Customer Review

288 of 297 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Current Industry Standard In Picture Quality, August 5, 2013
This review is from: Panasonic VIERA TC-P60ZT60 60-Inch 600 Hz 1080p 3D Smart Plasma TV (Discontinued by Manufacturer) (Electronics)
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:

Pros:
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

Cons:
Expensive
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.
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Comments

Tracked by 5 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 89 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 6, 2013 8:19:02 AM PDT
S. PATEL says:
Hi LW,

Thanks for great review.

My husband and I went to best buy last Sunday to look at 2013 plasma tv. We were debating whether to buy ST60 or VT60. Salesman told us that if we were thinking to buy VT60 today, he can offer ZT60 at the same price of VT60 and we bought 60 inch ZT60 for $2499.99. I am running slides to break in TV for 100 hrs. When I watch TV, I watch it in standard mode for now and even in standard mode, the picture is awesome. (Can't wait to complete 100 hrs break in.). I am waiting for D-Nice settings that I would try after 100 - 150 hrs break in in complete.

You mentioned that you compared VT60 and ZT60 side by side in store. Did you have a chance to compare both to F8500? If yes, what made you choose ZT60 over F8500? We looked at all three and I admit that F8500 picture was brighter than both VT and ZT. But somehow, I don't like Samsung (cant make myself trust them with quality of product) and I am happy with Panasonic TV I bought on 2008. That was an entry level 720p plasma TV and it is still functional with no issue even though I gamed a lot on that set in 5 yrs (sometime for 6-7 hrs straight). So, we decided to buy ZT60. Now that I have been reading rave reviews about F8500, I am questioning my decision. So, just wanted to check with you to know deciding factor for you to buy ZT60.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2013 11:32:49 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 6, 2013 11:39:26 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2013 11:33:16 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Aug 6, 2013 11:39:14 AM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2013 11:55:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 7, 2013 8:18:08 AM PDT
vqworks says:
Hi S. Patel,

You're welcome. Also, congratulations on getting the ZT60 at such a deep discount.

I didn't compare the VT60 and ZT60 with the F8500 for several reasons. I read enough professional test reports (including measurements) to indicate that the F8500 produces stronger contrasts (whites) but the blacks cannot quite match those of the VT60 and ZT60, the picture's brightness changes according to different vertical viewing angles which is surprising for a plasma set (the result of an anti-glare filter that the F8500 uses), if you're into gaming, the Panasonics don't suffer from the increased screen lag that occurs on the F8500, dithering noise is higher on the F8500 and this occasionally results in color banding or false contouring of colors. The F8500 also doesn't upscale and de-interlace SD sources as well. To be fair, Samsung's plasmas have improved quite a bit in the past few years.

On the other hand, the VT60 and ZT60 models already can produce searingly bright whites so I don't find them too dim. Black level is more important to me because I watch movies in very dim lighting.

I think these differences are a direct result of the differences between Panasonic and Samsung's missions. Panasonic is more performance and quality driven while Samsung is more business-driven. Samsung entered the plasma market just to take some of Panasonic's plasma market share; not to really set standards in plasma performance. After all, plasma technology is much less popular than LED-backlit technology.

Personally, I want to pay more for performance rather than anything else. So for me the ZT60 makes more sense. In your case, I think it does too.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2013 12:11:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 6, 2013 12:12:23 PM PDT
Peter DeMars says:
I compared the ZT, VT and F8500 all playing identical content. As with LEDs, the F8500's brightness immediately jumps out. But after close inspection of the picture the ZT had a more natural look. Granted, this was based on picture modes, so post-calibration results might vary. My TV room isn't a cave so I was considering the F8500 anyway, but the stand is too wide for my TV table.

@LW: What do you mean by "as a consumer who actually bought the ZT60"?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2013 8:09:08 AM PDT
vqworks says:
Peter,

Occasionally, I see posts from people who haven't actually purchased and used a set at home. But they comment on a product. Thankfully, everyone who commented on the ZT60 appears to have bought it. I wanted to just state upfront that I purchased the ZT60 and live with it to justify my comments on it.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2013 8:18:48 AM PDT
Peter DeMars says:
Understood. I see some of those comments sometimes too.

Posted on Aug 7, 2013 10:12:21 AM PDT
TV Reviewer says:
Thanks for posting a detailed review. How does the zt60 fair in day view. We have windows facing the TV but do have blinds and most of our tv watching is in the evening. Just wanted to know the picture quality during day. We do have some afternoon/evening sun in the room.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2013 11:18:58 AM PDT
vqworks says:
During the day, there appears to be somewhat subdued/faint reflections of windows on the screen. I share a similar situation with you. I have wood shutters for the window facing my ZT60. It helps to close the shutters. If you are looking at a picture consisting of either a black screen or a dark scene, you will definitely be aware of the reflection. If you open your blinds and let in sunlight, you may find these scenes distracting, especially because the blacks will not look as deep in this case. Otherwise, if there is a lot of bright video material on display you should not be distracted. This is my experience based on the ZT60's THX Cinema setting. If you want to compensate for this issue, THX Bright room does an excellent job of compensation. Of course, you'll need to remember to switch back to your normal viewing mode at night time.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2013 12:43:46 PM PDT
Peter DeMars says:
It's worth noting in that situation ALL TVs will have some degree of reflection. To see how effective the ZT's filter is I would recommend comparing it side by side with a VT at a store. Under normal conditions and on the same settings the pictures will look nearly identical. However, if you get a strong light source behind you the ZT's light filter will really shine. That's what made me decide to spend the extra money on the ZT.
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