Panasonic TX-50CS520 (£470)
Panasonic is back on form. The company has been a bit wobbly in recent years: its plasma tech was awesome and helped to dominate the market up until 2013. But then it stopped making plasma panels to focus on LCD production, and Korean rivals soon took the lead. Bad times.
Throughout 2015 there have been signs that Panasonic has clawed its way back to the top, and the TX-50CS520 is proof the aging Japanese giant still has mojo. This is easily one of the best Full HD TVs you can buy right now.
You can tell this thing means business just by looking at it. It’s a no-nonsense design: slim and simple, with no interest in curves or anything so fancy. It just wants to stand there – with hardly any wobbling because that stand is serious – and make your 1080p pictures proud.
Picture quality is such a priority that Panasonic hasn’t even messed with the system interface. What you get is the old ‘My Home Screen’ menu system introduced in 2013, which lets you build your very own landing page with weather widgets and whatnot.
There are only two HDMI ports at the back. It’s hardly a deal breaker but these days you’d expect at least three. Samsung and Sony, meanwhile, offer four.
Panasonic has clearly focused on performance here, and it shows. This is a stunning picture that will have you questioning the £500 price tag. Contrast is superb. Properly bright, properly dark, and properly juggled. It’s not quite what you’d get from Panny’s plasma days, but it’s clear some of that contrast expertise has rubbed off here.
It’s not all black and white, of course, and the colours look great too. It’s a rich palette, vivid enough to leap out and grab your attention without looking processed and exaggerated. In absolute terms it may not be the most true to life, but it sure is pretty.
Factor in the detail levels and Panasonic is really on to something. Everything is sharp and cleanly drawn. The picture is clear, with hardly any noise and sharpening artefacts.
That My Home Screen interface is a little disappointing. It was fine back in 2013 when everybody did home hubs, and admittedly there’s something quite nice about deciding where to put things like you would do with a new bedside cabinet. But things have moved on. The Koreans these days are offering multitasking pop-up menu bars that don’t kick you out of your show and drag you back to the home screen.