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Best HDTV of The Month

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December 2012

If you are looking for the best in HDTV, we suggest you do check out our top 5 best rated HDTV of the month. Their rating are based on consumer reviews at Amazon.com. …

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Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30

Submitted by on February 8, 2012 – 10:06 am10 Comments | 3,212 views

Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30

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  • Max Adams says:

    Customer Rating Fluctuating Brightness Can Break Your Movie Watching Experience…or not!, 2011-07-21
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    My previous tv (which I sold off already, regrettably) was a Panasonic th-42pz80u. This was my first step into the wonderful world of plasma tv’s & I have nothing but praise for it. I recently decided that I wanted to squeeze the largest tv I could fit into my entertainment armoire & considering how much I loved my old tv I figured it was a safe bet to stick with the Panasonic brand.

    Immediately after turning the st30 on & popping in Planet Earth on Blu Ray for a test run I was extremely happy with both the new size of screen in front of me & the fantastic picture quality. I played around some more, tweaking the picture & features on my new set & decided to start watching some of my select Blu Rays that don’t have letterboxing. I read somewhere that it’s best to watch movies that take up the whole screen for the first 100 hours or so of a new plasma. I’m no tech head so I just do what I’m told. :p

    Not long into watching “Starship Troopers” I noticed my first flicker, or fluctuation. Every time the film made a cut there was an adjustment in brightness that came a half second later. I began rewinding it over & over & couldn’t believe my eyes. After the awful flickering in the beginning I continued to watch & noticed it happening throughout, though not as bad as the start of the film. I’ve watched a few movies since then, such as – Sin City (noticeable but not terrible), LotR Fellowship of the Ring (noticeable but not terrible), & OH MY GOD Final Fantasy: Advent Children. Final Fantasy was just unwatchable with flickering all over the place. For those who don’t know, Final Fantasy is entirely computer animated which might have something to do with it being so noticeable. I would expect the Pixar films to behave just as poorly but I can’t say for certain.

    I started researching & discovered that the fluctuating brightness (or “FBr”) is not an unusual phenomenon. Just google “panasonic fluctuating brightness” & read up on it. The forum “high def junkies” is a good place to start as they have been discussing it in depth for a while.

    I haven’t lost all hope yet! There has been talk of Panasonic sending out a firmware upgrade to their Spanish customers on a case-by-case basis that actually FIXES this problem! Or at least adjusts it so the fluctuation isn’t visible to the naked eye. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this firmware makes it stateside so I can begin enjoying my tv. If that happens I will definitely change my rating of 1 to a 5 star. I’ll be keeping my eye on that 30-day return date in the meantime, however.


    After emailing Panasonic & starting a case with them I waited patiently for an email or a phone call, but after a month none came. I kept up with the community on high def junkies & eventually discovered that Panasonic had started sending local repair guys out with a new A-Board, or if you’re one of the lucky few a much simpler fix was available if a Panasonic employee could come to your house. I called Panasonic to see what the status on my case was, only to find out they had closed my case without any kind of notification. Jerks. The person I spoke with on the phone was apologetic & knew exactly what I was talking about when I brought up fluctuating brightness. I was FINALLY getting somewhere. Within a week of that phone call they sent the replacement A-Board to my local repair shop & I had an “FBr” free tv!

    For those curious, they did have to take apart my tv. After watching that terrifying ordeal it was just a simple unplug-this plug-in-that & they were done. VERY happy overall.

    After the fix this is easily a 5-star tv in my book. I’m a little conflicted on showering it with nothing but praise, however. I didn’t exactly buy this tv day-1 of it’s release & it took them this long to even acknowledge there was a terrible defect in a large number of their sets.

    For those few who complain about picture quality I will agree that right out of the box the picture quality doesn’t really jump out at you, but after buying a calibration disc & tweaking the custom settings it really looks amazing. Easily the best in its price range.

    In short – if you’re on the fence about this set, don’t be. If you’re unlucky & get one that was built before they had this fix installed, Panasonic will handle it!

  • D. DePanicis says:

    Customer Rating Beats every TV out there for the price. Blows away LED/LCD!, 2011-05-14
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    As with most guys buying a new expensive electronic toy I did weeks worth of research on TV’s. My previous TV was a 2007 Samsung plasma (720p) and I really loved it for the time that I had it but I was intrigued by the new LED line of TV’s. Before doing research I thought that this was the future and that plasmas were going to be phased out but I soon found out this is not the case. In fact LED TV’s are no more than LCD TV’s with LED backlighting while true LED’s (OLED) being thousands of dollars for 42″ models and scarce availability.

    Regardless I went out and bought what I felt was a bargain, a 60″ Sharp Aquos Quattron 60LE832U from BJ’s for $1,799. It was thin, had wireless connectivity built in, 60″, and cheap for what you got. The picture was good but I soon noticed a lot of artifacts in the picture. The color from the factory was overly bright and oversaturated. I am usually one who likes a slightly less realistic picture in favor of slightly more saturated and vivid images too but this was over the top. No matter what I could not get the picture quality right and there were definitely motion issues even with the claimed 240Hz aquamotion. Turns out it isn’t truly 240Hz and it suffers from the same motion issues that all LCD’s are plagued with. Frustrated I looked over to the plasma side but was apprehensive because in the store plasmas always look horrible. Their pictures are dull and over-brightened to where the blacks look gray and they are always next to shiny LED/LCD’s that look so good. I had enough in my account to grab a second TV thankfully to see what it looked like next to the Sharp and figured I would take back the one that looked worse. In this case I was losing 5″ in picture and was worried that the ambient light in my living room would drown out the plasma picture because this had always been a problem with plasma.

    The second I hooked up this TV I was blown away! The color even out of the box was breathtaking and the blacks were spot on. There was a golf tournament on and I felt like I was there looking through a window. The Sharp had good resolution but it felt fake since the picture was so bright (even when turned down) and the motion unrealistic. I immediately packed up the Sharp and took it back. I am telling you if you are thinking of LED/LCD don’t do it, plasma is where it’s at and you cannot beat the picture on this TV for the price, it is unbelievable!!! LED/LCD just hasn’t been perfected enough which is why there are so many different types such as edge-lit, full array, etc.

    I do want to mention for those of you looking to get this TV that I highly recommend you break the TV in for the first 100 hours by not displaying any static images such as logos or game HUD’s. I also recommend running the slides that can be found here:[…] for the first 100 hours of the TV to age the phosphors in the TV evenly. The best way to do this is to put these slides on an SD card and run them through media player making sure to run the slideshow on loop mode and continuously. This allows each pixel to age at the exact same rate so that after the 100 hours each pixel has the same color saturation. Early on phosphors are soft and get hotter than normal, making them more susceptible to burn in and image retention but as they age they harden and their colors become more normalized. After this time burn in is less of an issue and your TV will calibrate much better as each pixel has a normalized color to the one next to it. The best settings for the TV can be found here: […]Issues-Thread but must not be used until AFTER the 100 hour break in time! Remember not to use vivid mode for the first 100 hours either as this can increase chance of image retention although on newer TV’s it isn’t as much of an issue anymore.

    Now on to the actual review:

    1) Picture quality – Absolutely stunning, the picture is as realistic as it comes with good saturation and the brightness is perfect. I have put this TV next to everything out there include the GT30 and VT30 and there is absolutely no different from what my eyes can see. All you get is THX mode and 1 HDMI and USB port on the other models and anyone who tells you the PQ is better on those is just being overly critical and properly a complete calibration nut because I just can’t see it nor can most people.

    2) Black levels – Any deeper of a black and it would look fake, even when the brightness is turned up they stay completely black, it isn’t not a stupid balancing act like it is with LED/LCD where you have to tradeoff black levels for other things like brightness.

    3) Internet apps/connectivity/networking – Comes with a wireless dongle to allow connection to your network and it is much more useful than I thought. DLNA works 1000x better than the Sharp which was clunky, slow, and didn’t play all media types. The ST30 even previews your video files on your network as you are scrolling through them, it is a very cool feature and is very responsive. The apps are great too with pretty much everything you would be looking for such as Pandora and Youtube.

    4) Price – As I mentioned before you cannot beat this PQ for the price. $1499 at most places and it can even be found a tad cheaper. The Vizio 4SV 55″ model is almost $2000 and is large, ugly, and has a myriad of problems such as randomly turning off. This is a documented problem that you can search for and Vizio is apprehensive to fix it for anyone.

    5) 3D – I’ll admit I wasn’t really big on this and the Sharp I bought didn’t even have it because I could care less about it but this one did (and was cheaper, go figure). I am really glad now that it does have it as the 3D is simply breathtaking and there is little to no crosstalk at all! All the other makers (except maybe Sony) had a lot of crosstalk, especially Samsung. The Sony I viewed had great 3D but it was also running on a demo in the store hooked to a bluray which is a bit deceiving compared to watching it on DirecTV or something. Also be aware that Vizio TV’s are not listed (right now) as a supported 3DTV with DirecTV!

    1) Only con I can think of is that the 60″ model is almost $600 more, which is a bit ridiculous. I was hoping it was more like $300 more as I probably would have jumped on it if so.

    2) Nothing else, this TV absolutely rocks!

    Bottom line:
    If you are on the fence with which TV to get or you are debating plasma vs. LED/LCD please take this review seriously and try the plasma, I am almost going to guarantee that for this price that you are going to like it more. The new Samsung 55″ LED/LCD is $2650, while this amazing 2011 plasma is $1499, no need to spend $1200 more!

  • Mike says:

    Customer Rating Terrible Changing Brightness Problem, 2011-06-25
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    Just got this home and ran it through calibration process. The image is stunning. Buyer beware though-this model and apparently all other 2011 panasonic models have a fluctuating brightness problem. almost every shot changes the brightness of the picture, and often, even in the same shot the brightness flickers. Also the green hue comments are spot on. I followed d-nices settings specifically and still have a ton of green fringing and shading. Totally unacceptable and I will be returning it for a different brand. It’s too bad because the image really is something to behold. I don’t feel, as other do, that it is too dark.

    Update: I’ve contacted amazon. panasonic says this is a known issue, some people have reported it, while others do not experience it. I am awaiting a replacement and will update my review in case I got a lemon.

  • Customer Rating Outstanding p55st30, 2011-04-11
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    Let me start off by saying I am a pretty critical viewer. In the last month I have demoed, previewed and tested the following models almost to the point where my wife was thinking I was a little crazy.

    1. pn50c7000 – Black levels were not anywhere close to what I would expect for a current Plasma but very clean image with accurate colors. This TV buzzed quite a bit as well

    2. p50gt25 – This TV buzzed, had great black levels which apparently rise over the life of the panel. Good colors but had a ton of noise in any HD format that was compressed such as cable or satellite. The noise filter on this set to me, appeared to be inferior to the Samsung.

    I had ordered the pn51d7000 (2011 model) thinking it would have great black levels and the clear picture only to find that it’s black levels are being measured higher than last years pn50c7000.

    So, needless to say, I was getting very frustrated. I could not find a set that met my needs. I recently acquired the p55st30 and the minute I turned it on I was amazed. The image noise was completely gone, the black levels were deep and revealing, it did not buzz and had great color saturation and had the POP you would normally associate with an HD signal.

    My wife who is just a normal TV watcher commented about the clarity of this panel. “It is almost like looking through a window,” “It is like the actor is here in the room with us”

    I also game a lot and I have not noticed ANY image retention whatsoever, smooth motion, 0 lag. The other two models I tested above had obvious bouts with image retention which is to be expected on a new plasma. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the st30 handled that.

    The internet features work great (not something I would be using a lot) So far I have not found one thing to not like about this TV. The image quality is vastly superior to the other two TVs I returned. I don’t see how anyone could go wrong with the st30. I am extremely picky about image quality and this TV has surpassed my expectations. GO GET THIS TV. The fact I have taken the time to write this review goes a long way to show how impressed I am with the st30.

    I also wanted to thank Amazon for being so understanding though my ordering and return process. They are THE BEST ONLINE retailer I have ever worked with. After selling and ordering thousands of dollars of items via Amazon, and not having a single complaint, it goes without saying how great Amazon is a a company.

  • vishal rana says:

    Customer Rating Great TV, 1 problem that undoes it ALL., 2011-07-22
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    Let me start off by saying 4 things first:
    1) I LOVE Panasonic products. I have had their phones/shavers/Digital Cameras/and now a Blu-ray player and I love them ALL.
    2) I even absolutely love the PQ on this TV as well (barring fluctuating brightness of course).
    3) I’m giving it a 1-star rating with a heavy heart but with a firm observant mind.
    4) I wish I never had to write this review.

    The deal breaker??? – Fluctuating brightness!!!

    I have read rave reviews for this TV here/other places and I agree with them PQ-wise. But IF and only IF your set has this and you’ve noticed this you’re done. I hope this is not the case with you but it IS the case with me and few others. Not sure how many “few” people it takes to get the attention of a major manufacturer but here is my viewing experience so far. I’ve had this TV for 3.5 weeks now.

    This TV tries to adjust its brightness A LOT. Majority of the time a scene changes between a dark scene to a (much) lighter scene/area – you can see the changing brightness – especially on the face, it’ll go wayyyy brighter, then back to normal. Eventually the light will be perfect/even great hue but the “switching” drives me nuts. While dark scenes themselves look great overall – I also noticed some dark/darkness adjustment even in a night scene where the light in the scene/room was off. It happens much less often but it does. The adjustment in dark scenes are not that distracting as they are less frequent/apparent. Daylight/bright scenes – another story.

    I even tried to “ignore” this by telling myself – oh well no TV is perfect and let me just “live” with it but I just couldn’t. Besides – for a $2K TV to do what my $250 seven year old Sharp (CRT) TV does NOT do is simply unacceptable.

    I have tried Blue ray/SD content/HD contect/netflix/regular DVDs and they all display fluctuating brightness. I grant it’s not there ALL the time but boy when it rears its ugly head (which is often) – that is ALL I watch and well that is ALL I’m watching right now – not willingly I must add. I’ve gotten the latest firmware as well.

    So why just a 1-star when the PQ/blacks are great. The brightness problem is so glaring that it handily undoes the MANY good/great/outstanding qualities of this TV. Speaking of outstanding – another great thing about the TV is skin tones – oh so natural. When I was TV hunting/doing “eye test” in stores – LED always seemed to have an edge. But man – this colors/skin tones are so realistic in this TV. I do not want to take away the great PQ of this TV – in all fairness, yet at the same time I do not want to take away the undeniably distracting viewing this TV presents to me. In fact I feel like I’ve been relegated to “watching” the fluctuating brightness instead of actually enjoying the experience of this otherwise great TV. I even tried telling myself – maybe I’m “looking” for this brightness fluctuation issue but no no no – it’s THERE.

    I’m at a loss to explain why Panasonic did not/does not notice this – that is – if they don’t. They need to fix it and fix it now. I BELIEVE Panasonic can and should make it right. And I still maintain it’s a great TV. I do not know if others have had the same issue or to this degree but this has been my experience. I don’t know the technical details but they *should* be able to fix this with a firmware fix. I have NOT given up on them and hence have requested Amazon for another ST30. It is a great TV otherwise but you buy a TV to enjoy the programming content, NOT distractions. Panasonic – you are the top plasma maker in the market. You guys even have the entire (former) Pioneer/Kuro team working for you. Will you please make it right!!!

    When I get the new TV – I will re-evaluate and post my findings. Oh by the way Amazon was 100% helpful/quick in sending a replacement. Thanks Amazon!!!

  • Customer Rating Great TV, 2011-04-19
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    If you’re looking for that great plasma picture quality (deep blacks, true colors), truly smooth motion that no LED can replicate (600hz refresh), and 3D technology (plasmas do 3D better than any other technology available), this is the best bang for your buck, bar none. To get a TV equivalent to this in an LED, you’d spend $2000. At $1100, this is a great deal. The screen has a relatively good anti-reflective screen, making it better in natural light settings than most of the high end LEDs that have all moved to reflective screens to increase contrast ratios. I highly recommend this TV.

  • Vin says:

    Customer Rating Couldn’t be happier, 2011-03-30
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    Like everyone else interested in making the big screen purchase, I spent hours every night reading reviews, shopping around, comparing specs and prices, and trying to decide whether I should go lcd or plasma. Ultimately, I ended up just going to the local BB and seeing which one looked and felt right to me. I purchased this beautiful 55in plasma and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve had it for over two weeks now and I don’t have a single complaint. The picture is great and the sound is just fine for my living space(apartment). The 2D-3D conversion is alright but you should not expect much from any television’s conversion. The 3D Blu-Ray is a different story – The Ultimate Wave Tahiti is AMAZING (I had to watch it twice because I didn’t follow a word because I was so blown away by the picture) and Resident Evil Afterlife was fun to watch (the 3D at least).
    I realized that all the hours I spent reading super detailed reviews was somewhat a waste of time because when it comes down to it, I don’t really care about or even notice the subtle differences that so many people compare. I just wanted a solid tv with great picture at an affordable price and this was it.
    The setup was beyond easy. The remote and on-screen menus are very user-friendly.
    The widgets all work just fine. Watching youtube videos on a 55in can be entertaining.
    My roommate and I are traveling surfers and licensed skydivers so we have plenty of GoPro HD videos that we watch on this tv using the SD card slot(we also watch them through the youtube widget)and they look phenomenal.

    BOTTOM LINE: If you want a solid big screen with great picture at the right price then this is it. Highly recommend. If you have any questions then just leave a comment.

  • Customer Rating This is as good as it gets!, 2011-07-16
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    After doing research for months, I ended up buying the 65ST30 from Amazon for $2050 last month. I’m a first time Plasma buyer, so researched QUITE a bit into this technology. I was surprised how far Plasmas have come along. I used to think they don’t have a long life, or are an outdated technology. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I also looked at the GT and the VT series, but VT was out of the question due to ridiculous pricing, and the picture quality of GT didn’t look any different than ST30 at the local best-buy. GT does have a smaller bezel though, and is more attractive looking.

    Also, after reading several reviews and talking to people on AVS forum – I found out GT has bigger issues with floating blacks and brightness fluctuations, so decision was rather easy. ST30 was the one to get.

    After I got the set, I used the D-Nice’s settings/slides to prep the set for his calibration (available online). You don’t have to do this, even using his calibrated settings looked pretty good out of the box – but I went through his recommended process, to get the best possible image. If you have the patience, I’ll recommend using his entire process. It’s worth it.

    After inputting the settings provided by D-Nice (and some of my tweaks) the picture quality was simply breathtaking. I was just amazed how natural the image looked. I was told this is the biggest advantage of going Plasma over LED, and at first I wasn’t sure if I’ll see much difference – but now I’m sold.

    I bought a 2011 LG LED TV just few months ago, and this Plasma is much better. I compared them next to each other, and it’s not close. Not only you get true natural colors with Plasma, you get very deep blacks and no motion blur. Can’t wait to watch some football on this beautiful set. I was somewhat worried about floating blacks – but no issues with this set. Watched a few Blu-Ray movies on it – and was blown away by the size of the TV and the fine picture quality. The TV speakers aren’t great, but aren’t bad either. I plan to buy a sound-bar at some point though.

    a) 3D – I’m not a big fan of 3D (not yet at least) but 3D is pretty damn good on this tv. Better than any other set I’ve come across. But, 3D image has always given me a head-ache, so I avoid using 3D.
    b) Online services – Basic applications are there, such as Netflix, Amazon videos, Youtube. User-Interface is very simple to use and is intuitive. I mostly use these services through the Blu-Ray player anyway. You can play videos or view pictures through SD slot or USB drive or DNLA server (connecting to your PC through wireless).
    c) Viera Connect – I love this feature. After I bought this TV, I also purchased a Panasonic Blu-Ray player and with Viera Connect, you can easily sync up the device with your TV and use the TV remote to control the player. Simple idea which makes a LOT of sense.
    d) Remote Control – I’ve not said this in a while, but I absolutely love the remote control that comes with this TV. It is also back-lit, which is helpful at night. Again, very simple and intuitive.

    I have yet to find anything wrong with this set. But, I must say – no TV is perfect. LEDs have their issues and Plasmas have their issues. I was aware of basic issues with Plasma’s – so nothing caught me off-guard. I’ll advise everyone to research these issues beforehand, or ask me if you have questions. These are small issues to deal with, nothing major but one must be aware of them.

    Another thing I’ll advise everyone interested in buying a Plasma – don’t go by what you see at your local store. If you have to compare at the store, compare Plasma TV with Plasma TV – not with LEDs. Plasma TVs need to be set-up according to your room and lighting. If not set correctly, Plasmas are likely to look pale and dull. To get the picture to pop-out and look accurate at the same time (something LEDs struggle with), you really need to mess with the settings. As mentioned before, google for D-Nice’s settings – he is a professional calibrator who has shared his settings. Of course, you still have to tweak your settings – but it gives you a great starting point. Also head over to AVS forum where you can find more setting options and figure out what works best for you.

    I’ve had this TV for a month, and so far, it has been one of the best TVs I’ve ever purchased. Since then, I’ve purchased a 50ST30 as well for my bed-room and am just as pleased with that set. When you factor in the price (for 65ST30 or 50ST30), I doubt you can find a better deal out there. I looked at the Samsung Plasmas (which are skinnier) and look great as well. In the end, Panasonic is a more renowned brand when it comes to Plasmas and are still a step or two ahead when it comes to black levels and over-all quality. Also, Samsung has very poor customer service – which made the decision for me.

  • J. Lemons says:

    Customer Rating Great television for the price, 2011-05-01
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    The Panasonic ST series sits at the perfect price point for those who are looking for a high quality television without breaking the bank. The ST series loses the THX designation and some of the advanced adjustment features of the Panasonic GT and VT series, but it allows you to get a very good television under the 50in. minimum of the higher-end series.

    My experience with the television over the last few weeks has been positive. Setting up the unit is straightforward and the guide appears to be written by someone who speaks English (Spanish and French are also available). There are an ample number of connections for digital and analog services. For grins, I plugged in my cable connection directly from the wall (bypassing the cable box) and the TV pulled down 80 analog channels and 40 digital channels with excellent clarity. Initial setup takes you through everything that you will need your TV to due from labeling inputs, setting up a wireless internet connection to your home/office network, adjusting the clock, etc.

    A 802.11b/g/n wireless adapter comes included with the television and can either be plugged directly into one of two USB ports or attached using the included USB extension dongle. Using the USB extender provides a clean look with no visible wires or attachments. The adapter sticks out from the edge of the television about an inch if you opt to plug it in directly. Since a final 802.11n standard has yet to be established, the adapter may have issues with your wireless network. I use a Netgear router without any issues. If you have troubles, I would recommend using a wireless bridge rather trying to find a suitable adapter, especially if you are using the TV with a Blu-ray player, game console, or any other devices that require an internet connection.

    The Viera Cast service turns the television to the internet with built in apps for most of the major streaming content providers (Netflix, Amazon Video, Alphaline, You Tube, etc.) in addition to a host of apps for games, sports, weather, news, and social networking. Each time you access Viera Cast it will check for updates that must be completed prior to proceeding. Usually this takes just a couple minutes if an update is required, but can be irritating when you want to do/view something.
    The image quality on this television is excellent out of the box with very black blacks and true colors. The anti-glare screen works well in most situations. I have noticed that at some, usually extreme, angles there is a good deal of reflection, but when viewed from a typical angle the result is very good. 2-D SD and HD are both excellent with no noticeable artifacts or ghosting. I have not had a chance to test the 3-D viewability since the glasses (sold separately) are prohibitively expensive and there is not enough content out to justify the price at this time. This should not dissuade a purchase, since it is now almost impossible to find a television with great 2-D viewability without 3-D capabilities.

    Overall, this is an excellent television and disputably the best under 50 inches. The videophile will miss the advance color tuning options and THX capabilites, but those features simply don’t exist in the current model year sub-50in televisions.

  • jimmienoman says:

    Customer Rating Great PQ, but HORRIBLE (delayed) brightness fluctuations, 2011-07-20
    This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P65ST30
    To preface this I have had 2 P50ST30s (one replacement because of the problems I will talk about below) and Amazon was awesome with the whole return and replacement. One of the best companies I have dealt with. This is a very long review as I would like you to understand what you are buying beforehand.


    I was excited when I first set up my TV and took the time to age the phosphors in the TV for 150 hours by running slides (a step that can be skipped but the phosphors degrade in the first 100 hours faster than the rest of it’s life). I set up the blu-ray player and after dialing in the settings it looked awesome. Then the brightness fluctuations happened.

    The best way I can explain brightness fluctuations ( Fluctuating Brightness or FBr) is will be a leap in lighting. When you have a dark scene the whole picture will darken some to give more detail to a shadowed area. It is necessary to give great picture quality in any plasma. Normally what will happen is that it will gradually fade into darker or lighter, this TV does it all in one step. A drastic comparison would be a pitch black room where you turn a light on vs turning a dimmer light on gradually. What you see on the screen is picture that will switch from dark to lighter. It is most noticeable when you have 2 scenes switching back and forth (think dialogue between 2 characters where it switches between ones face to the other) and one scene is darker than the other. You can easily see this in the movie Hereafter around minute 40.

    This problem is exacerbated by a delay in the video processing of the switch between darker scenes and lighter scenes. In almost all video they will have scenes cut and pasted together. When this happens the lighting usually will change for various reasons. When the scenes cut from one to another this TV will take about 0.5-1 second to process the lighting difference to adjust to give more detail to shadowed areas. Given that it does it in one leap as mentioned above, it severely distracts you from watching the movie and enjoying it.

    Darker Movies will usually bring out these symptoms to it’s max. When I went to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, I came to the point where I started counting the fluctuations instead of watching the movie. I counted 56 total in one watching. My wife didn’t watch HP with me but she commented on it while watching Castle a few times, then more and more on other shows.

    The reviews are definitely favorable as it has a great picture quality without doubt. Most professional reviewers mention fluctuating brightness problem, but gloss over it. Why they did I am not sure. It seems that some sets show this dramatically, while others don’t. My first one (the one I counted 56 fluctuations on for HP) I would say was very bad compared to a slightly less worse one that I got the second time around. I re watched HP on the second one to see if I could just enjoy the movie, got to the point I started counting again and only counter 32 which were more tame but still easy to spot without even looking for them. To make sure it just wasn’t me seeing things because I knew when they were, I made (yes she wasn’t to happy about it) her watch Tron with me. We first started Tron in 2d and she saw it some; then I popped in the 3d disc and she was pointing it out in every other scene.

    I placed a complaint with US Panasonic as this was unacceptable, trying to explain it the best as I am now. I was walked through changing multiple settings (CATS off, trying all modes, changing contrast and all other settings, using 3 different HDMI cables along with composite and component cables) with nothing relieving the issue. Their response was that this is a feature of the TV and that it was working properly. Some of their exact words in the email I later received were ” the picture dimming (fluctuating brightness) is negligible and should be considered within the TV’s design specification.”

    In Spain a gentleman Documented this for Panasonic to prove that something was wrong. If you would like to see how bad this is; there has been a video posted by a member of a great forum for high def junkies that shows this instance (Google ” VT30 hereafter ” and it will show in the youtube vids) if you would like to see exactly what I am talking about. The TV here was the VT series which is Panasonic’s flagship model and cost well over $1,200 of this TV.

    Since the posting of the above video Spain got a firmware update to 1.520. The same person posted the exact same scene with the same setup which you can also view by clicking on his name or clicking on it on the right hand side. It eliminates this problem, since then Europe Panasonic have acknowledged that there is something that they are looking into (circumventing saying there is a problem). But US Panasonic calls this a feature that is working as intended. Unlike US Panasonic which I have opened 2 cases with them about this problem, one for both TVs, and just receive it’s a feature of the TV which is working properly…

    I am hoping that this is heeded as a warning to many as I feel terrible about Amazon being outstanding in it’s Customer Service trying to rectify what is obviously not their fault. I am a man that researches any large purchase to the T to try to avoid these problems. I weighed my options and since the professional reviewers either made no mention of this problem or said it was a minor problem; I decided to buy this Panasonic. I post this in hopes that those that do their research won’t feel gypped as I do.

    If you would like to read more comments a Facebook page was created in hope that it would have an effect as it did with Sony. It is on facebook under “My 2011 Panasonic TV is Defective”.

    UPDATE 7/26 : Various Panasonic emails have said that there will be an announcement this Wednesday 7/27. Also a A reliable higher up in Panasonic NA has said that there is a FW that will be aimed at fixing “panel dimming” very soon (this term has a different meaning then Fluctuating Brightness, but all other FW fixes in Europe that fixed the FBr were released to fix another problem). This could or could not be a fix to the above problems, but hopefully putting 2 and 2 together means we will be getting a FW fix this Wednesday. Whether this is a fix to the above problems or not remains to be seen. Since I published this report it has been confirmed that all European models are now shipped with the Firmware that fixes FBr, while here in NA it hasn’t been addressed. Here is to hoping for a statement Wednesday.

    *UPDATE* 8/6/11 : First there has been no true announcement from Panasonic NA as of yet. But after getting all the data collected and sent forward to the engineers (yes many people that owned the TV put in this work), the engineers were able to replicate the problem. Since then there is now a patch. This is not a Firmware update, instead it changes other “software” in the TV like the EEPROM. Since it is not strictly a Firmware update they cannot simply have your tv download it from the internet like normal. It REQUIRES, at least as of right now, a tech to come out to install it on your TV.

    Note that this fix has been confirmed to be loaded on TVs coming from the factory now. When this change occurred I cannot tell you neither can anyone that you can talk to, so please do not hound amazon, Panasonic or any other retailer. I assume the earliest we will see TVs with this update will be very late July produced TVs if not August. If you decide to buy a TV from Amazon please just allow them to come out and patch the TV instead of sending it back. If you send it back Amazon has to eat the shipping and this is one company that tries it’s hardest to help the customer. So please do not make them eat the cost or else they WILL eventually have to change the policies they have. It may take a few weeks to get the rep out, butit is worth it to allow amazon to keep its very lax and customer happiness driven CS.

    Now onto the results :

    I have had this patch on my TVs for 2 days now. I compiled a list of FBr material that was bad during the data collection phase before we passed this on to the Panasonic Engineers so I had a list prepared to test this afterward to see if it was fixed or not. Running through 20 of the worst scenes over 6 movies (Harry Potter Deathly Hallows 1, Tron, Casino Royale, Hereafter, Battlefield LA). In these movies I saw not 1 noticeable FBr ( I say noticeable because FBr is in the driving mechanism of this TV). I noticed only 1 instance of a small FBr in the movie The Rite, but it was under extreme circumstances (dark background to near white background with a shadowed face in a scene change). Besides that I also watched some streamed video (Master Chef, True Blood, Band of Brothers etc) and got the same results of no FBr. Gaming (Fallout 3, Dragon Age Origins and Gears of War 2) was also the same, no FBr.

    Overall it fixed the problem almost completely, if not completely. This patch surpassed my expectations and Panasonic owned up and fixed a glaring problem. There have been 3 forum users that have this fix and posted about it. They all report the same thing.

    If you have purchased this TV or any other Panasonic NA ST30, GT30 or VT30 and have the problems mentioned above please call 1-800-973-4390. This is Panasonic Concierge and this is the number that was requested to call by the engineers. Tell them you have Fluctuating Brightness. Low end techs have been sent a memo regarding this. Many are now receiving emails to set up appointments.

    Because of this fix I have amended my score of the TV. For this price this TV is amazing. I reserved 5 stars for the Pioneer Kuro (the gold standard), 4 1/2 stars for the VT series and dk8000. This TV 4 stars is an undervaluation, but it is all I can do on here. Honestly it would be 4.25 taking into account the above TVs superiority. I cannot express how happy I am with this TV now that it is fixed.

    ****UPDATE 8/22/11****
    They have a limited amount of panasonic qualified techs that can install the update via SD card and will NOT give out the SD card for local non-panasonic techs to install as it has proprietary software on it. To alleviate the problem they send a new a-board to local techs that has the patch preloaded. The tech can then come out and install the new a-board under warranty claim (all free to you).

    It is a simple procedure and only takes 15 minutes. This a-board replacement doesn’t void any warranty as it is done by Panasonic under Panasonic’s warranty by a qualified tech.

    *WARNING* the a-board swap AND the SD patch will wipe your calibration and the ISF day/night mode (ISF day/night is only available if you have the TV calibrated and the tech turns it on in the Service menu), if you had one done. If you decide to do either of the fixes I would suggest buying a backup program (like controlcal) to save your settings. You can then reload them after the patch. It has been noted by calibrators that after either of the fixes that you will get close to the same results with the old calibration, but they say you will need a touchup to gray scale and colors to be as accurate as possible.

    From good sources it has been said that any August build TVs should have the fix pre-installed. Unfortunately the build date isn’t on the outside of the box in the US. There is another way to check if it has been factory installed though. The 3-6 numbers in the serial number designate whether it has been fixed or not. These 4 numbers need to be 1215 or higher for the fix to be pre-installed. It will look like : xx1215xxxxxx .

    Again if you order from Amazon, or any other online type store, they have no direct control on what comes out of the warehouse and you CANNOT request that it is an August build as they have no control on what goes out. If you want to be sure of what you get, you should buy local and specifically state you will only buy it if it meets those criteria.

    The fix is easy enough to get that you should feel comfortable ordering this product. Don’t order this product and expect a 1215. Instead order this product expecting to have the tech come out. You may get a set pre 1215 that has no FBr as about 50% of the people report that they have no problem without the patch or you may get a 1215 build, but you should go into it expecting what you will most likely get. Then anything else is a bonus. If you don’t feel good about buying the TV and possibly getting a FBr one then I suggest not buying from online stores.

    To those outside of the US. Panasonic divisions are completely separate as they use different components, different firmware etc so this fix is for US only. The US division is sharing this info with EU, Canada, Australia etc to try to get this problem fixed with those TVs also. The other countries are still in the beginning stages so don’t expect them to be exactly where the US is as the other countries have to test, document, confirm, create a fix (using different components/software mean they just can’t copy/paste the US fix to theirs) and then test the fix. I cannot give you an update on outside of US, but I would suggest that you make your voice heard by opening tickets and speaking out about the problem.

    Lastly for those that do have the TV or those that are willing to buy the TV and get the fix after. Call up Panasonic Concierge at 1-800-973-4390 . Allow them to walk you through the steps they have and try them as it is possible that it could fix your problem. If they walk you through that and you still see the FBr they should have received info on how to push it to the next level. To make sure here is the Document that they can look up regarding this issue :

    Service Hint (‘A’ Board replacement to fix the ‘brightness fluctuation” in the ST30/GT30/VT30).

    A majority of this info is me simply condensing what many others have done to get this in place. Thanks go to the great people of highdefjunkies.com especially 3 in particular, D-Nice for his initial findings and universal knowledge; AVjunkie and Gotchaa who helped consolidate/voice our problems to the techs.

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