself a winner.
Panasonic crafts masterful plasmas and the P55VT30 is a testament to that tradition. Its deep blacks give way to an ample contrast ratio—an absolute bounty of light-level differentiation. It didn't impress quite as heavily in the area of color accuracy, but it was no slouch either, adhering well to the tenets of our tests. The VT30 also showed off good motion performance and an unexpectedly wide viewing angle. All in all, it's a gilded package of excellence.
A deep black level is the hallmark of a high-quality plasma.
The VT30's black level of 0.02 cd/m2 is a very good result, even for a plasma. Due to the algorithmic nature of the way the human eye perceives brightness levels, 0.02 cd/m2 is considerably deeper than 0.03 cd/m2 and much deeper than 0.04 cd/m2 . Because this darkness is so pure, the VT30 can get away with being a relatively dim TV, producing a peak brightness that's much dimmer than similarly priced LCDs.
The depth of its black level leads to a contrast ratio of 3472:1, which is an awesome result. It promises ample black/white differentiation without crushing either end of the color spectrum, and will provide immersive and realistic shadows and shadow-tones on screen. Way to go, Panasonic. More on how we test contrast.
The VT30 tested with a notably accurate adherence to ideal color standards.
A television's color gamut is a visual representation of the millions of colors it can display. Like most scientifically measurable phenomena, our tests are capable of measuring a particular TV's color accuracy, measured against the Rec. 709 standard for hi-def color. We can then determine how accurate—or inaccurate—a TV's total color display is.
The Panasonic VT30's color gamut was very accurate when compared to the Rec. 709 perfect ideal. TV's rarely match the ideal gamut, but the VT30 is closer to it than most of the TVs we test. Its red and green points were very close to perfect, meaning colors in those hues will look exactly as they should. It missed the blue and white points by small margins; overall, this result is still excellent. More on how we test color performance.
Meet the tester
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.
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email