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Panasonic TH-65PX600U 65-inch Plasma HDTV Print E-mail
Sunday, 01 April 2007
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Panasonic TH-65PX600U 65-inch Plasma HDTV
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ImageI’m not sure what I was thinking when I requested a review sample of Panasonic’s TH-65PX600U. No, that’s not true. I know exactly what I was thinking: “Hmmmmm, 65-inch 1080p plasma…ooooooooo.” The allure of it managed to push a few relatively important details aside, such as where in my house I would put it and how I planned to get it there. The panel weighs 174.2 pounds – that’s without the speakers or pedestal stand, both of which are optional accessories that cost extra ($600 and $1,200, respectively). Needless to say, this isn’t the type of product you casually throw up on the wall for a short-term viewing period, so I went with the optional stand, which is itself a serious piece of hardware: it weighs about 55 pounds, and its base (48.9 by 16.5 inches) is too large to sit atop my normal gear rack or any other short cabinet in my home, for that matter. Ultimately, I decided that, for my purposes, it would be fine to simply set the plasma on the floor.

Then there was the fact that I wasn’t strong enough to help my husband lift the panel out of its box and into said stand. Normally my pride prevents me from admitting when a piece of equipment is too heavy, but this time I had to acknowledge my complete and utter lack of upper body strength and call in reinforcements. The TH-65PX600U’s box shows four people unloading the panel; we used two, but we didn’t have far to go. If you plan to mount this panel on the wall, I highly recommend you adhere to the four-person rule. Once the spot was chosen and the plasma unloaded, all that remained was the small task of rearranging the entire room to accommodate my new toy. After all that, you may wonder, did these ergonomic challenges in any way deter my enjoyment when I finally turned on the TV? Nope. Would I do it all again? Yep.

The absence of speakers gives the TH-65PX600U a clean, straightforward look, and the build quality and aesthetic are of a higher-end caliber than other Panasonic plasmas I’ve reviewed. An inch and a half of black frame surrounds the 65-inch screen, and a two-inch, brushed-silver bezel runs along the bottom panel, housing on/off, channel, volume, input and guide buttons, an SD card slot and a set of A/V inputs, including one of this set’s three HDMI inputs. Despite its monitor-like appearance, this is a television, with internal ATSC, NTSC and QAM tuners, plus a CableCARD slot. The internal tuners share a single RF input; the channel scan is fairly quick, and it’s easy to set favorites and delete channels once the process is complete. In conjunction with my Terk HDTVi antenna, the internal ATSC tuner successfully found all of the major channels in my area and did a decent job of holding the signal, although I’ve seen better.
The remote looks like just about every Panasonic remote: it lacks backlighting and dedicated input buttons, but has a clean, intuitive layout. The TH-65PX600U uses the TV Guide Onscreen program guide and includes a G-Link port/cable for controlling an external cable box. Split-screen is the only PIP option, and you can’t view HDMI, PC, or SD Card sources through the PIP system. Should you forego the optional speakers, both optical digital and stereo analog audio outputs are available to send audio signals to an external sound system. If you do add speakers, the onscreen menu includes basic treble, bass and balance adjustments, an audio leveler, simulated surround and a set of BBE sound modes.

The connection panel isn’t extensive, but includes a decent amount of HD-capable inputs. As I mentioned, you get three HDMI inputs, including one on the front panel, which makes it easy to temporarily connect a product like the PlayStation 3 after you’ve already mounted the display on a wall. The remaining HDMI inputs – as well as two component video, one VGA, two S-video and two composite video inputs – reside in an easily accessible recessed panel on the unit’s backside. This plasma features Panasonic’s HDAVI control system; if you connect this TV to other HDAVI products via HDMI, you can automatically power the system, switch inputs and control devices in a more intuitive way.

As with connection options, the number of picture adjustments is adequate but not extensive. You can choose between three preset picture modes (Vivid, Standard, and Cinema) and make adjustments to color temperature (Cool/Normal/Warm), contrast (Picture), brightness, color, tint and sharpness for each mode. Advanced adjustments include a color management option to “enhance” green and blue, a CATS setting that affects contrast, and noise-reduction options for video, blocking and mosquito noise. The TV has four aspect ratio modes, but no automatic aspect ratio detection. You can adjust the color of 4:3 sidebars, and the menu includes two options for 16:9 content: the default Size 1 shows 97 percent of the image, with just enough overscan to cut off any undesirable or unused edges; Size 2 is a true 1:1 mode that shows 1,920 x 1,080 content pixel for pixel, which is the ideal choice if you mate this with a high-def DVD player.

As with other Panasonic displays, the TH-65PX600U doesn’t let you make separate adjustments to each picture mode for the different inputs. If you choose the Cinema mode, for instance, you can’t make one set of adjustments for component video and another for HDMI. On the plus side, the Standard and Cinema modes are similar enough that, with some minor adjustments to the general picture controls, you can enjoy pleasingly natural images through both. The first thing you want to do is turn down the sharpness control to eliminate some visible edge enhancement. Second, you want to turn down the contrast to less than two-thirds of its maximum setting. I noticed some phosphor lag, in which the screen retains a ghost of an image, when moving between test patterns and switching from 4:3 to 16:9 content. Plasmas are especially susceptible to short-term image retention during their first 100 hours of use; turning down the contrast helps minimize this, and you’ll also want to be mindful about leaving 4:3 sidebars and stationary content up for too long when you first break in the TV.

From a color temperature standpoint, both the Standard and Cinema modes appear to be a little warmer than neutral, with the Cinema mode looking redder than the Standard mode, but neither is far enough off the mark to adversely affect skin tones or overall image quality. Where the two modes differ is in contrast ratio. Panasonic has a reputation for delivering the best blacks in plasma, and this TV is no exception. Using a luminance meter, I measured the exact same black level (0.018 foot-lamberts) in both picture modes. Given the screen size, I wasn’t surprised to find that this TV has less light output than Panasonic gets out of its smaller plasmas: with a full-field white pattern, I measured around 15 ft-L for both modes, giving the TV a solid contrast ratio (for a plasma) between 826:1 and 861:1. However, in the Standard mode, the light output in a white window, which is arguably a better reflection of real-world content, gets much brighter (33.6 ft-L), and the TV’s contrast ratio goes up to 1,866:1. With this in mind, I used the Standard mode primarily for viewing HD cable, via component video, as this source sees a lot more action during the day. I went with the Cinema mode for the HDMI input, as it did a fine job with darker, more cinematic content from standard and high-def DVD sources.

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