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Panasonic TH-65PX600U 65-inch Plasma HDTV Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 April 2007
Article Index
Panasonic TH-65PX600U 65-inch Plasma HDTV
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Television and Movies
Normally I begin a TV review with standard-definition content and work my way up the quality chain. However, when this TV arrived, I happened to have both a Toshiba HD-XA1 HD DVD player and Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray player (with the firmware upgrade that fixed the performance issues) on hand, so I couldn’t resist the urge to start at the top. Beginning with a couple of excellent HD DVD transfers – V for Vendetta (Warner Home Video) and Swordfish (Warner Home Video) – sent at a 1080i resolution, the first trait to jump out at me was the TH-65PX600U’s great detail. I’ve grown accustomed to a certain softness in 720p plasmas, due to their lower horizontal resolution compared with LCD. With a full 1,920 x 1080 canvas to work with, the TH-65PX600U brings out the fine detail in faces and backgrounds; further assisting in this process is the TV’s more precise shading and contrast, compared with a backlight-based technology. Black detail in V’s dark coat was excellent. The Black Hawk Down (Columbia/TriStar Home Entertainment) Blu-ray disc is another beautiful transfer, filled with detail and rich in complex shading, and the TH-65PX600U did a superb job handling every nuance, especially when receiving 1080p from the player. Colors were rich and lush, although purists will note that greens and reds look somewhat exaggerated.

It was more of the same when I switched to HDTV programming: excellent detail, rich color and finer contrast that gave the image outstanding depth. The TH-65PX600U will expose quality differences between HD broadcasts. CBS consistently serves up the highest-quality HD images: How I Met Your Mother was very clean, with wonderfully rich colors and excellent detail. NBC shows like Heroes and The Black Donnellys had good detail, color and black detail, but were also noisier. To evaluate the plasma’s handling of motion, I checked out an HDNet hockey game, as well as several basketball games on ESPN and TNT HD. Compared with my 37-inch reference LCD, the plasma did a better job retaining details in the background as the camera moved quickly around the arena. It also does an equally good job with 1080i and 720p signals, which isn’t always the case; however, if you plan to use HDMI for your cable or satellite programming, these inputs are a little slow to pick up the signal when switching between resolutions.

Standard-definition DVDs also looked good on the TH-65PX600U. Test patterns and demo scenes from Kill Bill Volume 1 (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) and Lost: The Complete Second Season (Buena Vista Home Entertainment) show 480i DVDs to be a little soft, which isn’t surprising on a screen this large. Those Lost episodes boasted rich color and good black detail, with little digital noise in grays and solid colors. The TV’s good black level gives darker films like The Bourne Supremacy (Universal Home Video), Collateral (DreamWorks), and The Corpse Bride (Warner Home Video) great depth in a dark room, and you don’t loss image saturation when viewing the TV from an angle.

Speaking of image saturation, plasma can't compete with LCD in terms of overall light output, and light reflection off the glass panel is still a concern. Watch a dark scene in the middle of the day, and you'll see reflections in the screen. As such, plasma isn't a good fit for a really bright, sun-filled room. In my moderately lit living room, I watched a good deal of programming during the day. Neither the reflections nor the TV's overall light output was a concern with brighter HDTV content, especially sporting events, which looked rich and well saturated. SDTV and DVD content also had good saturation, but the glass reflections were more distracting when I watched consistently dark films like Collateral and The Prestige. Of course, these types of films are better suited to a darkened viewing environment, no matter what type of display technology you use.

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