Panasonic Viera TC-P50X60 Plasma TV Review
Panasonic's 720p entry-level plasma may be cheap, but that doesn't make it a good deal.
Meet the P50X60, the absolute cheapest Panasonic plasma for 2013. This 720p, frills-free TV is a direct descendent of last year's X50 series, which turned out to be a rather excellent one. The P50X60 is for the budget buyer who doesn't need 1080p resolution.
Don't let its price entice you, though. The X60 produces washed out colors, suffers from color banding, and boasts a wholly unimpressive contrast ratio. A $549 MSRP is no reason to settle for poor picture quality. Avoid this TV unless it's really discounted.
As the saying goes: You get what you pay for.
By 50-inch plasma standards, the X60 is quite cheap, and that aspect is reflected in its design. Plain black bezels and a traditionalist stand comprise this TV's appearance. It's neither ugly nor attractive, and sort of just blends into the background.
From a functionality standpoint, the X60 sports just the bare minimum in ports and design features, but it's a setup that works, at the end of the day. The rear side of the X60's chassis houses two HDMI inputs, a shared component/composite input, an RF jack, and digital audio out. On the side is a single USB input.
In the box, you'll find a very simplified remote control. This black plastic wand is a shorter version of the button-bursting device that ships with higher-end Panasonics. There's nothing too unexpected here: Buttons for power, volume, channel, USB playback, the settings menu, and a 1-9 number pad are pretty common sights. Really, there's nothing that's going to surprise anyone about the X60's design.
Basic menus and features, with blocky 720p letters
Something I noticed right away with this TV is that—in certain scenarios—its 720p resolution is a big drawback. The X60 series comes in two screen sizes: 42 and 50 inches. While it may not be as much of a problem on the 42-inch, our 50-inch test unit's menus and on-screen text look blocky and stair-stepped.
Within these blocky menus, you'll find totally basic controls. The X60's Picture settings, for example, only contain controls for Contrast, Brightness, Color, and Tint. C.A.T.S. (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) is included, but this isn't exactly a fancy feast of options.
The one extra feature the X60 allows is USB playback of photos, music, and video. This function works as it should, although taking the time to actually put photos on a flash drive to watch them on this TV seems a little bit far fetched. Photos display in single or slideshow format, and users can play music in the background. Maybe it's one of those things that's better in person.
Surprisingly poor picture performance
So far this year, Panasonic's been knocking 'em out of the park. That's why I'm so surprised to find that the X60 is a foul ball. Poor contrast, the wrong colors, and imbalanced dynamics are one, two, three strikes against it. You're better off buying cracker jacks.
Considering Panasonic's high-end plasmas have tested with some of the largest contrast ratios I've ever seen, I was thinking this one would at least be on par with the decent plasmas from last year. Its black level is just okay. Plus, the X60 suffers from the usual problem attributed to plasma TVs: it's really dim.
What's worse, its colors are washed out and faded. Red and green are both much less vibrant than they ought to be, which is going to alter cyan and magenta hues as well. The colors combine into an uneven, bumpy grayscale that jumps in luminance values much too erratically to make for comfortable watching.
This TV's one good quality? A huge viewing angle. Yeah, I think I'll pass.
A black mark on Panasonic's record
All of the other Panasonic plasmas I've tested this year (almost all of them at this point) have been relatively excellent TVs. The X60 is something of a black sheep, in that it has very little to redeem it; neither appearance, nor performance, nor software are commendable in any way.
While it might be tempting to go in on a 50-inch plasma that's only a little over $500, we'd really recommend holding off or spending a little more on the next series up. This TV might be a steal if it were on sale, but don't pay full price expecting the flash and sizzle of a powerful new TV.