Panasonic TC-P42GT25 3D TV
At a Glance
Think you're priced out of the 3D TV market? Think again. Panasonic's 42-inch plasma TC-P42GT25, the 3D version of their G25 line, is on sale these days for as little as $700 from some retailers and it's not a bad buy at that price.
The GT25 is very much an incremental update to their G25 line of TVs, so the design, remote, port selection, and general user experience are pretty much the same. The initial setup wizard lets you choose the language, switch between home mode and store demo mode, configure your various video sources (cable, antenna, etc.) and set up your Internet connection (via Ethernet or USB Wi-Fi dongle, sold separately).
The included Viera Cast features include Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, and YouTube, as well as Internet apps like Skype and Twitter. There's also a neat Fox Sports app that gives you readily-accessible sports scores and news. Configuring them was pretty easy, although typing with the remote is certainly a chore (imagine texting with a number pad on your cell phone, but clunkier). Note that you can use either the USB ports or the SD Card slot to view movies and pictures.
If you don't feel like calibrating your TV, the GT25 has a THX-certified preset that comes in handy. The THX mode is the easiest way to get the set looking good, though you should keep in mind that it was designed for a rather dimly-lit room (with pitch-dark room being ideal). There's also an included Game Mode, which turns the contrast up a bit too much for my liking, but claims to reduce response times (most likely by disabling certain image-processing features) so you won't have too much lag when you play.
Rather than rehash all features from the G25 line, I'll focus on the two big differences: Image quality and 3D features.
Our jury came down on the G25 for oversaturated colors and overly dark blacks—while the blacks were indeed very deep, they seemed a little bit too deep, as though the TV was "rounding down" the shades of dark gray into black. The net effect was that the colors were certainly vivid, but the oversaturation made everyone in our test clips look a bit sun-burnt, and the too-dark blacks meant we lost a lot of detail in dimly-lit scenes.
The GT25 has taken a reasonable step towards fixing these issues. They're still a bit oversaturated and too-dark, but less so than the G25. When we compared the two side-by-side, the difference was clear: the GT25 doesn't look fantastic, but it does look significantly better than the G25, and scored slightly better than the G25 TVs across the board. Ultimately, the GT25 landed a 3.3 overall image quality score over the G25's 3.0 (out of 5)—not bad, considering most TVs typically score no higher than 4.0 in most respects.
The 3D features were roughly comparable to the other 3D sets we've seen on the market, like the Sony Bravia 40HX800—and considering the price difference between the two, that's a good thing. When we tested the 3D features with Ice Age 3 on a PlayStation 3, they looked appropriately deep, and a few effects (like snow splashing on the "camera" lens) looked really good. Of course, they're not going to look as good as they do in the theaters (no current TV does) but it's not bad at all.
The GT25 uses active-shutter glasses which are notorious for creating blurry, flickering images, but the Panasonic design team did a good job minimizing their effect—the flickering wasn't terribly noticeable in our testing room (even with the lights on, surprisingly) and I didn't notice any outstanding problems with the 3D image quality. The included glasses are still rather heavy, however, and when I wore them on top of my corrective lenses my nose got tired after about 15 minutes.
Don't expect too much from the built-in 2D-to-3D upconversion features. It's a neat toy to play around with every now and then in case you find something that works better than expected, but for the most part it's rather unimpressive (though it makes the built-in menus look great).
When it comes down to it, the Panasonic GT25 is a solid 3D-capable TV with a handful of useful Internet-connected features. While it still has lingering image quality issues, it definitely looks better than its predecessor, the G25. All in all, the GT25 is probably the easiest way to fit a 3D, Internet-connected set into your budget.