Panasonic TC-50AS530U LED TV Review
Lots of performance and screen size for your dollar
Behind the Screens
After warming up the Panasonic TC-50AS530U, we carted it into the lab and put it up against a veritable storm of performance tests. This TV didn't leave with its tail tucked, but it didn't earn any medals either: The AS530 tested with great bread-and-butter performance traits like black level and contrast, but it needed some hand holding in terms of RGB balance and gamma sum.
Usually, a television's Cinema or Movie mode is a great place to start because it generally achieves the best out-of-the-box settings for ideal, low-light conditions. Therefore, using Panasonic's Cinema mode, I altered gamma, backlight, as well as the red and blue sub-pixels. Posted below is a record of the programmed Cinema settings next to my final calibration.
Contrast, and minimum black levels particularly, are the keystones to good performance—and this Panasonic AS530U handles these aspects very nicely. With an ANSI checkerboard pattern, I discovered a peak white reading of 134.5 cdm2 and a minimum luminance level of 0.027 cdm2. That puts this TV's contrast ratio at 4982:1—that's a solid result for a mid-tier LCD TV.
With performance like this, users can enjoy this display in both theater-like and bright settings, though the former is preferable.
When it comes to liquid crystal displays, viewing angle is usually a negative sticking point. The nature of the panels are just usually such that off-angle viewing results in lowered contrast.
Panasonic's AS530U falls prey to this familiar pitfall, so be sure to sit front and center. I measured a total viewing angle of 44°, or ±22° from the center of either side. I've certainly seen worse on competing LCDs, but this result isn't blowing me away by any stretch–especially since this is a large, 50-inch display.
Panasonic's AS530U TVs adhere closely to the International Rec. 709 standard, making for accurate, natural colors. Red, blue, green, cyan, magenta, yellow, and white all land fairly close to where they ought to be, though there are a few notable missteps.
For instance, green is slightly the wrong hue, red is a bit undersaturated, and white values err a bit on the yellow/red side. That means that cyan appears a bit too green, and magenta is a bit too pink—but these are mild issues, and ones that some knowledgable calibration can certainly correct.
Grayscale & RGB Balance
In terms of grayscale performance and RGB balance, we discovered some noteworthy blemishes. We talk about these traits together because grayscale deals with black, gray, and white production—and it's the green, red, and blue pixels that create that grayscale.
Panasonic's grayscale controls luckily enabled me to balance out the RGB errors, which leveled the grayscale. What started as a DeltaE (error) of 3.63 was improved to 1.88.
Specifically, the AS530U emphasizes the red sub-pixel above the green and blue ones, but by lowering the intensity of red throughout 60-100 IRE, and bumping blue up in the same vicinity, the overall balance mostly evens out—minimizing error.
Gamma describes the speed at which a display exits minimum luminance into middle gray and bright white. There are a few gamma sums considered standard: among them 1.8, 2.2, and 2.4.
In Cinema mode, the AS530U tested with a gamma sum of 2.21, which is very close to the 2.2 standard. A gamma of 2.2 is best for rooms with some ambient lighting, but since we set TVs for dark, theater lighting, we calibrate to the 2.4 standard. After calibration, the AS530U achieved a gamma sum of 2.44—not perfect, but very close to the 2.4 standard nonetheless.
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