The 2010 models from Panasonic has been awaited great anticipation, and maybe in particular the G20 series that comes at an attractive price. The G20 has the new Infinite Black panel that is said to improve black levels, as well as the THX profile that should improve picture accuracy significantly. G20 is also the successor to the very popular G10 series.
But can Panasonic G20 live up to the great expectations? And has Panasonic benefittet from the KURO technology that they acquired last summer from Pioneer? We find out in this review. Besides picture quality we're also looking at the improved VIERA CAST, DLNA (not on the US G20) and USB HDD recording.
We’re reviewing the European 42-inch version of the G20 but it should use the same panel and circuits as the US model.
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No drastic cahnges has been made to the frame and design. G20 looks a lot like the predecessor G10.
Panasonic G20 has been on a diet, though, and lost a few pounds. G20 is a bit slimmer than G10.
G20 has no built-in fans which I'm sure will please a lot fo you guys out there.
G20 has a swivel stand in the same glossy plastic material as the bezel.
Inputs are still facing backwards toward the wall, which is not too clever. However, some inputs are located on the side of the TV, including 1 HDMI input. Only one of the HDMI inputs is rev. 1.4.
On the HDMI 1.4 input (HDMI2) the TV automatically detects new devices. So, if you're watching TV from the built-in tuner and you then turn on your PS3 that is connected through the HDMI 1.4 input G20 automatically switches to that input.
The midnight-blue bezel on G20 is mostly perceived as completely black in the evening hours, but during daytime a blue tint is revealed. See the picture below.
Our TV signal is DVB-S (satellite) from Canal Digital and DVB-T (terrestrial). We also have an analogue TV connection.
Testing is done with the DVE (digital video essentials) and Peter Finzel test DVD. Testing is also done with DVD, TV, Blu-Ray and Mediacenter/PC.
We also use our own monitorTest . The software supports some of the traditional test patterns used to evaluate displays as well as some new and unique test patterns developed by the people here on Flatpanels.
Sony PlayStation 3 is our Blu-Ray player.
This functionality section has been extended because we want to touch on the internet, USB HDD recording, DLNA (onyl on EU models) and USB features. I have divided the section into smaller subsections.
The remote has not changed compared to the 2009 models. It has large buttons that are easy to operate. I still think that the buttons for volume control and channel selection is located too far down, though. The remote also lacks weight and feeling.
â€¨ USB HDD recording on Panasonic G20 â€¨G20 has incorporated USH HDD recording to enable recording on an external hard drive. This also enables you to put live TV on pause, and time future recordings. â€¨ â€¨
Please note that the external hard drive will be paired with the TV and cannot be used together with other devices without being reformatted. If you have important data move then to your computer before you connect the hard drive to the G20. â€¨ â€¨
When the hard drive is connected to the USB input on Panasonic G20 it is detected by the TV and you need to set up the hard drive and format it. The file system used is the FreeBSD/386. I tried with a 200 GB hard drive without any problems but I didn’t try with larger had drives.
You also need to enable USH HDD recording in the OSD on G20.
Now you're ready and all recording options are controlled via the remote control buttons at the bottom.
By clicking on the red REC button you initialize recording to the external hard drive. â€¨ While recording you need to stay on the same channel. If you try to change channel G20 tell you that you have to stop recording.
It’s no problem to switch to another source input such as HDMI to watch a Blu-ray movie. Recording on the digital tuner continues in the background. The maximum limit for one recording session is 180 minutes.
Panasonic has also combines USB recording with the TV Guide, so you can record coming program or set up reminders.
It’s not possible to program the TV Guide to record all episodes of for example friends, though but you can extend recording at the beginning as well as in the end.
The USB HDD recording feature also allows you to pause live-TV transmission. You need to activate the REW function in the menu in order to do so.
Recordings made with REW function are not stored on the hard drive. If you want to store anything you want to use the REC button at the bottom of the remote.â€¨ â€¨
I tried to connect the HDD to a PC afterwards but I was not allowed to play back anything. Actually the hard drive was not visible at all with the FreeBSD/286 file system. I could see it in Partition Magic but was not able to see my recordings and was therefore unable to check how much data my recording occupied (G20 didn’t feel like telling me).
The quality is actually surprisingly good. Sure there’s a small loss in picture quality from the actual broadcast but not its not significant, and I enjoyed watching some Winter Olympics afterwards.â€¨ â€¨
MPEG4 and HDTV is also supported by the USB HDD recording feature.
I didn’t try with a DVB-C source simply because I don’t have any cable providers willing to plug in anything around here. I tried to shift to DVB-C (with no signal) and the REW function started recording (for timeshift functionality) so I guess it’s no problem to use the DVB-C tuner in G20. When I tried to switch to the analogue input I was told that USB HDD recording was disabled, however.
To access your recording afterwards you press the VIERA CAST button and select video. Here you have a lit showing you the stuff. Everything is name and time labeled but there’s no option to rename.
So if you plan on getting the G20 you should definitely buy yourself as slim external hard drive as well. Plug it in and mount it on the back of the TV.â€¨ â€¨
Internet access - VIERA CASTâ€¨Panasonic has also updated their VIERA CAST system and added new services. mp3 files are now supported through the USB port and he graphical interface has been refined.â€¨
By connecting a USB stick in one of the two USB inputs you can play video, show pictures and play backmusic. Music playback runs fine and the graphical interface is very attractive.
Pictures can be turned into a slideshow and some background music starts. I wish I could play my own music, though.
Video codecs has better support than last year. It ate mpeg2, mpeg4, avi (and divx). G20 dislikes mov and wmv files.â€¨ â€¨
DLNA â€¨The DLNA (only on EU models, not on US models) feature allows users to play back music, videos and images from another computer or device on the home network. I used a cable connection but you can also plug in a Wi-Fi dongle on the side of the TV wo enable wireless connection.
The DLNA functionality is okay and better than on the 2009 models. It now supports more video codecs but no mov or wmv. And then there’s still no mp3 support. I guess you need to use the USB input for that but I would really like to playback my albums from my PC on the TV and stereo.â€¨â€¨
Also, images are compressed quite a lot over DLNA and are not displayed in full resolution. So, again, use the USB port for images (or the SD card reader). â€¨â€¨
Update: WMV via DLNA is now supported.
VIERA CAST also lets you connect to the internet and a variety of services. I found DailyMotion, Tagesschau, Youtube, Picasa, Bloomberg and Eurosport. You can also go one level deeper in the VIERA CAST interface and find nova.cz, qTom and bild.de, although these are local services. qTom is German and I could not access it. I also miss some local services.
Panasonic has promised to update the VIERA CAST services later this year. Hopefully,... they said the same thing last year and nothing really happended.â€¨ â€¨
Calibration and menus â€¨Panasonic has expanded the setting option with a THX mode and the new ISFccc calibration menu. The THX profile ensures very accurate and cinema-like picture quality. The ISFccc functionality enables users to access a range of advanced picture setting options. We missed that on previous Panasonic models so that’s very cool.
The menus have not changed graphically but now you have the professional1 and professional2 profiles with gamma adjustment (S curve, 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.4 and 2.6) and white balance control (white point) with RGB values in both gain (the brightest shades) and the cutoff (the darkest shades). There is also a color control, where you can adjust hue and saturation.
And of course you can find all the standard setting options such as brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, etc. And you can select from these picture modes: Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, THX, Game, Photo, Professional1 and Professional2. â€¨Also a new setting option called “Panel” has been introduced.â€¨â€¨
Panasonic has also incorporated a feature to copy settings from one input to another. Say you have calibrated the HDMI1 source and you want the same settings on the HDMI2 source you can easily do this without having to manually re-enter everything. â€¨Finally, you can lock settings.
Energy consumption measurements on Panasonic TX-P42G20 below:
After calibration I measured 164 W which is a bit better than on the G10 but higher compared to LCD-TVs with LED backlight.
Also, please note that the flat panel TV uses less power after calibration. This is common on flat panel displays because many picture parameters are reduced during calibration.
Calibration and picture quality
Out-of-box picture quality on G20 is measured below.
The graph says this:
The number on the left is the delta value. Delta is a difference between two factors; here it’s the difference between the measured colour on the panel and the actual colour that is our target.
A delta value lower that 2 results in a visible deviation from the actual colour.
A delta value over 4 or 5 results in wrong colours.
A delta value between 1 and 2 results in precise but not perfect colours.
A delta value lower than one results in almost perfect colours. The target is 0.
Everything between 0 and 1 is barely visible to the human eye.
The default settings are not great G20. My measurements and real-life picture quality shows signs of having too saturated and vivid colours which also the too low gamma has an effect on. A too low gamma is one of the reasons that colours would appear oversaturated. We aim for a gamma of 2.2 and on G20 it varies from 1.5 (bright shades) to 2.2 (dark shades).
The deviations in color accuracy are visible in practice but I think Panasonic has taken this approach to the default profile with the retail stores in mind. Plasma TVs are not great with first impressions in stores because the panel tends to reflect a lot of light from the ceiling making colors appear pale and dull. By compensating Panasonic may attract more attention on the battlefield.
The default profile has Eco-mode enabled which means that the G20 adjusts light output on the panels depending on the light in the surroundings. A general thing that I noticed straight away is that the new Panasonic 2010 models are brighter enabling much better daytime picture quality. Another factor is a great contributor to daytime PQ on Panasonic G20, too. I’ll get back to this later on in this section.
The default settings are a bit worrying, however, but as long as the other picture modes are not affected it doesn’t really matter so I changed G20 to its Cinema mode and took a new measurement.
In the cinema mode G20 has much better and much more accurate picture characteristics.
I went on to look at the THX mode that I’m sure that most of you people out there care more about. Below is my measurement on the THX profile.
The THX mode provides me with an excellent result, which is also significantly better than on the V10 from 2009.
The THX mode ensures excellent and very accurate color reproduction. The dark shades of gray are reproduced very well which also means that shadow detailing is good (I’ll get back to shadow detail). Gamma is very close to our reference of 2.2 and deviates only by 0.05. This means that the picture is balanced and colors are neither oversaturated nor undersaturated. The dark shades are not too dark and bright shades are not too bright (which is the case on most LCD-TVs today).
Color temperature is a tad too low but it is not critical.
This year, Panasonic has also integrated a so-called ISFccc calibration menu. We have missed this one on previous Panasonic TVs as it enables users to play with far more advanced calibration settings such as RGB (red, green, blue) calibration.
And although THX profile provides a fantastic result and stunning picture accuracy, it cannot stop me from playing with the ISFccc controls to see if I can improve color accuracy further as well as correcting color temperature.
I performed a complete calibration and used the THX profile as a starting point.
I wasn’t able to introduce major improvements compared to the THX profile but I have improved color accuracy slightly and I have gotten the color temperature closer to 6500 Kelvin.
Below are my calibrated settings.
Intelligent Frame Creation
Please note that the RGB setting options (red, green, blue) have no number indicators. +2 means that I have moved the slider two steps to the right.
Picture quality in practice
Let us move on to talk about how we experience picture quality on G20 and compare it the G10 from 2009.
Initially let me introduce some of the initiatives that Panasonic has implemented on G20.
G20 has a new G13 (13. generation) plasma panel that is labeled as Infinite Black. It’s not the flagship panel from Panasonic, though. The best panel is called Infinite Black PRO panel and is found in the V20 and VT20 series. Panasonic G20 does not feature the new phosphorus-structure to improve response time, either. This one is reserved for VT20.
One of the significant changes compared to G10 is the reduction in reflections on the panel. First of all Panasonic has improved light output from the plasma panel enabling a brighter picture that is better suited for daytime viewing. A lot of people felt that the G10 series was too dim and “boring” in terms of colour reproduction during the day time so this is a step in the right direction from Pana.
The most significant change in regards to reflections is another one, though. The plasma technology is comprised of different layers of glass and often the light reflections from sunlight or lamps would reflect into the layers and the in-panel reflections would cause the panel to appear dim and lifeless. Panasonic has improved in-panel reflections on G20 considerably by reviewing the actual plasma structure. That’s very good coming from Panasonic an all but the true question is how the actual real-life, marketing-filtered result turns out in practice.
And, so I studied G20. I found that in-panel light reflections are reduced significantly on G20. I see no mirror effect (see a picture in the viewing angles section). This improves color fidelity and intensity in daytime viewing and G20 performs better than G10 here. Check out the picture below of G20 in a brightly lit room with low autumn sun coming from windows on the opposite side of the room.
SD (Standard Definition) is quite good on the G20 and I see some improvements compared to G10. It’s not a revolution but the new imaging chip in G20 does a better job at de-interlacing and scaling, in order to improve detailing.
HDTV is simply beautiful. HD reproduction is detailed and rapid movement in sports and action scenes is handled well. I had a chance to enjoy a lot of the Winter Olympics during my time with G20 and I must say that plasma technology is still in front in terms of response time and motion resolution. G20 maintain a higher degree of detailing in quick scenes which I’m sure a lot of console gamers will be pleased about.
G20 has a new and improved version of the Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) system which has the same job as 100/120/200/240 Hz techs on LCD-TVs. In brief IFC wants to smooth out movements. Just like the 100/120 Hz systems on LCD-TVs. You do this be calculating (interpolating) new frames that are inserted between the existing ones.
I was not very pleased with IFC on the 2008 and 2009 Panasonic models because it had a tendency to introduce far too many artifacts.
This year IFC has been improved and even though artifacts and noise has not been eliminated the system does a better job at improving picture quality, and on G20 the actually has its entitlement.
The IFC also affects 1080p24 (1920x1080 resolution at 24 frames per second) signals - Blu-Ray – though and if you want to maintain the cinematic experience you’re used to from movies, you should turn off IFC on Blu-Ray viewing. IFC typically means that Blu-Ray content is reproduced a slightly more television/sports-like.
Color reproduction and accuracy on G20 is good but not perfect. I talked about the THX mode before that was able to provide very accurate colors, but accuracy is one thing gradtion is another. Imagine, for example, a smooth color transition from dark red to bright red. Ideally this would be perfectly smooth displaying all the small steps in red, but the G20 has a tendency to reproduce some of colors in"blocks" divided some section of the gradient into"steps".
It is not critical and the G20 is not an inferior is much similar to G10 in this regard but it is something the plasma technology still needs to improve.
It also detected on motion, because plasma technology is creating some colors by mixing new colors from existing one (called dithering). This is how plasma panels display dark gray tons, by mixing black with white. When rapid movement on the panel occurs it is difficult for the plasma panel to mix colors, because... yeah, they are constantly moving on the panel. You can also experience some shading issues with some colors on G20 (banding-like phenomenon) but again, it’s not much different from the G10 – but inferior to the KURO reference.
Phosphor trailing has not been eliminated on G20 either. Phosphor trailing occurs because of the phosphor that is been activated on plasma panels. When the phosphor emits light and changes state some intermediate colours are displayed – typically green and yellow. And you might experience this in sports or black/white moves.
Response time on G20 is far superior to all LCD-TVs today but phosphor trailing has not been reduced compared to last year’s G10.
Supposedly only the VT20 series will feature the new phosphor structure from Panasonic that should reduce phosphor trailing significantly.
G20 still has some plasma noise, too, from the dithering process. It has not been reduced compared to G10 and Panasonic has not reached Pioneer KURO that still sets the standards on most important separate picture characteristics as well as overall picture quality. If you’re standing around 1-1.5 meters from the 42-inch you can spot the plasma noise.
Even though G20 has some minor issues I must say that I’m very impressed with picture quality in general. It’s no revolution compared to G10 but Panasonic has introduced improvements to picture quality and especially daytime picture quality has been improved due to the reduction in reflections. Also, color reproduction in the THX mode is better than on G10 and V10 from 2009.
I feel depth and intensity in the picture on G20 but during casual viewing it’s evident that black levels are not perfect – and not on the KURO level.
I have measured black levels and contrast below.
Contrast ratio +/- 50
On the THX mode I measured black level to 0.04 cd/m2. It is good but not enough to keep me thrilled, running around with my arm in the air. In fact it's not an improvement compared to the 2009 models so Panasonic G20 does not set any new standard in regards to black level reproduction, and I suppose that the significant improvement (the improvement which I saw in Munich) will be exclusive to the V20 series and VT20 series with Infinite Black PRO panels.
I saw a big improvement in black level reproduction during daylight, though. Because of the new panel in G20 outer reflections and in-panel reflections have been reduced considerably. This ensures that colors and contrast is kept at a high level without appearing too dim and dead.
Left: Bad black level, good shadow detail -- Middle: Good black level, bad shadow detail – Right: Fair black level and good shadow detail
I also examined shadow detail on G20. The connection between shadow detailing and black level is explained in the picture above.
Shadow detail is very impressive on G20 and especially in the THX mode you can virtually distinguish all shades of gray providing you with excellent detail in dark movie scenes.
Finally I examined clouding on G20. Below you can see a picture of the G20 in a completely dark room. The picture is taken with a 2.5 second shutter time.
G20 has no clouding issues.
PC and Media Centre
G20 supports 1:1 pixel mapping. In order to achieve 1:1 pixel mapping you need to deactivate Overscan in the OSD.
Viewing angles are really good and much better than any LCD-TV out there. See the viewing angles on the pictures below.
Panasonic G20 has also eliminated the mirror effect that could occur in between layers of glass in plasma panels. It is also one of the reasons behind the better daytime contrast and black levels. Check out the picture below of a white object on a black background taken from an angle.
Sound quality is fair but lacks bass and mid-tones from the hidden speakers in G20. The speakers are adequate for daily use but if you like to enjoy a good movie you should definitely buy yourself some separate speakers.
There are a variety of options in the audio settings menus, and there is also a function that imitate surround but I can’t hear it. Speech is clear and distinct, though, which is good.
Panasonic G20 builds on Panasonic’s design tradition, and although the TV is a bit thinner in 2010 Panasonic has kept the glossy black look with round and soft edges. On the other hand most of you consumers out there will probably be pleased by the fact the G20 has no active fans on the back.
G20 has most of the picture characteristics from previous models and that’s not a bad thing at all. G20 is an improvement compared to G10 but it’s not a revolution. The THX mode ensures very nice picture quality and very accurate color reproduction - even better than the V10 model from 2009. On the other hand default settings are not very good.
Picture quality during daytime viewing and picture quality in brightly lit room has improved a lot on G20 because outer and in-panel reflections have been reduced considerably. The G20 also has higher light output to more light for daytime viewing.
Black level reproduction has not really been improved compared to G10 and I think we expect only the V20 or VT20 ranges to feature part of the KURO technology that Panasonic acquired from Pioneer some time ago. Black level during daytime has been improved, though, because of much less in-panel reflection but besides that black level reproduction is pretty much on par with G10. Shadow detailing is incredibly good on the other hand.
The functionality on G20 has much to offer. The VIERA CAST system gives you access to the internet we miss some local providers – at least here in Europe. DLNA has been improved but still no mp3 support!... The USB HDD recording feature is quite cool but it also has its limitations.
All in all, I must say that Panasonic G20 is a lovely TV. It is no revolution, and although expectations were very high, I think G20 is a worthy successor to the much acclaimed G10. Panasonic has introduced image quality improvements and the THX mode is great but we miss better black level reproduction.
When you take the price into consideration that is not far from the current price on <G10, as well as the picture quality improvements and the new functionality, Panasonic G20 looks like a winner once again. We therefore award the G20 series with our Highly Recommended Award.
Press the award logo to learn more.
We’re reviewing the European version of the G20 but it should use the same panel and circuits as the US model.