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A 2-D Review of a 3-D TV. Great TV.
on November 16, 2010
Disclaimer: First I'd like to say that I do not have the equipment to view this set's 3-D picture yet. I bought it as a hedge against 3-D. I'm not sure if 3-D is going to take off, but if it does I know I'm ready for it. I thought I would get that out of the way so while you will know I cannot review that feature of the TV, I still have a lot to tell. Now on with the show...
The Panasonic comes shipped in a conveniently designed box where you simply punch out four inserts and lift the box top off of the base. Sort of like when you get a cake from the bakery in a plastic container. Inside's the TV, the stand, the remote (and batteries), the power cord, and the owner's manual. Attaching the swiveling base is very simple and involves screwing a metal fork onto the base then slipping the TV onto the fork and screwing it down. The whole process takes 5 minutes and I was able to do it without any assistance. Also, I'd like to mention that Amazon shipped the TV through a company called HomeDirectUSA. They were very professional and opened the box for me to make sure the TV was undamaged.
Looks wise the Panasonic isn't much. It's framed in a piano black trim and is about 3 inches deep. The base is also done in piano black with a chrome band around the edge. At the bottom of the TV's frame is a bronze colored streak. Overall it's a classy look, but also nothing special. On the lower edge of the TV are the 3-D glasses' transmitters and the remote sensor. On the left side of the TV are various buttons (channel, volume, menu, input, and power) along with a few inputs (HDMI, composite video, and an SD card slot) and two USB ports (for hooking up the wireless dongle amongst other things). On the back of the set (on the set's left side viewed from the front) are two HDMI, two components, one composite, one RF/coaxial, and a PC input. There is also an optical audio out. The TV's build quality is very good, the materials are nice, and it feels sturdy overall. Lastly, the included remote is long and narrow, but well laid out with large buttons that light up.
Using TV is straightforward and easy. It guides you through the set-up, scans for channels, sets up the network, and sets the clock. The menu system is logically laid out and easy to use. The picture controls are many and allow you to fine tune precisely, although the pro-setting are only available in Custom picture mode. Besides Custom mode there is Vivid, Standard, THX, and Game modes. Each mode can be tweaked individually and set up differently for each input. Some of the features included with the Panasonic are 5 individual timers to turn the TV on and off and a sleep timer. There is also VieraLink that, if the TV is connected to the Internet, allows you to view YouTube or Netflix among other services (I have not used this feature since I stream that content through my Blu-ray player). You can insert an SD card or a USB jump drive into the set and view photos, videos, or listen to MP3 files as well. This feature worked well when I inserted an SD card from my Canon camera and the photos looked very nice on the screen. Another nice feature is being able to set channels as your favorites so you can jump to them more quickly, or have the channel only scan favorites when you go up and down channels. Features to reduce burn-in include a pixel orbiter (which very slightly shifts the picture to prevent burn-in) and a scrolling bar pattern that wipes a white bar over a black screen for 15 minutes. While burn-in is much less of an issues with plasma sets then it used to be, if you like to watch non-high definition TV with the bars on the side, or play video games and pause them for a long time, plasma may not be the best bet for you. Finally, there are light sensors on the front of the TV to allow the set to adjust its brightness based on ambient light conditions.
Picture quality on the Panasonic is where this TV shows it mettle. I have the set hooked up in the following manner. My LG Blu-ray player and Nintendo Wii are hooked up to my Onkyo receiver, which is in turn hooked into the Panasonic via HDMI. The Blu-ray is hooked into the receiver using HDMI and the Wii using composite video. For cable, I use the RF/coaxial input. I am not a videophile and tweaked the picture menu myself where I settled on the Vivid setting with some adjustments to make it considerably less vivid (usually I hate vivid mode but I like it on this set). I find the picture looks best when I leave the automatic adjustment for ambient light on. I also have the TV set-up to show 95% of the image where the edges are cropped off so I don't view any image breakdown at the picture's edge. Watching any high definition content, be it Blu-ray, cable TV, or streaming Netflix, the picture looks its best with great detail and clarity (this is especially true when watching Blu-ray discs). Watching standard definition content doesn't look bad either, obviously it doesn't look great stretched out to 50", but the details hold up well and it's more than acceptable. Regardless of the source, the colors are accurate, the dynamic range is great with deep and detailed shadows, and there is no motion blur even when playing video games or watching animated content. My previous television was a 32" 720p LCD and compared to the LCD the plasma Panasonic looks more "fluid" and "film-like". The details don't jump out at you like they do on a high end LCD set (sometimes obnoxiously), but the picture is clear and sharp none the less. The screen has an anti-reflective coating that seems to work well. I have the set in a room with two big windows on the west side and I adjust the blinds when necessary to keep the sun's reflections off the screen. In the end, a plasma is no worse in this regard than a traditional tube television. Overall, I am very pleased with the picture and am a plasma convert.
The TV's built-in speakers are fine for casual viewing, but if you want a true big-screen experience you're going to want to hook this set up to at least a 2.1 system, if not a full blown 7.2 system. Mine is hooked up to a 5.1 system.
Speaking of sounds, I don't notice any humming from the set. Occasionally, if I have muted the sound and a bright white scene comes on I hear a slight hum, but it's barely noticeable and goes away as soon as the scene changes. Also, the set does not give off much heat as far as I can tell.
There are only a few negatives I have about the set and they are as follows: 1) The piano black trim on the set shows reflections much worse than the screen itself. 2) The set only has 3 HDMI inputs, most have 4. 3) The remote sensor is very low on the set and I have my center speaker in front of the TV so I have to angle the remote upward in order for the signal to reach the TV.
All in all... a great plasma set, with tons of inputs, features, and adjustability, but an especially great picture quality.
P.S.: Sorry for the long review. There is a lot to cover. If you'd like to know anything else leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer.
11/24/2010 Update: Hitting the sub-menu button on the remote allows you to quickly change the behavior of the channel up/down button. For instance you can have it scan only your favorites, or just the digital channels. This is a nice touch, and a nice shortcut.
02/26/2011 Update: The television is still going strong and has maintained its excellent picture quality. I left a menu from my DVD player paused on the screen for about a half hour by accident, and after about a minute the retained image was gone. No issues with burn-in, humming, or anything. Great set.