Most helpful critical review
42 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on October 14, 2009
I bought this TV a few weeks ago and am still getting accustomed to its features and quirks. It is a second large screen TV in my home, placed in the bedroom. Granted, it is large for a bedroom, but our viewing distance to the TV warrants a larger image. This TV came home with me because of the combination of reviews here and on Consumer Reports, and the price point. Despite these good things going for it, rather than elation at my purchase, my experience thus far has been somewhat on the disappointing side.
My setup is very basic: standard def cable TV and DVD player. At first the cable TV hookup was via coax cable. The picture was nothing to write home about, less sharp than on my old 27 inch conventional TV. The first program I watched was "The Wizard of Oz" on TBS. The image was extremely dark, annoyingly so. Colors were very good, but I could not get around the degree of darkness in the dark scenes. Attempts to improve the brightness/ lower the black level were met with frustration; I couldn't.
Reading info online subsequently pointed out you can only access the black level when "external devices" are plugged in. That means bump the connections up to S-video or component. (I would of course go to HDMI if I could, but my current cable box does not support it). Once I connected the cable via S-video, I was able to adjust and reduce the black level. That helped, but it is important to note the limited adjustment of black levels on this set: is either dark or light. That's it; there are no gradations, nothing in between. That level of flexibility is inadequate. Compared to the flexibility of settings on my 46" Samsung LCD, this unit falls far short in that area.
Sound on the unit is fine. I had no expectations that the TV's audio would compare to that from even modest external speakers or home theatre setup. If I need oomph I need only move to my living room where a decent home theatre setup awaits. To its credit, there is the capability to ratchet the volume range a few notches beyond normal. This is valuable with my cable setup, as there are programs or times of day when the sound inexplicably drops and I have to crank it close to the max to hear it.
I watched a standard DVD on an older DVD player hooked to the TV via component cable. The image was fine, no complaints. After rearranging DVD players to hook a newer, up-converting player to the plasma via HDMI cable, the picture it produced was as good as I could have hoped for: clear, sharp, good color rendition and good black levels. Without a 1080P set side by side, I did not feel the 720p video capability on this set was a compromise. Higher end sources (digital cable, Blu-ray) might make a difference, but without a 1080p set right next to it in my home, I can't compare, and so I don't feel as though I have lost anything at 720p. That said, I do feel the image is much richer and more alive on my LCD. Despite favoring the LCD image, I went for this plasma due to the combination of reviews, larger screen size and lower price when compared to a 40 inch LCD. It was a stretch to convince my wife we "needed" this set; explaining an additional $250 expenditure given how little we watch TV in the bedroom would have been my undoing.
The specs for this set show it to have an anti-reflective screen filter. I find this helpful. However, the glossy black bezel surrounding the screen is highly reflective, so whatever reflections are not caught on the screen are bounced back from the bezel; disconcertingly so. The stand is also gloss black, and any specks of dust that land on it show very clearly.
Overall, and so far, the set meets my minimum criteria. It is a lower-end unit in Panasonic's line, provides very good standard picture and sound, but there are important adjustment capabilities missing. While my situation did not warrant it, if this is going to be your main TV, spring for the extra $250 or so and buy the next level 1080P plasma or LCD set. The cost difference to bump up in quality and features will long have been forgotten in a few months' time, you will future-proof your TV-viewing for a few years, and you will have a better set.