Dear Big Picture Big Sound,
I recently bought a Panasonic TC-P50ST30 3D 1080p HDTV from Amazon, based partly on your review of the TV (and partly because it was an awesome deal). I got it out of the box and turned it on and was less impressed with the picture than I thought I would be. It's sharp and detailed, and looks great in 3D mode, but it isn't as bright as some of my friends' LED and LCD TVs and the colors are a little dull and lifeless. Is it possible I got a defective unit or is there something I can do to make it look better?
-Gordon, New York, NY
Thanks for writing in. This is something we've also noticed on the 2011 model year Panasonic plasma TVs including the S30, ST30, GT30 and VT30 models, and possibly others as well. And you can blame the government for this one. Recent legislation requires that all TVs above a certain size have to use a specific amount of electricity (or less) in their factory default picture mode in order to be Energy Star-certified. In order to safely meet these stringent power requirements, the default picture mode setting on the 2011 Panasonic TVs ("Standard" mode) is actually quite a bit dimmer than most consumers would like, particularly in a bright room. But there is an easy fix.
You can adjust the picture of your TV in the Setup menu - "Picture" settings - to boost brightness and color controls to a level that is more appropriate for your specific viewing conditions. Or you can switch over to one of the other preset picture modes. "Vivid" and "Game" modes are the brightest, but not necessarily the most accurate. "Cinema" mode is actually the closest to a properly calibrated picture setting, right out of the box. The GT30 and VT30 series have a "THX" mode which is actually even closer to a professionally calibrated picture, though it does require a darkened room for best results. We'd recommend the "Cinema" setting for most purposes, though you might want to increase the brightness setting a bit if your room is very brightly lit.
To set these picture modes, just hit the Menu button on your remote and enter the Picture settings, then select "Picture mode" and use the left/right arrows to select among the various picture modes. Panasonic's 2011 plasma TVs do produce some of the best, most accurate pictures available, but unfortunately they don't look their best right out of the box.
Hope that helps!