Panasonic TX-50CS520 review

4K? No. Great value HD? Definitely.

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Our Verdict

Panasonic's mid-range HD model looks smart and modern, is well stocked with impressively customisable smart TV features, and delivers picture and sound quality that are both far, far better than you might expect of a £520 50-inch TV.

For

  • Great value
  • Good picture quality
  • Surprisingly effective audio
  • Customisable smart TV system

Against

  • No Firefox smart platform
  • It's not 4K
  • Mediocre standard def upscaling
  • Backlight clouding issues

Brace yourselves tech fans: the Panasonic TX-50CS520 is not - I repeat, not - a 4K UHD TV. Despite boasting a home cinema friendly screen size of 50 inches.

What's going on here? Has the world stopped spinning on its axis? Have we stepped through a time warp that's taken us all the way back to 2014?!

Actually, the answer's pretty simple. For however difficult many of us technology obsessed folk may find it to believe, there are still a heck of a lot of people out there who don't care two hoots about 4K.

In fact, I suspect there are a heck of a lot of folk out there who still haven't even heard of it. So it would be madness for the TV manufacturers not to still cater for this Full HD audience.

What's more, you could argue that from a financial point of view this non-4K audience is very astute. For the tsunami of 4K UHD TVs flooding shop shelves this year has applied some pretty dramatic downward pressure on the prices of HD TVs, meaning that even though it's not remotely rudimentary with its specification, the 50CS520 will cost you a mere £520.

Premium looks

The fact that this lowly sum isn't just buying you some sort of lowest common denominator hunk of third-rate plastic becomes obvious as soon as you look at the 50CS520.

Its pencil-thin screen frame is narrow enough to set a high-end tone, the contrast between the deep grey of the top and sides and the silvery finish of the bottom edge is cute, and the remarkably restrained stand does a great job of leaving you focussed where you really want to be focussed: on what's showing on the TV's screen.

Panasonic TX 50CS520

The 50CS520's build quality isn't the greatest, however, but it looks the part unless you happen to be standing or sitting much closer to it than is sensible.

There are, though, less easy to accept signs of budget compromise with the 50CS520's connections.

You get just two HDMIs when we're now accustomed to finding twice as many, and you only get one USB port for playing back multimedia from USB storage devices when we're increasingly finding at least three on well-to-do modern TVs.

The 50CS520 does at least still offer both Wi-Fi and LAN network options, which are partnered with Panasonic's 'my Home Screen' smart interface to deliver both DLNA streaming from compatible networked devices and access to Panasonic's 'walled garden' of online content.

No fantastic Mr. Firefox?

Dedicated followers of tech may have spotted there that I talked about Panasonic's my Home Screen interface, not the swanky new Mozilla Firefox OS Panasonic unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.

Unfortunately, if not entirely surprisingly, the Firefox system only comes into play higher up Panasonic's new TV range.

Panasonic TX 50CS520

Having seen Firefox there's no getting around the fact that my Home Screen now feels dated; a sensation not helped by the way a classic 1980s computer-synthesised female voice is used to narrate parts of the initial set up procedure.

However, my Home Screen remains an exceptionally easy system to use, and also benefits from bags of customisability. Different members of your household can even easily set up their own individual starting 'home' screens to provide faster access to their preferred content.

It's also good to see that despite the 50CS520's affordability, my Home Screen isn't its only 'smart' component. For as with many of last year's Panasonic TVs, this one carries built-in Freetime support, meaning you can access on-demand content from the UK's key broadcasters simply by finding shows you want to catch up on by scrolling back through time on the Freetime electronic programme guide.

Screen specification

Turning to the picture technology sported by the 50CS520, it's pretty promising for an affordable big-screen TV.

The screen is lit by an edge LED system, with contrast supported by just an adaptive contrast system. There's no local dimming control over the edge LEDs, and although the set's motion handling is rated at 200Hz this is achieved through processing and backlight management; the panel is not running at a native 200Hz refresh rate.

The one interesting thing about the 50CS520's heart is Panasonic's claim that it uses a new Bright Panel Plus architecture capable of producing a marked boost to brightness. Though it's hard to quantify the benefits of this as Panasonic isn't one for revealing its TVs' luminance specifications.

One last point to note is that as more evidence of 3D's sadly declining fortunes, the 50CS520 doesn't carry any 3D support.