Panasonic VIERA TH-P50VT30S - Prince of Darkness

Launch SRP: S$3999

Design & Features

Body And Soul

Panasonic is one who prefers to play it safe in the design department. And by that, we mean a tried-and-tested formula of simple outlines and less flamboyant looks. The VT30S continues that tradition with a black bezel covered by a single sheet of toughened of glass. There's a silver lining, literally, which lines the panel's edges to help break the monotony of the set's all-black frame. And as one might expect from a full glass surface, the glossy screen is significantly reflective under brighter conditions. Panasonic has yet to top Samsung's slim records, but the 37mm-deep panel is visibly thinner than the VT20S. Unfortunately, the TV's relative thinness is marred by the bulky speaker housing below. Given the VT30S' expensive looks, Panasonic's choice of a plastic base instead of a glass-top stand is rather baffling too. The VT30S swivels but is restricted by a small swiveling angle of 15 degrees in both directions. Terrestrial and digital broadcasts are also nicely catered for by this set's analog and DVB-T tuners. 

 Panasonic continues with their straitlaced implementations for the VT30S. Clean lines and a plain frame are complemented by a single glass sheet. Panasonic's latest G14 panel also incorporates reformulated phosphor materials and an improved filter to enhance black levels and viewing angles.

Silver trimmings help to break the monotony of an otherwise all-black dress code. And as you can tell by the label on the TV, Panasonic has incorporated RealD's active-shutter eyewear for their 3D Viera displays. Note that the rectangular stand is made of plastic, and not glass.

Instead of touch-sensitive controls, Panasonic is still relying on hardware buttons such as a rocker switch for volume levels as well as TV and AV buttons planted behind the panel. The display's slim 37mm depth is offset substantially by the speakers' housing below.

For connectivity, Panasonic seems to have taken the Koreans' cue in that all AV ports are now either orientated downwards or sideways. Observably, the previous VT20S model had back-facing slots which wasn't conducive for wall-mounts. The VT30S owns four HDMI 1.4 inputs, three USB slots, and an SD card slot which is almost like a customary item for Panasonic. Supported playback formats and CODECs via the SD card and USB include MPEG4, MKV, DivX Plus HD and WMV. All HDMI slots are aligned by the side, which is a plus, with ARC integrated on the second input. Besides storage drives, this Viera's versatile USB ports can also be used in tandem with a keyboard, Skype camera or the bundled Wi-Fi adapter. At the analog end, we found two composite ports and a single component input. However, they will require a breakout cable, much like Samsung's recent HDTV offerings. We didn't notice any changes with the bundled remote. Panasonic has retained the same bulky wand design with a dedicated number pad, plus additional controls for connected Viera Link equipment over HDMI. The Internet button launches Viera Connect, but don't ask us why it wasn't labelled accordingly (it's a mystery perhaps only Panasonic can solve). 

 Rear-facing ports are a thing of the past with the VT30S. The side panel includes an SD card slot, four HDMI 1.4 inputs, two USB ports, a headphone jack, and an optical audio output. Breakout cables are required for the component and composite inlets.

A lone USB port is located at the back panel. Given its vertical alignment, we reckon Panasonic placed it in such a manner to make it convenient for users to access it when the display is resting on its stand. To add, it's probably reserved for the Wi-Fi adapter as well.

The VT30S' remote comes with clearly labelled inputs although that doesn't make it any less confounding in some aspects. For example, the Option button activates Volume Correction, while the Menu button is the one which leads you to the actual bulk of the TV's picture and audio selections.

 

Viera Connect and More

Panasonic might have changed the name of their Smart TV platform from "Viera Cast" to "Viera Connect", but we observed that its interface remains practically untouched. The same eight large app windows still surround a central "screen", one which displays content from the active channel or AV source. To navigate from page to page, you'll have to select the More or Back arrows. This can be an annoyance if you have numerous apps to contend with. We did notice, however, that more apps are now available on its once-sparse Viera Market app store. Categories include Featured, Video and Movie, Music, Games, Social Networking, News and Lifestyle, plus Health and Fitness. We were unable to load the Facebook app for some reason, although we'll give Panasonic's YouTube application the thumbs up for its usability and responsiveness. There are a couple of interesting entries as well, such as Red Karaoke which offers a mix of free and payable songs. One of our favorite selections is the free Internet radio service, ShoutCast. With an impressive collection of music genres from numerous stations, this was an app we'd typically leave on when we are busy with other tasks.

In terms of picture presets, the VT30S has eight to select from, and that includes Dynamic, Normal, THX, Cinema, Game, Photo, Professional1, and Professional2. The Pro1 and Pro2 selections are advanced ISFccc modes, but you might want to note that the TV's screen-burn prevention feature, Pixel Orbiter, is unavailable in THX mode.     

Viera Connect: We appreciate Panasonic's big app windows and uncluttered design, However, it'll be ideal if they could make the windows a tad smaller to accommodate more icons. Scrolling from page to page to locate an application isn't cool.

Viera Market has been given a minor face lift by Panasonic. Besides brandishing a prettier layout, the app store also encompasses more apps to tickle your fancy. Those little red circles with a white star indicate a newly added item.

Internet radio services such as ShoutCast are handy to have around. With a wide selection of music genres and a multitude of radio stations, they are one of the easiest ways to stream your favorite tunes into your living room.

9.0
Design
8.5
3D Performance
9
HD Performance
9
SD Performance
9
Features
8.5
Value
9
The Good
Excellent 3D Quality
Untainted Black Levels
Superb HD and SD Performance
The Bad
Average Noise Filters