Panasonic has rarely been commended for their TV aesthetics. The VT50S' stylized dress-code, however, does make it a tad more attractive than last year's VT30S. The two models share the same single-sheet-of-glass design. At only an inch wide, the VT50S' inner bezel is noticeably slimmer, although the lower bezel is slightly thicker at approximately 1.5 inches. We also noticed that the protective glass screen is less reflective than Samsung's E8000 PDP model in comparison. The main cosmetic highlight which differentiates the VT50S from its predecessor lies with the aluminum trimmings, one that frames the entire periphery of the panel. The accents are quite conspicuous due to their metallic finish, but they do add a touch of class to an otherwise drab design, And thankfully, they are not much of a visual distraction when the display is viewed in a dimmed room as well. This PDP swivels on a smokey-gray pedestal stand. The plastic material, sadly, does not quite complement the expensive-looking panel it supports.
Panasonic is a generous soul when it comes to audio-visual ports. Like the VT30S, this Viera offers four HDMI 1.4 inputs, three USB ports, and an SD Card slot which supports the "larger" SDXC format as well. All of these inlets are mounted by the side panel. Analog options such as composite, component, and VGA, are located below in a downward-facing orientation, along with the Ethernet and RF input. To retain the TV's slim profile, the Japanese firm has adopted the solution of breakout cables for its composite and component ports, much like its South Korean rivals - Samsung and LG.
The VT50S comes with two controllers: a standard vanilla remote, and a Touch Pad remote to facilitate usage of its Viera Connect apps. Observably, Panasonic has given the standard wand a glossy makeover this time, plus the volume and channel controls have been relocated to the remote's mid-section as well. As its name suggests, a touchpad is available on the secondary remote with basic scrolling and sliding features. It's not the best solution for a Smart TV versus LG's Magic Remote, but it is nonetheless indispensable when navigating the web browser or the integrated applications. Note that you'll need to pair the Touch Pad remote with the TV before you get to use it. This can be done via the TV's Setup menu.
As highlighted in our review of the ET5S, Panasonic has reworked their UI with a more attractive layout. It's made up of five main sections - Picture, Sound, Network, Timer, and Setup. To connect the TV up to the Internet, you may choose between wired or wireless options via the network section. There are eight picture presets tuned for consumers and enthusiasts - Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, THX Cinema, THX Bright Room, Game, Professional 1, and Professional 2. To access these professional modes, however, you'll need to activate the ISFccc feature tucked under Setup first. In a nutshell, advanced white balance adjustments are available under the professional options for more savvy users. If you're unable to calibrate the panel, our advice is to go with Panasonic's THX-certified modes. Depending on your room's lighting, you can choose between THX Cinema or THX Bright Room. They offer fairly accurate colors and contrast compared to the other picture presets. In addition, a third option - THX3D Cinema - is also available with a 3D video source.
Another new feature on the VT50S is Panasonic's "1080p Pure Direct Mode", and it's only available with 1080p sources, of course. It supposedly bypasses any excessive processing on the TV's end, and according to Panasonic's explanation, "transmits and outputs high-quality YUV 4:4:4 30-bit video signals directly to the TV". In layman terms, a higher chroma bandwidth simply means a better preservation of colored details. Before we look at the TV's performance proper, here's a screenshot of the Touch Pad remote's pairing process and user-interface as shown below.