How good the 50PZ850T's pictures are depends on what you decide to compare it with. For while it often looks pretty handy, at least with HD, when compared with your average LCD TV, it falls short of the standards being set right now by its main plasma rivals.
This performance summary is particularly appropriate when it comes to the 50PZ850T's contrast performance. For while its black level response is actually good-to-very-good compared with most LCD TVs - especially in terms of the amount of shadow detail retained during dark scenes - black colours certainly look greyer than they do on equivalent Samsung and Panasonic plasma models.
To be fair, this is only really apparent when you're watching predominantly dark scenes. Where there's a mixture of bright and dark content, the set's black level efforts look extremely accomplished.
Especially as plasma's self-emissive nature means that dark and light parts of a shot can be produced with independent luminance levels, so there's no need to compromise the bright bits in order to improve the dark bits.
The 50PZ850T's colours are a similarly mixed story. Compared with the best LCD/LED TVs, there's no doubt that its colours look slightly dull at times, certainly once the screen has had a little calibration work done on it. In fact, post-calibration pictures in general look rather muted and short of brightness.
That's not to say the 50PZ850T isn't capable of looking quite punchy by plasma standards; it's just that it only looks really dynamic if you use the 'Vivid' preset or leave its colour, contrast and brightness settings set so high that colours look gaudy and noise levels look excessive.
While sensibly calibrated 50PZ850 colours might not be the punchiest around, though, they are actually reasonably accurate in most areas, as well as containing a quite expressive amount of subtlety when it comes to portraying small tonal shifts and blends. That said, colour tones aren't perfect; there are always a few tones that look a bit under-saturated no matter what settings you use.
The 50PZ850T shows off more of plasma's advantages, meanwhile, when it comes to motion reproduction, as there's scarcely any trace of the motion blur that troubles pretty much all LCD TVs to some extent. There is a little judder to be seen, and some very faint traces of fizzing noise over skin tones as they pass across the screen. But both these flaws can be considered minor.
With some decent if not spectacular sharpness and detailing evident while watching HD on the 50PZ850T, meanwhile, overall the set can be considered a rather good 2D HD display - especially if the room it's in isn't very bright.
What's more, it turns out to be a reasonable 3D display too - especially as it suffers far less than some of LG's other plasma TVs with the dreaded crosstalk double ghosting problem. There's still some evidence of it over 'classic' crosstalk-inducing sequences, but it's neither as common nor as aggressive when it does appear as it can be on many rival 3D TVs.
The full HD active 3D images look detailed and 'HD', meanwhile - though there's no hiding the fact that they also look quite a bit duller than their passive counterparts.
Aside from the collection of minor niggles noted in passing already, the 50PZ850T has a trio of more significant issues you need to be aware of. First, its screen seems a little prone to image retention, suggesting that it needs to be treated with great care, at least in the first few weeks and even months of your ownership, if you want to avoid any potential permanent 'screen burn' issues.
Next, the 50PZ850T doesn't seem a particularly good friend of standard definition. LG's highest-spec LCD TVs have exhibited some much-improved standard definition upscaling this year, but the 50PZ850T leaves standard def sources looking a bit soft and murky, and also seems to struggle to deliver the same sort of colour accuracy in evidence with HD material.
Bad news for gamers
The third of the 50PZ850's genuine disappointments - if you're a gamer, at any rate - concerns its input lag. For as with many other LG TVs in 2011, this plasma model records a figure of 81ms, even when using its dedicated Game preset. This is more than twice as high as the input lag figures of most rivals this year, and from our experience can result in reduced performance when playing fast-reaction games.
It's probably necessary to at least mention here, finally, that the PenTouch functionality works reasonably well after an initial 'learning curve' aa you figure out what sort of interactions the screen 'likes' and which ones it doesn't. But as mentioned earlier, at no point did any of the features PenTouch delivers remotely feel like sufficient justification for including such a bizarre feature on a domestic TV.