Customer Review

46 of 61 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great set! (except one fixable issue that, if spotted will drive you nuts), June 16, 2011
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This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P55GT30 55-Inch 1080p 3D Plasma HDTV (Electronics)
UPDATE: 10/5/2011 (Fixed, happy!)

My original review, below, focused primarily on my frustration with an annoyance that EVERY SINGLE 2011 Viera 3D Panasonic plasma exhibited. Since mid August 2011 Panasonic has built the "fix" into all models that exhibited this problem. Those who are bothered by this issue with sets built prior to a mid August build can contact Panasonic to get an update.

Now that my set is fixed I can now revise my rating. And I am very pleased to raise it to a 4 star rating. This plasma is outstanding! Great design, albeit slightly not quite as enticing as some other brands, and the picture quality is very good. The only thing that still bugs me some, is that the color reproduction could be improved slightly. However no one who has seen the set in person even notices what I am seeing...so good chances are that you will not either. There is a fix that is rumored to be released soon to correct the color reproduction.

Now that the FBr (read below) has been addressed and taken care of, I just love watching this TV. The price is quite good and the difference between this set and one several hundred dollars is considerable. You really need to head to a B&M to see the difference in person, then do your savvy shopping.

ORIGINAL REVIEW:

I am not the kind of shopper that buys a new TV every year or two. My "old" TV is a Sony Super Fine Pitch HD CRT that I have had since 2003 (picture is still incredible!). I research a lot before any purchase (can be good and bad!). I do not often buy the so-called Flagship models, but generally one beneath those model. My logic is that I am hoping much of the flagship technology is in that "one beneath" model, with much of the high end techy picky stuff left out. Works for me. This model, the G series fit that bill. Maybe you are that kind of consumer as well. After months of research I ended up getting this model despite one issue I was aware of.

My research lead me to a few popular "techy" website forums. There I learned of the fluky issues with every single brand and model out there...including the lofty Kuro series that Pioneer built, and has since discontinued. These Kuro's are pricey, but considered "reference" for us lowly consumers. There are better sets out there, but then we are talking tens of thousands. Anyhow, I was hoping that since it has been a few months since this G series models fluke came to light that Panasonic addressed the "feature"...to lessen it. This is my bone to pick.

It is really minor, but once spotted it will plague you for the life of the set.

SPOILER: Please do not read on if you own any Viera set (problem is designed in all of them) and have not had any problems...seriously, move on to another review, you will hate me if you own a Viera and currently enjoy it. For those researching here it is...

The Fluke:
So here's the "fluke" of this model. The techies on the forums call it "Fluctuating Brightness". Last year the 2010 Panasonic had "Floating Blacks", which has been fixed for 2011. The popular acronyms for the 2011 and 2010 flukes are FBr and FB, respectively, and there is a lot of information on these at forum sites, such as avsforum.com highdefjunkies.com. If you search you will find it easily enough.

So you know every single 2011 Viera model has it, and the "fluke" was actually intentionally designed by Panasonic as a beneficial "feature". This feature causes the lower gray levels to change brightness. Some feel that it is a power saving feature. Panasonic has no public reference to this feature, so the forum folks have been left to taking guesses. Some of these forum members are highly respected professional calibrators or Panasonic insiders. Unfortunately Panasonic engineers made that "change" from grey levels (usually the lower greys) happen much too abruptly. It's more like a "pop" when it changes, and it happens about 1/2 sec. to a 1 second after a change in a scene. Now it does not happen all the time (Vivid Mode the least), but enough that it can drive you nuts once spotted. One of the forum sites has a link to a spreadsheet that lists many movies and where in the movies it can be seen. The "FBr" varies from set to set, so it is seen more or less based on an individuals set, and as an individuals perception to the "feature". Professional calibration (at a couple hundred dollars) can reduce, but not eliminate this "feature." Once you see this it will drive you nuts! It has me, and I am not a videophile. I have brought my complaint to Panasonic. If you are sensitive to these things please be advised.

Now don't get me wrong. The set is outstanding! The picture is one of the best I've seen. In my opinion this is one of the best sets of 2011. The accuracy of the colors displayed, the features, the design. All great! I am dinging the picture rating ONLY because of the fluctuating brightness "feature", otherwise it would be 5 stars. Now if only Panasonic could send out an updated piece of firmware to minimize this abrupt change in grey levels I will be one super happy camper!

UPDATE:
Panasonic has contacted me and states that the picture dimming is within specifications. UNBELIEVABLE!

Because of the lack of a proactive response I have now decreased my rating to a single star. If Panasonic can correct this problem I will re-evaluate my rating. This would be a 5 star review if this Fluctuating Brightness problem is addressed...seems that a firmware correction, such as a firmware released to the European markets which corrects this, would all that it would take. The fix seems obvious and has been done in another Panasonic global division...is it that hard to email some code?
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 21 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 16, 2011 3:28:09 PM PDT
You rate the set as outstanding overall with one minor problem that you were aware of at purchase but you give it a 60% rating, which is the equivalent of an F. Genius.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 16, 2011 3:44:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 16, 2011 3:48:41 PM PDT
logan_c says:
It is a serious enough problem, to some, that they are returning the set. That does deserve an F. Exactly. This is why I have brought this to attention. There are many who are perceptive of this and they are returning it. I am giving this set a couple weeks. I have raised this complaint to Panasonic that if it is not addressed, than I too, will return it. I don't want to say "I will or may return it" on the main review as it would seem overly harsh for most. But to those that see this it is incredibly annoying! I can not watch a movie or program without being pulled from the experience and I think about the TV. I want to enjoy a movie or program, not think about the TV. Too me a return is an F.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 17, 2011 5:43:22 AM PDT
Well, I don't have any problem with your assessment that you think the set deserves an F, but don't then juxtapose it with comments like, "The set is outstanding!" and "this is one of the best sets of 2011." Do you see the confusion?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 17, 2011 7:22:36 AM PDT
logan_c says:
Agree. I completely understand the confusion. I bet many people will never notice this issue. I wish I was one of them. For those who are "lucky" enough, then the product will be all those acclaims.

If you do spot it, you can no longer "un-see" it, then it becomes this really annoying problem...that seems entirely fixable, or at least for Panasonic to make that brightness change more gradual with some kind of firmware fix. With that one, seemingly simple adjustment to me, then this TV could be one of the great ones...

My remark about it being one of the best sets of 2011 should be qualified, as all sets will inherently have some type of issue that is bothersome. It is with that understanding I made that remark.

Posted on Jun 19, 2011 11:50:37 AM PDT
dc says:
where does the lg60pz950 rate to this unit i am trying to decied which one to buy,what are the pros and cons?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 22, 2011 3:07:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 22, 2011 3:15:33 AM PDT
Brian says:
Thank you for the detailed review! This is exactly the type of thing that kept me away from buying any HD set. As you say, they all have their problems, andit is now a matter of finding a set that has problems I can live with. Usually though, I cannot live with "automatic" picture processing which ruins the picture, whether it be low color bit rate as is the case with LCDs, or audible buzz on some plasmas, or compression artifacts...

For those more curious, here is a link that shows the problem quite well:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3mdFwnJqcg

BTW, I do not see "confusion" with this review. It clearly states that it is one of the best in 2011, yet even while being the best, it is still lacking. That means that others are worse. If this one got an "F" others would be "G" or complete failure. I can completely agree with that, as every time I walk into Sears, Costco or Best Buy I cringe while looking at those amazingly big, bright, expensive TVs with pretty bad picture. Either they have badly crushed blacks (which I cannot be sure I can correct with callibration - if it was correctable it would be done already, right?), or they have smoothing algorithms which remove details in the picture, including film grain, or they have completely wrong color balance, or screen that is too shiny, or unnatural sharpness (usually combined with grain filter), and so on.
It is as if today's HD TV sets were designed to dazzle in the fiirst few seconds of viewing; those of us who plan on actually watching good quality contents, such as films, are still waiting for that decent HD TV set which simply shows what was recorded on the disc. So far, this set came the closest for me, but after reading this review, I know I would be bothered terribly. Just to illustrate: I use a $900 23" LCD PC monitor right now, it is a professional monitor, and it is far from excellent, in my view. While others salivate over it, I notice all the problems, starting with color shift as I move around (although it is a higher quality panel where color shift is minimized). So if I am bothered by that, I will certainly be bothered by more pronounced problems.

In addition, just today I had a chance to look at one other Panasonic plasma, one of the latest models and was surprised to notice that shadow detail was no better then on an edge lit LG HD tv. What I thought was an undeniable advantage of Panasonic, was no more. Either Panasonic lost its mojo, or others cought up...
Perhaps the best solution is what I have been entertaining for a while: a decent HiDef projector. Since I don't watch TV much, and since most projectors do not have all the stupid image processing, I think that may be the answer.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 30, 2011 4:35:35 PM PDT
BTideRoll says:
I see no confusion with this review either. The TV is incredible, but it has a fluctuating brightness issue which distracts from and hinders an otherwise great picture. I have the 50ST30, and I think the picture quality is outstanding, however, the fluctuating brightness totally negate all of this when your screen dims and brightens between and within scenes. And as he said, once you see it, you are toast because you always see it, and it is a shame because it ruins an otherwise great TV. The severity of it changes depending on scene modes and between sets. It's bad enough that I'm returning my set. I might go for another one or wait it out a few months until Panasonic addresses the issue in North America sets. They are apparently "attempting" firmware experimentations to reduce or eliminate this in European sets.

Posted on Jul 2, 2011 6:49:19 AM PDT
I have also purchased the TC-P50GT30 model and the fluctuating brightness on my set is extremely noticeable in the Standard video mode. It isn't just something that is barely perceptible. There is a definite and noticeable drop in brightness and then, ever so quickly, a switch back to the original levels. It was nearly unbearable to watch some programs and movies that have a lot of transitions from light to dark. I've found the only way to curb the brightness fluctuation is to set the TV into a different video mode. I currently have mine set in Vivid mode and the fluctuation isn't as noticeable but it is still there a bit. The quality of the picture is still amazing. The colors are spot-on and I would say it has one of the best pictures I've ever seen. However, with that being said, the fluctuating brightness was driving me nuts. The issue is much better combatted in Vivid mode but it isn't completely resolved. I would like to be able to enjoy the picture on my TV in the standard mode with the colors being the normal muted hues and not as blindingly bright as they are in vivid mode. I would also like to be able to adjust the picture to suit the type of movie or programming and not have to worry about this fluctuating brightness problem. Panasonic needs to release a firmware update to fix the problem ASAP or stop manufacturing the TV's with this glitch in them. If I had bought this set from a brick-and-mortar store (like Best Buy) instead of Amazon then I would definitely be returning it. However, shipping on a 65 lb TV is cost prohibitive so I will just leave the set in Vivid mode, live with the problem and pray that Panasonic releases a firmware update to resolve the issue. I cannot personally recommend purchasing this TV based off my experience thus far. If there is an firmware update released to fix the problem then maybe I will reevaluate my stance but for now I am only rating the TV at 2 stars.

Posted on Jul 21, 2011 7:07:32 AM PDT
EC8CH says:
This guy just like me loves everything about his 2011 Panasonic Plasma, but the Fluctuating Brightness ruins what would be a perfect TV. This one problem is so jarring to watch it distracts from the content you are watching. Many professional reviews write this off as a minor problem, but I think they are too concerned about test patterns and benchmarks as compared to casual viewing. Many times during casual viewing there are dialog scenes that jump back and forth between shots of two characters. Imagine the brightness of the screen jumping after ever scene change, sometimes a jump every couple seconds. Now that is a BIG problem and VERY distracting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 22, 2011 12:02:00 PM PDT
I agree with the review. These sets have outstanding picture quality in almost every respect except for the fluctuating brightness which is highly annoying and very distracting spoiling an otherwise very nice product. What is confusing about that?
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