Plasma TVs generally offer better picture quality than equivalent LCD or LED models but with a few downsides - Plasma displays aren’t as razor-thin as LEDs, the back-panel can get hot after few hours of usage and then there’s the screen burn-in problem that might occur when the same picture is displayed on the TV screen for a long period of time.
I have been testing Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT30D which, at this time, is the most high-end 3D Plasma HDTV from Panasonic with a 65” display and there are plenty of good things to say about this unit. (Related reading: TV Buying Guide)
The P65VT30 is thin and the display panel, which is made of a single sheet of glass, looks absolutely gorgeous. I have been using the TV unit for about two weeks now and, even after several hours of continuous usage, the unit barely gets hot. A Panasonic representative told me that they have added extra fans at the rear to solve the heat problem and it seems to work quite well.
Multiple HDMI and USB ports are available at the sides to help you connect external devices conveniently while the lesser-used A/V and Internet (Ethernet) ports are located at the rear of the TV. I have placed the TV on a pedestal stand but if you are planning to wall-mount the unit, accessing the rear ports maybe an issue. The slot for inserting SD memory cards is also at the side.
The unit ships with a pair of 3D glasses and they have a mini-USB port so you may charge them even by connecting to your computer. The TV remote is a similar to the older Plasma models – extra long with too many buttons – but this one has a dedicated 3D button to help you quickly switch between 2D and 3D modes. In addition to watching pure 3D content, the VT30 has a special converter mode that lets you enjoy 2D programming in 3D - this however works with Blu-ray content only and I couldn’t test it.
Panasonic Viera VT30 is Internet-ready and, as a Google TV user, I was particularly interested in the Internet experience on this TV.
There are two ways to connect the TV to the network - you can either use a LAN cable or, if you have Wi-Fi at home, plug the supplied network adaptor into one of the available USB ports. It is surprising that Wi-Fi support is not built-in and that you need to attach a dongle to connect the TV to your wireless network. It means another wire coming out of your TV that you need to hide.
The network setup was quick and simple though it is worth mentioning that the on-screen keyboard, available on the password screen, misses a few special characters (like the @ symbol). That means if your Wi-Fi password makes use of one of those characters, it won’t be possible to connect the TV to the network unless you change the password of your wireless network.
The Panasonic TV has apps and a marketplace – called the VIERA Market - from where you can download more apps directly to your TV. If you have used the Android Market or the iTunes Apps Store on your phone, the experience of installing apps on your TV is similar. It is DLNA compliant meaning your easily stream music and photos from the phone or your computer running Windows Media Player directly to your TV.
There’s a convenient “Internet” button on the remote to help you quickly switch from cable programming to the world of apps. Once there, you’ll find apps for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Accuweather, and certain India-specific apps like IndiaTimes and MoneyControl. Then there apps around games like Solitaire or Minesweeper that aren’t pre-installed but you may download from the Viera Market.
Every single app that is available on VIERA is extremely well designed, beautiful and I also found them very intuitive to use. VIERA uses “screens” to arrange your apps and, unlike your mobile phones, they only have a limited number of apps per screen so it doesn’t look cluttered or confusing. The screens are completely customizable so you can move your most frequently used apps on the initial screen.
The Weather app is available as a live widget so you can see the current weather conditions of your city on main screen itself without having to launch the app. The TV has Skype as well for video calling though I couldn’t test it as it requires a special Skype camera that doesn’t ship with the unit.
Overall, the VIERA Connect (formerly known as VIERA Cast) experience was enjoyable and extremely easy to use though you would obviously want to see more apps in the VIERA Market. For instance, there’s no built-in web browser nor can you check your emails on the TV because there’s no app for that. I also missed a podcasting app on this Panasonic TV.
The picture quality of Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT30D is outstanding and with such a large display, it almost gives that cinema-like feel. And because the display is all glass with no bulging bezels, the picture can be viewed from virtually all angles. The TV does have a slightly reflective screen that becomes evident if you place it in a room with too many windows. I also noticed that it could not access the installed apps if the TV was not connected to the network – this is surprising because some apps, games for example, should ideally work in offline mode as well.