While I’m a notorious gadget flipper, it isn’t very often we upgrade our primary television. And it’s been five years since we last purchased a big screen HDTV. As in 2007, we opted for a Panasonic plasma – given our positive prior results and CNET’s high marks across the board. So I was pretty stoked when the backordered 55″ ST50 arrived on Friday, expecting nothing but good things.
Out of the box, without any sort of calibration during its break in, I’m quite pleased with picture quality (although I need to tweak a few things STAT to clean up the soap opera effect). I didn’t purchase the set specifically for apps, yet they seemed like a nice bonus given its decent selection (YouTube, Netflix, Amazon, Vudu, Skype, etc) and despite the odd, sluggish UI. Well… that was prior to the ST50 downloading ads. Because now I find the app dashboard, managed by online merchant Digital River, cluttered with Capital One and Shutterfly spam – including a video advertisement that overrides your previously playing picture-in-picture. Obnoxious!
Equally obnoxious are what appear to be time-based banner ads that periodically pop up when adjusting the volume. I’d originally thought these were being delivered by Amazon Instant but, given Sean Logan’s photo above taken while watching cable, it’s clear this is Panasonic’s doing. Further, according to CNET, banner ads appear in additional formats and at other times. Supposedly these can disabled via an unintuitive Advanced Viera Connect setting… that doesn’t actually say anything about advertisements. Yet, another setting screen buried with the App Marketplace indicates I’m stuck with ads, whether or not I opt out of Panasonic tracking.
At this point, I’m not sure how I’m going to proceed. The television certainly wasn’t marketed in a manner that indicated these things and I feel Panasonic has abused my trust. At the very least, the Panasonic audio solution I was considering is off the table – its Viera Link that began a selling point is now a liability. And I’d say it’s even odds this set is going back to Best Buy.