Quantcast

The Best HDTV to Buy Today is the Panasonic ST60

By Geoff Morrison, Wirecutter

Last year, the ST50 hit a sweet spot in price and performance, making it one of the best deals going for flat panel TVs. This year's ST60 continues that tradition--it's an excellent television that just happens to also have a great price.

The Panasonic ST50 was last year’s pick for best TV because of its affordable price and outstanding image quality. By all accounts, this year’s ST60 has even better image quality--and cheaper too. CNet put it simpily in their homepage splash this week: “Our first-ever 5-star TV is the one you should buy.”

Initial reviews, including my own testing for an extensive upcoming Sound and Vision article, have even found the replacement not only superior to the ST50, but in many ways equal to last year’s VT50, Panasonic’s top of the line (and one of the best TVs of 2012). As such it is easy to recommend the ST60 for people looking for a big, high-performance TV at a great price.

How can we be so sure? Last year, the ST50 hit a sweet spot in price and performance, making it one of the best deals going for flat panel TVs. They out-performed similarly priced plasma TVs from Samsung and LG. The ST60 is a big jump from its predecessor, offering black levels (and contrast ratios) equal to the much more expensive VT50 from last year.

David Katzmaier from CNET recently posted his review of the ST60, one of the best and first, giving it the first ever 5/5 star CNet rating for a TV. He said the ST60 has “Reasonable price; incredibly good picture quality with exceedingly deep black levels, great shadow detail, accurate colors, solid bright-room performance, and superb off-angle and uniformity characteristics; sleek styling with metal accents; plenty of Smart TV content; includes two pair of 3D glasses.” His opening line says it all, really, “I’ve written TV reviews for more than 10 years, but I’m pretty sure this one is the most important. I’ll cut to the chase: If you value picture quality and don’t have money to burn, you should buy the Panasonic TC-PST60.” His bottom line? “The midlevel price and outstanding quality of the Panasonic TC-PST60 series make it our strongest TV recommendation ever.”

Another David, this time David Mackenzie from HDTVtest.co.uk found the ST60 “is another outstanding plasma TV which produces lush, vibrant image quality in normal living room and home cinema environments. For passive movie and television viewing, it doesn’t deviate from the winning formula of 2012′s ST50 series, and in fact improves on it by delivering even better contrast performance, with black depth that’s better still.“ He also said, “Install a Panasonic TX-P42ST60B in a moderately lit, or better yet, dedicated room, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best HD television-sized experiences you can buy at any price level – the fact that it’s on sale for £900 is a cause for celebration.” He concludes that the ST60 is “Highly Recommended.” I have tested an ST60 for an upcoming review in Sound+Vision magazine, and can confirm what the Davids found in their reviews.

It’s also worth noting that the ST60 is 3D, comes with 2 pairs of glasses, and has all the Smart TV features we expect in a 2013 TV (like Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, Amazon Instant Video, a web browser, etc). The ST60 is an excellent television that just happens to also have a great price.

Ads?

Like the ST50 before it, the only major issue is ads. Yes ads, on a TV you paid for in full. Totally not cool, but also not a deal breaker since they’re easy to remove.

What about LCD?

Plasma TVs offer better picture quality, for less money, than LCD TVs–especially at sizes above 50 inches.

Whenever we recommend a plasma TV over LCD, we’re often questioned as this seems to go against the “norm.” Plasma TVs offer better picture quality, for less money, than LCD TVs–especially at sizes above 50 inches. They don’t suffer from motion blur (when the image gets softer when anything is in motion), plasma TV’s picture quality doesn’t degrade as much (or often at all) if you’re not sitting directly in front of it. Many plasmas, including the ST60, perform well in bright rooms.

The oft feared “burn in” is not the issue some claim. Plasmas have gotten much more energy efficient, so plasma TVs only cost a few dollars more to run each year than a comparably sized LCD.

The only area where LCDs outperform plasmas is in maximum light output. As in, LCDs are brighter. However, plasma TVs are not “dim,” and often the extra light capability of LCDs is wasted. Watch an uber-bright TV at night can be fatiguing.

If you’re curious about the differences between LCD and plasma, check out LED LCD vs. plasma vs. LCD.

Who should get this TV?

Though it’s early in the TV review season, a few things are clear already. The ST60 series from Panasonic is going to be tough to beat for that combination of price and performance. Will there be other TVs coming out this year that look better? Probably, but all will almost certainly be more expensive. Much more expensive!

Most notable in that regard will be the VT60 and ZT60 series from Panasonic, and the F8500 series from Samsung. These haven’t been reviewed yet, but the prices tell us something.

For the three sizes that roughly match up with the ST60 series, Samsung’s TVs are $950, $1,450, and $1,080 more expensive (50/51-inch, 60-inch, and 64/65-inch respectively).

The step up VT60 has two similar sizes, which are $1,300 and $1,000 more expensive (60- and 65-inch). The step-step up, ZT60, also has two similar sizes, but will be even more expensive, $1,800 and $1,500 more than the ST60 (60- and 65-inch).

The biggest difference between these TVs and the ST60 will be picture quality, and most likely all three will be somewhat brighter than the ST60, with a slightly better (or similar) black level, for a better overall contrast ratio. Now this means they will likely look a little better, but unless you’re going for absolute performance, the ST60 is already as good as one of the best TVs of 2012, and as you can see, way cheaper than what will likely be the best TVs of 2013.

The ST60 is nearly as good as the best TV I reviewed last year, but is 5-inches larger and costs over 30% less.

If you have a room with lots of windows, and watch a lot of TV during the day, an LCD might be a better option, and as the reviews start coming in for the 2013 models, we’ll look for the best deal. Honestly, though, all TVs look better if you can control the light in your room somewhat (like curtains).

Is it necessary to spend this kind of money on a TV? No, and we’ll likely see some great cheaper models. If you’re just looking for an inexpensive TV, there will be better options, possibly Samsung’s upgrade to last year’s excellent-for-the-price E450 series. We’ll have to wait for the reviews to hit to see if Samsung has a winner with replacement, the new F4500 series.

However, it is highly unlikely a cheaper TV will look as good as the ST60. I’ve been reviewing TVs for 12 years, and the ST60 is one of the best I’ve seen. It’s nearly as good as the best TV I reviewed last year, but is 5-inches larger and costs over 30% less.

Wrapping it up

So if you’re looking for a great looking TV for not a lot of money, and don’t need the absolute ultimate performance, I recommend the Panasonic ST60 series. It’s available in 65-, 60-, 55-, 50-inch models.

This story originally appeared in The Wirecutter, published 4/17/2013 and reprinted with permission.