Viewed in a blackout, the Panasonic TX-P50VT50 has an almost 3D-like quality, but that's got nothing to do with active shutters.

Just from watching a 2D Blu-ray disc of Shutter Island, we can tell instantly that the Infinite Black Ultra filter is at work. It's not just the deep, inky blacks that it creates that so impress, but the contrast within mixed brightness scenes.

During the dream sequence, ash falls from the ceiling as the light sweeps in, then a fire breaks out. And it's all handled exquisitely by the panel.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50 review

Fine details are discernible within large blocks of darkness, such as side-lit wall shadows, while fast-moving sequences and both rapid and pondering camera pans are visually almost seamless.

We did try out Intelligent Frame Creation, though could only come to one conclusion; it introduces artefacts when on anything but the Low setting, and doesn't add much in terms of fluidity.

That impeccable treatment of dark colours extends throughout the colour spectrum, though the polished blacks are best appreciated in as total a blackout as possible.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50 review

Watch the Panasonic TX-P50VT50 on a cold, dark winter's night and you'll instantly see the difference between this and an LCD TV.

But if you plan to use it in a living room where the lights are always switched on, think twice; this is not the brightest picture around (switch to THX Bright Room mode if that's an issue), but it does create something hauntingly natural. However, this isn't the final act in plasma perfection; blacks could be even blacker.

Turning to Freeview HD and BBC One HD's Later… With Jools Holland we see the smooth, noise-free image continue amid those same bold colours, with the darkness of the studio handled perfectly.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50 review

Meanwhile, plasma's reputation as being sublime with sport continues; Manchester City vs Borussia Dortmund on Sky Sports HD 1 via a Virgin Media TiVo box looked crisp and super-smooth.

Switch to standard definition and the detail takes a dive, but not the pristine, noiseless picture, with even a low-res YouTube clip looking smooth and clean.

If potentially low-bitrate fare and the resulting jagged edges mopped up effectively (and we were more than happy with a DVD), the Panasonic TX-P50VT50 really gets into its stride with a 3D Blu-ray disc of Hugo.

Panasonic TX-P50VT50 review

This sublime piece of cinema is given a pin-sharp and fluid treatment, though it's once again worth bearing in mind the noticeable drop in brightness when wearing the 3D specs.

With the THX Cinema 3D mode engaged, sequences such as the opening salvo of a snowdrift and the subsequent sweep into the train station - often a crosstalk-fest for some 3D TVs - is immaculate.

And the sense of realism in mixed brightness scenes inside the train station is yet another reason why the Panasonic TX-P50VT50 is top of the plasma pile.

This more complex, more refined picture suggests that 3D as a bona fide AV format is coming of age - at least at this high end.