on August 5, 2013
As a consumer who actually bought the ZT60, I think I can put a few things into perspective. Back in '09 I saw a demo of a 50" Pioneer Kuro plasma (the industry reference for black level quality until now) at a store with the lights switched off. Yes, I was impressed. Blacks looked visibly black. A couple of months ago I went to a Magnolia (Best Buy) store to see if the ZT60 could live up to its hype. The ZT60 was not in a controlled demo room but was placed on a wall directly under a VT60 with a lot of ambient store lighting. Under such lighting conditions, I honestly couldn't see the difference in black level between the VT60 and the ZT60. The main advantage of the ZT60 under bright lighting was somewhat less reflectivity/screen glare. I asked for a demo in the dark demo room but only a VT60 was in the room. I checked out the blacks using night scenes off my own "Taxi Driver" and "American Werewolf in London" BluRay discs. Blacks were inky black. Since I couldn't do an A-B comparison between a VT60, ZT60, or the Pioneer Kuro TV for black level using the same material the best I can do was base my comparisons of black level on memory. Given the Kuro's already impressive performance, can anything else "blow it out of the water", as some posters on CNET put it? I'll just say that the Kuro has finally been laid to rest. But let me say that when a black screen appears on the VT60 it looks extremely dark already.
When looking at a black screen on my ZT60 at home at night with the lights off, it appears that the unit is practically turned off (really). At that level, it's just an exercise in futility to compare it to a Kuro and split hairs. It's plenty good enough for me.
In overall performance it handily beats the very best LED backlit LCDs I've seen, including the current Ultra HD 4K sets (except in resolution) I've seen (since all of them use LED backlighting). At this point, you may be wondering why I would compare a 1080P HDTV to a 2160P (4K) set. Based on the demos of 4K sets that I've seen on 60 to 65-inch screens, the difference (really just resolution) between 1080P and 2160P is only visible when you are standing several inches in front of the screen. Most people would rather view from several feet away in a living room setting. Also, the 4K demo material is video-based. I can't imagine seeing any more detail even from a transfer of a 70mm film print when seated at a normal viewing distance in a living room. In terms of 4K sources, the Blu-Ray format does not support that resolution, leaving Sony to offer a $600 4K media box that only works with their own brand of 4K TVs. There's another alternative in the form of an even more expensive source component. But all this points to a shaky start for yet another format that provides little benefit to consumers. In fact, 4K is just a transitional format for the 2nd tier of the Ultra HD standard, 8K. So why buy 4K at all? Anyway, I digress.
Back to the subject of overall picture quality. With all the statements about black level, you'd think that that was the only important picture parameter. I'll say that one of the first things I noticed about both the VT60 and ZT60 were the great reproduction of different shades of gray (maybe better than the Kuro set which had a tendency to crush dark shades of gray to black). On the ZT60 there seems to be, if anything, also a noticeable advantage in the reproduction of red. Reds are reproduced with a natural purity I've never seen before. I can't comment on the 3D performance of the ZT60 because I don't have a 3D BluRay player but I briefly converted a 2D Blu-Ray to 3D. The motion seemed to appear with the "soap opera" (video) effect. That said, 3D performance is not important to me so I consider the feature to be a "throw in" anyway.
My only pet peeve about all the professional reviews I've read about the ZT60 is the statement that SD sources look great. While it's true that DVDs appear extremely good on the ZT60 when using an HDMI connection, the aforementioned statement is obviously based on the reproduction of DVDs (which occasionally look like HD sources) and broadcasts. I say this because there is no support for legacy sources that use the S-Video connection. I've seen so many professional reviewers trash this connection by saying that making an S-Video connection was awkward (well, you don't do it often, do you?). Yet, there is no criticism of the old composite video connection's quality. I don't think a professional reviewer would mind putting up with the minor inconvenience, given the composite connection's dot crawl from inherent crosstalk between the luminance (black & white) and chrominance (color) signals. As expensive as the ZT60 is, you'd think that an S-Video input would be included. How much can such an input cost? I make a big deal about this because I have a lot of S-VHS recordings of material I simply can't buy or don't care to buy again in another format and I also have some laserdiscs. The composite input of the ZT60 rolls off the high end of the video signal. Looking at an S-VHS recording of a standard definition Snell & Wilcox resolution test pattern through the composite connection shows a horizontal resolution of well under 300 lines. Yet looking at the same recording through the S-Video input of my old old SDTV shows roughly 410 lines. So what to do? The receiver connected to my ZT60 doesn't have S-Video inputs either so I can't use it for any handshaking between the S-VHS VCR and the ZT60. Fortunately, I have a D-VHS machine that has S-Video inputs and HDMI outputs so I can either play my S-Video recordings through this machine or use its S-Video inputs for my S-VHS VCR (which does a better job playing S-VHS videos) along with the HDMI outputs to the receiver. Result? The 410 lines of resolution appears on the ZT60 and the recordings closely approach DVD quality.
Despite the S-Video omission, I still believe the ZT60 is a 5-star product. Its reduced screen glare/reflectivity, its practically perfect black level, the great reproduction of shadow detail, and extremely accurate colors have seduced me already. In fact, these performance parameters are unrivaled. As I've already mentioned, the first parameter cannot be matched by the current generation of higher resolution Ultra HD TV sets, given their use of LED-backlit technology.
To make the most out of the ZT60, I switch to the THX Cinema mode, load a Spears & Munsil Blu-Ray calibration disc then adjust the black-level, contrast, sharpness according to the disc's test patterns and set the color temperature to the normal setting. I didn't find the recommended picture adjustments of CNET reviewer, David Katzmaier, helpful. In fact, the settings seem to appear way off when looking at the results when using my OPPO BDP-83 Blu-Ray player as a source.
In a nutshell, I'd list the Pros vs. Cons as follows:
Unrivaled picture quality
Extremely accurate colors/color temperature in the THX mode/EBU modes right out of the box
Beats The Pioneer Kuros black level and gray scale reproduction
Low screen glare/reflectivity compared to all other plasmas to date
No S-video input to make the most of S-VHS sources; composite video input rolls off high-end and makes SD sources appear duller than they are
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2/28/2014 Update Regarding 3D viewing: Initially, I commented on a "soap opera" effect when switching to the 3D viewing mode. Upon closer examination, I realized that the motion-smoothing circuitry was turned on by default in this mode. Once I went through the "Picture" menu options to defeat the motion smoothing, the "soap opera" effect disappeared. Be that as it may, unless you have genuine 3D source material (mine is simulated from a non-3D Blu-Ray player), you may quickly grow tired of the 3D viewing mode. After about 30 minutes or less of viewing in 3D mode, my eyes felt a bit fatigued. So I just watched in 2D mode.
If I were to sum up the appearance of the 3D mode, the results are not unlike what you would see when looking through old "Viewmaster" 3D slides (remember those?). Rather than seemingly palpable images, objects appear to be 2D cutouts layered at varying depths. The appearance isn't unpleasant but it's not realistic either. I'm not faulting the ZT60 for this because this is a characteristic I've noticed with all the 3D sets I've watched.
on December 25, 2013
Incredibly good picture quality from high-quality HD inputs; the best picture quality of any TV for watching 1080 HD programs at home from usual viewing distances; exceptional black levels and picture contrast; great picture details even in dark and mixed scenes; very natural, accurate and truly deep, solid, rich and smooth colors (including white color); natural and smooth skin tones; 2D picture looks almost 3D in high-quality scenes with edges of people and objects clearly defined and separated from the background; great motion handling; great for watching sports, movies and any other programs; no color blooming or light bleed that is observed on LED/LCD TVs; very good picture brightness and lowest screen reflections of any of today's TVs (plasma and LED/LCD) which makes it suitable for brighter rooms as well; excellent picture quality also from all side viewing angles (immensely better than LED/LCD TVs); very good picture adjustments and factory pre-set picture options; THX certified picture settings; standard definition (SD) picture quality (via HDMI input) is as good as on any other high-end TV; nice and discreet TV frame and stand without noticeable light reflections; very thin TV profile - as thin as most LED TVs; nice and intuitive TV remote control.
P65ZT60 Possible Concerns:
Like with any plasma TV image retention might be a concern for some users (see the full review below for details and how to minimize this concern); although not a big concern, some low level TV buzzing noise could be heard occasionally during some quiet, brighter scenes in a quiet room from some of these TVs; the TV speakers are adequate for most general use but a sound bar or a separate sound system is recommended for movies (for sound effects) and music shows; the TV cost and availability - at $2,800 (for a 65" set) it was a great value for the picture and overall TV quality, especially when compared to the other more expensive but lower (by comparison) picture quality TVs - however it may not be available much longer at an affordable/reasonable price for most people.
See the full review below for more details and how to adjust the TV settings for optimum TV performance.
I looked for a few months for a high-quality TV to replace my almost 6 years old Sony 52XBR4 (52-inch 1080p, 120Hz) LCD TV in my family room. This XBR4 LCD TV has CCFL backlights that were used before the more recent LCD TVs moved to LED backlighting. Today's LCD TVs are usually called LED TVs because of their LED backlights. The old Sony XBR4 TV is still one of the best 2D TVs of any kind today, with precise picture details, strong colors and good viewing angles, but mine developed some intermittent display panel issues that cannot be fixed. For me high quality of 2D picture is by far the most important attribute of any TV, with everything else far behind. I had never owned a plasma TV before. Knowing the Best Buy's good return/exchange policy (no extra cost to me, plus very good and free home delivery and TV stand assembly every time) I decided to try some top plasma and LED TVs at home before I settle on the best one for me. I did not want to go for a 4K/UHD TV mainly because of their still extremely high price (for a 65-inch or larger TV), the picture quality with 1080 i/p HD sources was not visibly better from my normal viewing distance, and no meaningful quantity of 4K/UHD programs is or will be available any time soon. Also, all current 4K/UHD TVs are LED TVs that similarly to the today's 1080p HD LED TVs suffer from limited viewing angles as their picture fades significantly when viewed from more than 20 degrees or so away from straight in front of the TV.
I don't have a preferred brand but do consider the company commitment to product performance, quality and support. Product performance (picture quality for TVs) is more important to me than the price, within a reasonable and affordable price range. I first purchased a Panasonic P65VT60, 65-inch plasma TV from a local Best Buy store. I returned it about two weeks later and replaced it with a Sony 65W850A, 65-inch LED TV. I returned it as well and replaced it a week later with a Panasonic P65ZT60, 65-inch plasma TV, which I still enjoy very much. Although I bought all these three TVs from a local Best Buy store, I posted my reviews here on Amazon. I like Amazon reviews, use them often before buying things, and I can update my reviews later if I want or need. I also considered and made some comparisons with the Samsung's top 64-inch plasma TV, PN64F8500, and its 65-inch UN65F8000 LED TV, but that was based on in-store evaluations only.
To some readers it may be useful to know that all these three TVs (the ZT, VT60 and W850A) were manufactured in October 2013. They were used and evaluated in my family room that has large windows on one side. My open-style kitchen is behind me when sitting straight in front of the TV. The room does not have any direct sunlight but normally receives enough daylight to read a book. In the evening and at night there are usually ceiling lights in the kitchen behind me when watching TV, and I often have ceiling lights on above me and the TV. The TV sits on a floor stand about 2 feet from the floor. I usually sit about 12 feet from the TV straight in front of it and occasionally about 6 to10 feet from the TV and up to 50 degrees to the side from straight in front of the TV.
My typical TV watching is via an HD cable (1080i) through an HD DVR connected to the TV via a high-quality HDMI cable. The programs my family and I normally watch are: NBA, soccer and NFL games, movies, news, business news, golf, music concerts, TV shows, all mostly in HD but some are 4:3 SD with vertical black side bars. Some HD movies I watch are wide, 2.35:1, with horizontal black bars at the top and bottom of the screen. The HD source content is usually of good quality, but there are still many shows and movies on HD channels that clearly are not of 1080i HD quality although they are labeled as HD. I also watch Blu-ray movies and concerts from time to time, all via a high-quality HDMI cable.
<< Detailed review of P65ZT60 Picture Quality >>
It's difficult to describe how incredibly good picture quality (PQ) is on the ZT with optimum picture settings when fed with a high-quality 1080 i/p HDMI input without seeing it for yourself. All colors look very deep and strong/solid, not just the predominantly mentioned (in online reviews) inky black color. The screen brightness is very good. Picture details, including the edges of people and objects are so well defined and separated from the background that the picture appears very real and often almost 3D deep in high-quality scenes. I did not notice this as much when watching this TV in the store, so if you want to check it for yourself you may need to buy one, feed it some good 1080 HD source content, adjust the picture settings to your liking, and enjoy it. Buy it from a store or online seller that has a good return/exchange policy, so your only risk is that you may like it a lot and keep it like me. Keep in mind though that lower-quality video content will look lower quality like on any other TV, so don't expect miracles. SD shows look just OK like on my XBR4 LCD TV. Good SD DVDs look very good though.
Color reproduction looks superb on both VT60 and the ZT, and the overall picture quality looks great from virtually any viewing angle. The ZT's picture appeared slightly better in a dark room than the VT60's (this could be subjective) and noticeably better in a room with some lights or daylight - probably mainly due to the ZT's much better handling/reduction of screen reflections. Unless you increase the vividness related settings, the colors look very natural. All professional online reviews that I read said that the factory preset ZT's THX Cinema setting already had very good color accuracy (it's THX certified by Panasonic as well) and that further calibrations produced only minor color accuracy improvements that none of us would probably notice when watching this TV. The color accuracy also depends on the cameras used for the recordings and on video processing, which may affect the TV picture. Never having a plasma TV before and recently watching some new and much more vivid LED TVs, I initially thought that the picture colors were too subdued on plasma TVs. That also got me to feel that my old XBR4 LCD TV picture colors were subdued as well, as they looked similar to plasma colors (I had my XBR4 in the factory pre-set Standard picture mode). Then I started paying attention to how things I see on TV look in reality, like local NBA team jerseys and the basketball court markings, hoop rim color, etc. Unlike as displayed on in-store LED TVs (and many at home ones), the actual jerseys were not as bright in their color but had deep solid colors, the basketball floor markings were not shiny red but more dark red and the hoop rims were not red but orange. On both VT60 and the ZT these colors looked to me very close to the natural colors I saw directly with my eyes.
There seems to be some truth to the color gradation claims for the ZT and VT60 and to other advanced picture processing/producing features. For example, faces and skin in general look realistic and smooth from pixel to pixel not just in large camera close-up views but also in normal views. The W850A LED TV and to a lesser extent my old XBR4 LCD TV sometimes had small flat-looking patches of seemingly same color pixels, apparently not being able to properly process/display subtle color gradations/changes from pixel to pixel. Another example of this was visible while watching golf. The W850A TV often displayed the grass at mid and farther distances as patches of seemingly same green color. I could not improve this much even with numerous picture setting adjustments on the W850A. On the other hand, both VT60 and the ZT showed a natural green grass with a lot of detail in similar situations.
To really see fine details in dark scenes you may need to adjust the picture contrast and/or brightness levels while playing, or even better pausing on some dark scenes. Otherwise the picture may lose some details in dark scenes, or even be too bright, depending what picture setting you select. I did need to adjust my short-time owned VT60 TV in its THX Cinema settings like this. It often felt a little too dark in the default THX Cinema settings. My ZT brightness looks optimal in the THX Cinema mode with or without the room lights or daylight being present. Like with any other TV the picture brightness also depends on the brightness of the source content, not just the TV settings. However, I don't feel I need to change the picture settings when viewing different programs. Different brightness settings may be more suitable for your viewing contents, conditions, or your liking. You can also have two or more different picture settings to use with different programs if you want, like the THX Cinema Bright Room picture setting if you like a brighter picture. Keep in mind that each video input, e.g., HDMI1 for your cable, HDMI2 for your Blu-ray player, etc., has and keeps its own picture setting, so you need to select/adjust their picture setting separately at least once, if you want to change their default setting.
I changed the picture settings for all my viewing from THX Cinema to the Professional calibration settings recommended by Sound and Vision in their online review of P65ZT60. Those Professional settings produce virtually identical picture quality to the THX Cinema factory preset on my ZT60, including brightness, sharpness and color accuracy, and they are much friendlier to the TV regarding image retention (IR). THX (and EBU) settings lock Pixel Orbiter to the Auto mode (not changeable), while the Professional and other picture modes let you set the Pixel Orbiter in the constant "On" mode, which makes a big difference regarding image retention (I discovered this recently). See more info about this in the IR section below. Thus, I highly recommend the Sound and Vision Pro settings with Pixel Orbiter set to "On". You can just adjust the contrast and/or brightness in those Pro settings based on your viewing environment and programming you normally watch, if you feel you need any picture brightness adjustments.
When watching some rock concerts on Palladia HD channel (1080i) the stage and instruments often look so real on the ZT that you feel you can reach inside the TV. The sense of depth is often so good that when the camera shows the stage over the outdoor crowd's heads, it feels like you are there at the concert. Lights at night and indoor concerts look superb, and all different colors look vivid and focused as they should be, which also confirms that these plasmas can display truly vivid colors. This is also noticeable in animated movies where computer generated colors are used to enhance the vividness in the source material. Madagascar 3 - 3D movie looked awesome even via 1080i cable, with amazing colors and with objects (and animals) flying realistically at us from the screen that made us jump instinctively few times, as it looked like we were going to get hit.
Sports also look great on the ZT when the video source quality is very good. The motion handling is great and smooth on both plasmas with all extra picture processing help in the picture settings disabled. Movies, especially from Blu-ray discs, are a true treat with this TV. This is where all decent TVs are usually very good, but not as good as the ZT (and the VT). It's hard to imagine how a high-quality Blu-ray (1080p) movie can look any better on any other TV, including 4K/UHD TVs when viewing from farther than few feet. The W850A is also very good with Blu-ray content but only up to about 20 degrees away from being straight in front of the TV (the picture fades when watching from farther to the side). Current 4K/UHD TVs had similar off-angle viewing issues when I checked them in local TV stores, with some of them little better than others. Nobody in my house is or will be using this ZT TV for video gaming, so not feedback from me in that domain. This room has always been free of video gaming and will stay that way; nothing to do with the ZT.
As for the concerns that white colors don't look white enough on these plasmas, e.g., the ice in the ice hockey rink; well, the ice in the hockey rink is not truly white, especially not bright white like displayed on LED TVs when set to high brightness. White clothes, jerseys, walls, paper, text, etc., look real white on both the ZT and VT60. They just don't look glowing white on these plasmas, as they are not glowing white in reality either. You can easily adjust picture settings on these plasma TVs to make their colors more vivid if you want, but that would make them look less natural and probably remove some details from the picture like it would on LED TVs when set to high brightness or vividness. However, this is a matter of personal preference, and everyone can choose what they want. At this point I can say with confidence that the ZT (and VT) can produce outstanding picture for any type of HD TV content as long as the original recording and the incoming video signal (via HDMI) are of high quality. I have seen this on various types of TV programs. So if your ZT does not show a great picture don't blame it; blame what's fed into it, unless your ZT unit is defective.
ZT vs. VT60 - I returned the VT60 after two weeks mainly because it sometimes had noticeable light reflections on darker scenes; nothing bad but enough for me to consider other TVs. Otherwise the VT60 is one of the best TVs, especially for a darker room. On the other hand, the ZT has the lowest screen reflections of any TV (plasma and LED) I saw at Best Buy (see more details below). The ZT appears somewhat brighter than the VT60 in my home environment when both are on the same factory preset THX Cinema picture setting. The picture on the ZT looks better than the VT60 picture when ambient light or daylight is present - probably mainly due to better handling of ambient light/daylight. Only the ZT incorporates a Studio Master Panel with a unique air gap-less panel technology that helps with these advantages. Each ZT TV is manufactured one unit at a time (unlike any other mainstream TV) which limits the number of ZT TVs produced. Thus, somewhat higher price of the ZT vs. VT60 is justified based on these performance advantages and extra manufacturing cost. I think that the ZT screen panels are manufactured in Japan using the above-mentioned special manufacturing process, but the final TV sets for North America are assembled in Mexico (mine has Assembled in Mexico on it).
ZT vs. W850A - I wanted to try at home what seemed to be one of the best 65-inch 1080p LED TVs. The W850A is a very good TV overall, especially if you watch it from straight in front of it and up to about 20 degrees to the side. My VT60 had better picture quality than the W850A in my viewing environment where visibly worse screen reflections of VT60 were not a big problem. As for the ZT vs. W850A, it does not really feel fair to compare them directly. The ZT is the top plasma TV, and really top any TV, while W850A is Sony's second or third tier down, although price-wise they are not that much apart (the ZT currently costs only $300 more). All main aspects of PQ looked better on the ZT than on the W850A - more realistic/natural colors, better depth of all colors (not just black levels), better picture details (no color blooming or light bleed on the ZT), clearly defined edges and separation of people and objects from the background, smoother motion, better and smoother skin tones, incredibly better viewing angles, somewhat lower screen reflections, etc. You can have the W850A brighter than the ZT, and some people may prefer it that way, but to me that usually means sacrificing some picture quality.
<< Screen reflections >>
Besides comparing screen reflections from ambient light at home on these 3 TVs, I did some side-by-side comparisons of screen reflections at a local Best Buy Magnolia department that had medium-level ceiling lighting. I did not have any side-by-side comparisons between these 3 TV at home because when the new TV got in the previous TV was taken away. However, my in-home evaluation of each TV is in agreement with my side-by-side comparisons at Best Buy. All evaluated TVs were on a single straight wall with the lower row on TV stands and the upper row hanging on the wall. The VT60 was immediately above the ZT on the wall. Next to the VT60 was Samsung's PN64F8500 64-inch plasma TV (Samsung UN65F8000 LED TV was below it), and a 65W850A was in a second spot away from the ZT. A sales associate was very nice and helpful to pause the Blu-ray player feeding all these TVs on a fairly dark scene. Reflections are normally not a problem on bright scenes on any TV. While all TVs were paused on the same dark scene, I moved from TV to TV at a distance of about 8-10 feet from each TV and stopped shortly to memorize my own reflection on each TV, and on different passes to compare reflections of other things in the room. I repeated this many times. The VT60 appeared to have the worst reflections of me and the other things around, while the ZT eliminated most reflections reasonably well and even appeared slightly less reflective than the W850A. In fact, the ZT looked less reflective than any of the TVs on the wall. There were about 10 other high-end TVs on the same Magnolia wall, mainly LED TVs, including 4K/UHD TVs. Samsung's PN64F8500 plasma was noticeably more reflective than the ZT and the W850A but noticeably less reflective than the VT60.
I repeated this evaluation also when all TVs were completely off and the screen reflection comparisons were the same. Interestingly, all TVs appeared to have somewhat worse screen reflections when viewing from an angle than when viewing from straight in front of the TV. Although Samsung's PN64F8500 plasma TV can be visibly brighter than the ZT or VT60, if you want to have strong colors on it, especially strong blacks, it will still be more reflective on darker scenes than the ZT, which is where most screen reflections happen. I did consider buying the PN64F8500 but there was no price advantage over the ZT (the ZT is currently $300 less expensive) and the picture quality on the ZT looked somewhat better to me in mid ambient light at Best Buy. Also, the PN64F8500 stand is as wide as the entire TV, and I would have to spend hundreds of dollars on a new floor stand. I sometimes notice some subdued reflections on my ZT at home on very dark scenes during the day or at night with the room lights on, but they don't bother me. The ZT is clearly much less reflective at home than my VT60 was.
<< Image retention (IR) and burn in >>
Originally, I used my ZT60 (and the VT60) in the THX Cinema picture mode, until I discovered that having the Pixel Orbiter set to "On" makes a big difference regarding image retention. Both THX Cinema and THX Cinema Bright Room modes have the Pixel Orbiter setting locked to "Auto" and you cannot change it in these picture modes. I am not sure what "Auto" exactly means or does here, but having the Pixel Orbiter set to "On" instead makes a big difference for IR. How big? Here is one example. After watching the NBA channel on my ZT for about an hour in the factory pre-set THX Cinema mode, with the NBA information ticker at the bottom of the screen on all that time, the wide and strong static "NBA TV" text from the ticker and the ticker static horizontal lines were visible on closer look on lighter backgrounds even hours after watching other channels. The retained text was relatively faint and eventually, after 10+ hours of watching other channels, I could not see it any longer. Interestingly, I could not see any retained text while running the Screen Wipe (which is white) although it was visible on various lighter color backgrounds. I repeated the same scenario with the ZT picture in the above mentioned Professional mode with the Pixel Orbiter set to "On", and I could not see absolutely any IR at all from the moment I changed to a different channel - no text or line retention at all even on very close examination. My additional similar experience with static text, lines, boxes and logos also confirms that having the Pixel Orbiter set to "On" instead of to "Auto" makes a big difference with regard to the image retention (and possible burn-in, if the same IR is repeated long enough) so I highly recommend having it set to "On". I never notice any difference in picture quality or any image movement because of the Pixel orbiter being set to "On" compared to "Auto". I don't know how the Pixel orbiter on the ZT (and VT60) exactly works, but it does not appear to be just changing the adjacent pixels around each other, because it works well also on static text and other static objects that have 5 to 8 or more adjacent pixels of the same color in all directions, and often there are many static, same color pixels in the horizontal or vertical direction.
You have to use a picture mode different from the THX (and EBU) to set the Pixel Orbiter to "On". Knowing that THX Cinema on the ZT is certified to the THX standard for color accuracy, I am now using the Professional calibration settings from Sound and Vision that make the picture quality on my ZT look virtually identical to the THX Cinema PQ, including brightness, sharpness and color accuracy. Just google "Sound and Vision ZT60" and you will find their Pro calibration settings details in their P65ZT60 review. Make sure that you enter them exactly in one of the two Professional picture modes on your ZT, not in Custom or some other picture mode; because each factory Picture mode on the ZT has some different embedded settings that you cannot change, although the detailed color settings that you can change look the same (zero) in all of them. I had entered the Sound and Vision Professional settings initially in the Custom mode settings and the picture looked different than when entered in the Professional mode. You will also need to enable the Professional calibration setting on the ZT in Menu / Setup / Professional mode (isfccc) - On, before you can enter these recommended settings back in the Menu / Picture / Picture mode / Professional 1 (or 2). Make sure you set the Pixel Orbiter to "On".
If you still want to use the THX Cinema picture mode, I suggest some caution if you have same static text or images for a long time (continuously or repeatedly). While checking these TVs periodically at a local Best Buy Magnolia store I noticed some image retention on all 3 in-store plasma TVs (VT60, ZT and F8500). They had some IR even after 3+ weeks, like some BD menu text and the two horizontal lines at the black bars borders from predominantly displaying 2.35:1 movie clips. In addition to watching predominantly (day after day) 4:3 SD content or 2.35:1 movies, sport channels could be big IR offenders, more than other channels, because they typically keep their information tickers at the bottom of the screen even during commercials. Other channels usually run 4-minute or so commercials every 10 or 20 minutes during which all static tickers, text and network logos are normally removed, and the plasma TV phosphorus can refresh frequently. Video games usually have static image parts that may increase IR with prolonged use when the same static image is displayed repeatedly at the same screen spot for a long time. Based on my above experience, the Pixel orbiter set to "On" should help with this, but I have not used the ZT (or VT60) for video gaming so I cannot be sure.
My ZT screen is still clear like when it was brand new, although it had some IR in the past as described above. I have not done anything different or extra with regard to the TV break-in. No running of any break-in slides, no avoiding of any channel, content or anything else. My family (including my young kids) and I watch diverse contents on this TV like we watched on our Sony XBR4 LCD TV it replaced. None of us play video games on it though, as no video gaming has been played in this room in the past either. My ZT is almost never on the same channel for more than 3 hours. I also enabled the TV setting to automatically turn the TV off "when no operation of the remote and side panel keys continues for more than 4 hours" (just in case). This setting is in Menu / Setup / Eco Navigation.
<< TV noise >>
I sometimes notice some slightly elevated buzzing for 2-3 seconds occasionally on some quiet scenes and when the room is very quiet. It appears to be related to some brighter scenes but only sometimes, and I never hear it on darker scenes. The buzz may also be amplified by the wall cavity behind the TV. This occasionally elevated buzz is not noticeable when there is some room noise or when the TV volume is on more than about fairly low 12 (out of 100) and there is some sound coming from the speakers. The buzz is similar to a desktop computer buzz - more of a mechanical vibration type. It's different that the occasional whirling (fan spin-up) noise that I sometimes heard from my VT60 while I had it. Otherwise, the ZT makes some constant low level buzzing noise (like from a low noise computer) that I don't notice while watching TV, as it is not audible from in front of the TV even when everything else is very quiet and the TV is muted.
<< TV Sound >>
The speakers on the ZT are quite adequate for general listening. They often feel too loud when the volume is set on more that 25 (out of 100). I normally have the volume between 15 and 25 for most programs. While the sound volume from the TV speakers can be high, the quality of the sound is just OK for movies and music, and I often use my home audio system there instead. The sound from the VT60 felt somewhat stronger (from its front pointing speakers) but was also just OK in quality. The W850A produced somewhat weaker sound than the two plasmas (I needed to set it to about 35/100 for normal listening) but was still adequate enough for a flat panel TV.
<< TV Set Appearance >>
The ZT has a nice and discreet screen frame and TV stand that do not reflect the ambient light much or in any distracting way. The ZT looks similar to the VT60 but somewhat sleeker, and the red power-on light indicator at the bottom of the screen frame of the ZT is smaller and its light much more muted than on the VT60, so it does not divert your attention at all (you can barely see it). The W850A has a very shiny/reflective and thick TV stand that I felt at times I wanted to cover with something. Even the screen front frame on the W850A, being essentially shiny black, was visibly reflective in my room setup.
<< Summary >>
The Panasonic P65ZT60 plasma TV, in my opinion, has the best overall picture quality for typical home viewing compared to any current TV of any kind. You can get a brighter, higher resolution, or larger size TV, but for usual home viewing of today readily available high-quality (1080i/p) video content from usual viewing distances, including off-angle viewing, the ZT's picture looks the best overall, including 4K/UHD TVs. A different TV may be better suited for your own situation or preferences though, so do your own research. Also, keep in mind that to achieve the ZTs outstanding picture quality you need to feed it with good quality HD content. Sadly, Panasonic is getting out of plasma TV manufacturing, and soon there will be no new ZTs made. Being manufactured one unit at a time in limited quantities for only about a year, there will not be many used ZTs either.
I know that there are still concerns out there about possible plasma screen image retention and burn-in issues. My recent experience has nearly eliminated these concerns for my diverse ZT TV use with the recommended TV settings (as in the above IR section). There also may be some concerns that in few years it may be difficult to get spare parts if something goes wrong with the TV. I purchased the Best Buy's 5-year warranty ($600) that also covers image burn-in and a full TV replacement if it cannot be repaired. I really want to be able to do everything I reasonably can to enjoy this TV and protect my investment for at least 5 years. The ZT is that good, especially when compared to the other currently available TVs.
on December 15, 2013
After tying several video settings from various sources (CNet, D-Nice, soundandvision, etc), I found I liked the 2D video setting from the soundandvision web site...
I find these settings to produce the most accurate skin tones using the two sources I use, which is Apple TV and Cable...
As stated in my review, this plasma produces the best picture I have ever seen, and I would highly recommend it to anyone!
IMHO, the Panasonic ZT60 is the best TV on the market...
I was planning to hold out for 4K / OLED technology...but once I heard Panasonic was getting out of the plasma business, I decided to upgrade my original Panasonic - and I'm glad I did!
After I made the decision to upgrade, I spent several weeks going to various video stores and reading various articles, and was pretty excited to see Panasonic still made one of the best plasmas on the market.
I settled on the ZT60 model for several reasons -
1-Panel : Panasonic is the only manufacturer to make panels of this type.
2-Blacks : After looking at various models - including the VT - the ZT looked like it had better black reproduction. I can't say if it was sources, or if it was how the video stores had them displayed, but the ZT looked better to me...
3-Previous Panasonic ownership : I have had no problems with my original Panasonic whatsoever...I purchased it in 2005, and it has performed flawlessly.
4-Features : There were a few features that I like about the ZT60 that others did not offer...such as being able to have independent video adjustments for each source (gaming video adjustment for one, movie video adjustment for two, etc)...and being able to copy video adjustments from one input to another is quite the time saver...
5-Ethernet / WiFi capability : I like the idea of being able to update the TV software / use the TV itself for various sources...such as sharing pics, etc etc. Though we have been doing that for several years using Apple TV and Airplay, it's nice having an alternate source...
How I am using the ZT60 -
I currently have an Apple TV, cable box, and Xbox One plugged into the ZT60.
Video adjustment for the Xbox One set at Picture THX Cinema, Advanced Picture>Game Mode>On.
Video adjustment for the Apple TV and Cable as follows (from CNet) -
Picture mode: Cinema
Color temp: Warm 2
Vivid Color: Off
Color remaster: Off
Photo enhancement: Off
Video NR: Off
MPEG remaster: Off
Resolution remaster: Off
Caption smoother: Off
Brilliance enhancer: Off
Motion Smoother: Weak
-- Pro settings submenu
Panel brightness: Mid
Black extension: 0
Color Gamut: Rec. 709
W/B detail adjustment menu:
W/B high R: -4
W/B high G: 0
W/B high B: -2
W/B low R: 3
W/B low G: 0
W/B low B: 0
More detail adjustment menu:
[listed as Red, Green and Blue gain, respectively]
100 IRE: 0, 0, 0
90 IRE: -2, 0, 0
80 IRE: -2, 0, 0
70 IRE: -2, -1, 0
60 IRE: 0, 0, 0
50 IRE: 2, 0, 0
40 IRE: 0, 0, -2
30 IRE: 0, 0, -1
20 IRE: 0, 0, 0
10 IRE: 0, 0, 0
Color detail adjustment menu:
Red hue: 0
Red Saturation: -4
Red luminance: -5
Green hue: 14
Green Saturation: 10
Green luminance: 1
Blue hue: 0
Blue Saturation: 0
Blue luminance: -7
More detail adjustment menu:
Cyan hue: 5
Cyan Saturation: 0
Cyan luminance: 2
Magenta hue: 12
Magenta Saturation: 8
Magenta luminance: -10
Yellow hue: 5
Yellow saturation: 0
Yellow luminance: 3
Gamma detail adjustment menu:
More detail adjustment menu:
100 IRE: 0
90 IRE: -2
80 IRE: -2
70 IRE: 0
60 IRE: 0
50 IRE: 0
40 IRE: 0
30 IRE: -8
20 IRE: -8
10 IRE: 0
--Advanced picture submenu
Game mode: Off
24p Direct in: 96Hz [grayed out at 60Hz for non-1080p/24 sources]
3:2 pulldown: Auto [often grayed out depending on source]
1080p pure direct: Off [often grayed out depending on source]
HDMI content type: [all Off]
HDMI/DVI RGB range: [all Standard (16-235)]
Black level: Light
-- Screen settings menu
Screen format: Full
H Size: Size 1
[no other changes]
The depth and detail on movies is amazing - I'm watching 1080p movies that I've watched over the years, and finding details I didn't even see before (admitting my plasma was on the old side)...but, the difference between the two has been mind blowing...
There are some 'extras' on this TV that others might like or use - such as being able to setup 'home pages' for various household members, surfing the web, TV apps (such as YouTube, Netflix), etc. - but I find I have these sources on so many other devices (Apple TV, X1, iPad, iPhone), I'm not really using any of them...
I do find it's pretty cool to see the local weather, time, and date, when I first turn the TV on...
In closing, I find the ZT60 to be a great upgrade from my original plasma, and would recommend this product to anyone thinking about getting a new TV - and if you're thinking about getting a Panasonic, better get it now!