Design & Features
With its chunky 90mm girth, don't expect the VIERA VT20S to be your typical slim HDTV archetype like its skinny Z1 cousin for instance. What it lacks for in slenderness, however, the VT20S more than makes up for with a practical design and a handsome charm of its own. You'll need to fasten a total of seven holding screws to secure the panel onto its stand. The TV and base amount to 30.5kg, so take extra care when assembling this unit. While this plasma panel might not impress everyone with its unassuming looks, the VT20S' deep leather-like brown coat does set it apart from common black iterations. Besides its swiveling feature, what's commendable about the VT20S is Panasonic's stepped-up efforts in providing more multimedia connectivity features. In this regard, some of you might recall that previous VIERA generations used to offer a paltry SD Card slot alone. On the contrary, the VT20S is now armed to the teeth. Apart from a SD Card reader able to decipher the next-generation SDXC format, the PDP is also decked with dual USB 2.0 ports designed to read external drives, an optional Wi-Fi dongle and USB keyboard as well. The latter aspect is critical, especially when dealing with text-heavy applications such as Twitter on the TV's newly introduced VIERA Cast feature.
Judging from how its back panel was designed, wall-mounting this display will require some form of space concession since it most of the ports have a rear-facing placement. Apart from that, you need not have to worry about a lack of AV connectivity. On the analog front, the VT20S has three Composite ports to begin with and two Component connectors to boot. At the digital end, three of its four HDMI slots are located behind. More importantly, however, Input 2 supports HDMI 1.4's Audio Return Channel feature which enables the TV to send or receive audio signals via the same HDMI cable. This should minimize wire clutter if you are pairing it with a AV receiver. Little changes have been made to its remote stick. The wand offers a circular D-pad, a dedicated key for its VIERA Tools interface, and large numeric buttons. To manage a compatible Panasonic Blu-ray player via VIERA Link, for example, you may use the switch on the remote to toggle between the player and TV. On another note, the only gripe we have is the rather confusing mix of Menu and Option buttons. For that matter, hit the Menu button if you want to manipulate the TV's display settings and other adjustments.
Panasonic's displays have considerably fewer picture adjustments compared to the likes of LG or Samsung. What the VT20S has, essentially, are basic color temperature presets (Cool, Normal and Warm), 24p Smooth Film decoding, and a "Resolution Enhancer" for digital sources which doesn't seem to do much. More pertinently, Panasonic's flagship 3D PDP has two primary marketable traits to keep rivals on their toes; a THX certification and VIERA Cast feature. By that, users can rely on the THX viewing mode for a "more faithful" visual experience if calibrating the TV isn't an option. Most notably, of course, is Panasonic's anticipated VIERA Cast platform which enables the TV to draw Internet content on the fly. Panasonic's media platform is considerably late to the party on the local models, but it's better late than never, so they say. With VIERA Cast, you can look forward to a slew of integrated applications such as Picasa, Twitter, YouTube, Bloomberg as well as receive weather updates from The Weather Channel. On top of that, Panasonic also enhanced their VIERA franchise with a Skype widget with their latest offering. However, you'll need to fork out some dough for the optional Skype cam, which offers unidirectional microphones and 720p video resolution support for Skyping visually. You may hook the TV up to the Internet, either through its Ethernet port or use the optional Wi-Fi dongle. Like its competitors in the same league, DLNA is another key feature with Panasonic's 2010 VIERA line up.