Panasonic's first 3D TV, the TC-PVT25 series, earned our Editors' Choice award for its 2D picture quality, and in our opinion is currently the best overall TV you can buy. It's expensive, however, so the company decided to release a slightly cheaper 3D-compatible TV later in 2010, the two-size TC-PGT25 series reviewed here. It can't quite match the picture delivered by its big brother in 2D mode, and in 3D it also has issues, but it's still an excellent performer. That said, it's still significantly more expensive than Panasonic's G20/25 models--which are basically the same, sans 3D. The GT25 occupies a place somewhere in the middle of the 3D plasma TV landscape, and while it may appeal to plasma fans looking for a cheaper alternative to the VT25 and/or 2D-to-3D conversion, Samsung's top plasmas are better overall.
Series information: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Panasonic TC-PGT25, but this review also applies to the 42-inch TC-P42GT25. Both have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.
|Panel depth||3.5 inches||Bezel width||2 inches|
|Single-plane face||No||Swivel stand||Yes|
The understated TC-PGT25 looks almost exactly like its non-3D brother, but instead of a grayish-blue horizontal accent strip in the midst of the lower frame, the GT25's strip is sort of bronze-colored. The stand also has a ring of silver around the bottom of its base. The 3.5-inch panel depth is chunkier than the 2010 plasmas of LG and Samsung, but plenty "flat" enough in our book.
|Remote control and menus|
|Remote size (LxW)||9 x 2 inches||Remote screen||N/A|
|Total keys||50||Backlit keys||36|
|Other IR devices controlled||No||RF control of TV||No|
|Shortcut menu||Yes||Onscreen explanations||Yes|
We appreciate the remote's extensive backlighting and well-differentiated layout. Its only downside in our view is an inability to control other gear directly via infrared. The company has updated its blue-and-yellow menus to include onscreen explanations and a persistent navigation column of icons on the left, and as a result they feel more modern and are easier to use than last year, if not up to the level of Sony or Samsung.
|Key TV features|
|Display technology||LCD/plasma||LED backlight||N/A|
|3D compatible||Yes||3D glasses included||No|
|Screen finish||Glass||Refresh rate(s)||60Hz, 48Hz|
|Dejudder (smooth) processing||No||1080p/24 compatible||No|
|Internet connection||Yes||Wireless HDMI/AV connection||No|
|Other: Optional 3D glasses (TY-EW3D10; $150/pair); Optional Wi-Fi dongle (DY-WL10, $99); Optional network camera (wired BL-C230, $299)|
While the TC-PGT25 series lacks the pair of $150 3D glasses included with the step-up Panasonic 3D TVs in the TC-PVT20/25 series, it does offer one option the VT25 does not: simulated 3D processing (Panasonic says it has no plans to add that feature to the VT25 via firmware or any other method). We're not big fans of the effect, but some people might enjoy the ability to add 3D to any 2D source--including (unlike with Sony's 2D-to-3D system) the built-in streaming video from Netflix, Amazon.com, and yes, YouTube. See Performance for more.
Aside from 3D the TC-PGT25 has the same feature set as the TC-PG20/25 series. It lacks true 1080p/24 compatibility (the 48Hz mode is unwatchable in our opinion), but options include the same kind of proprietary Wi-Fi dongle used by Samsung and LG. Naturally we'd like to see built-in Wi-Fi, a la Vizio and higher-end Sony sets, but again we're not surprised at its omission. We're also intrigued by the optional networked camera, which allows GT25 owners relatively cheap in-home monitoring capability. We didn't test either option for this review.
|Amazon Video on Demand||Yes||Rhapsody||No|
This is the first Panasonic TV we've reviewed since the company added Netflix capability to its Viera Cast system, and the ubiquitous streaming video service works fine. The standard horizontal Netflix interface is on hand, with category browsing but no search. Video quality was as good as expected and we appreciated that full picture controls were available--they're labeled "Viera Cast" to separate them from input-specific picture memory slots, and included every option noted below (aside from THX).
Even with Netflix the Panasonic lags behind Samsung, Vizio, and Sony in the breadth of its streaming content offerings. DLNA streaming won't be missed by most buyers, however.
|Other: Customizable Viera Cast home page; two German-language news widgets; Skype requires speakerphone accessory (TY-CC10, $169); compatible with USB PC keyboards|
Panasonic's Viera Cast system got a facelift for 2010, adding widgets like Fox Sports and Twitter, as well as a Skype option. Our favorite change is that the home page can be customized somewhat, allowing you to place the apps and streaming services you want on the first, second or third page in any of seven slots arranged around the central picture window. Most other TVs' Internet service interfaces, aside from Vizio and Yahoo Widgets, don't let you rearrange content to the same extent.
Viera Cast still seems a bit archaic compared with the others, takes over rather than overlays whatever you're watching, and inexplicably lacks a nonbusiness (and non-German) News component, but we do appreciate the well-integrated feel, the relatively snappy response time, and the above-average functionality of the custom apps, namely Bloomberg and Weather.
We also like the option of using a standard USB keyboard to navigate the system, type passwords, and, yes, Tweet. The latest one we tested, a Dell RBP-DEL4, worked fine, although a couple of older models we tried on previous Viera Cast TVs did not.
|Adjustable picture modes||5||Independent memories per input||Yes|
|Dejudder presets||0||Fine dejudder control||N/A|
|Aspect ratio modes -- HD||5||Aspect ratio modes -- SD||4|
|Color temperature presets||5||Fine color temperature control||2 points|
|Gamma presets||6||Color management system||No|
|Other: > THX mode is adjustable; On/Off "Blur reduction" setting; very basic 3D settings|
Panasonic has equipped the TC-PGT25 series with an array of picture settings on a par with other makers' TVs, if not quite to the level seen on LG and Samsung's high-end models--although, unlike on LG, the Panasonic's THX mode can be adjusted. The Pro Settings menu, available only in the Custom picture mode, offers further niceties like a fine color temperature menu (although it lacks an adjustment for green) and gamma choices--the latter is missing from G20/25 models. On the other hand the GT25 is missing the color management system found on the VT20/25.
The new-for-2010 "blur reduction" setting affects motion resolution, but doesn't introduce any dejudder processing. Unlike Samsung and Sony, which offer an array of tweaks to 3D, the GT25's sole nonessential adjustments are a provision for swapping the right and left eyes, and a simple On/Off diagonal line filter, described as something you "Select when diagonal lines appear jagged" and "Turn off when the picture looks noisy." Unfortunately, it didn't work to curb some of the artifacts we saw in 3D (see below).
|Power saver mode||No||Ambient light sensor||Yes|
|Picture-in-picture||No||Onscreen user manual||No|
|Other: Two modes to combat burn-in|