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Beautiful picture that's spoiled by fluctuating brightness
on May 10, 2011
There is a lot to like about this TV. It has nice aesthetics. There are plenty of inputs and connectivity. Unfortunately there are some things that are not so great and one that is a deal breaker for me.
The over-all design and build is solid. Some TVs have a weak and even flimsy feel to them, but not this Panasonic.
The screen is very nice and coated in such a way that it is not too reflective.
The colors are rich and blacks are impressive, too.
There are plenty of display modes to switch between depending on your viewing habits and the content you are viewing. These settings are remembered per input, so, for example, you can have different settings for the Blu-ray player on HDMI 1, and the Wii game console on component input. The TV will change the settings to your preferences based on the input selected.
The menus are fairly straight-forward and easy to navigate. I like the fact that the menus are responsive and quick. I hate the Sony menus that take a second or two to respond.
The remote is not my favorite. This is really a gripe about the design of two Panasonic product remotes and not specifically a gripe about the TV. The remote for the Panasonic Blu-ray has very similar buttons. I can use the Blu-ray remote for on/off volume and channel for the TV and I can use the TV remote to control playback of the Blu-ray. The problem is that the buttons are in totally different locations which makes it confusing if you need to switch between them. Why aren't the functions laid out similarly for a same-branded product? Since the two products go together, you would think that the design of the remotes would echo each other in similar areas. Oh well.
It is a power hungry TV. From what I understand, plasmas are power hungry due to the nature of their display technology. They also give off noticeable heat. I believe manufacturers are being forced by regulations to build more energy efficient (Energy Star compliant) TVs. It is also my understanding that this TV is more compliant than previous years' models.
The big problem with this TV set and the deal breaker for me is automatic fluctuating brightness that CANNOT be controlled by ANY user settings. During scenes that transition from light to dark or dark to light the brightness will make distinct, noticeable, abrupt jumps. It is distracting and even annoying in scenes that make these transitions from light and dark often.
Most current flat panel TVs have dynamic picture settings. The fluctuations are not from a dynamic display setting that has an on/off switch, nor is it a room lighting sensor. It appears that this is the way these TVs are (poorly, in my opinion) designed.
I watched the Blu-ray disc of Mike Judges's "Extract" with Jason Bateman, Mila Kunis, and Ben Affleck recently. In one scene, the point of view switches between Jason's character and Ben's character while they sit and talk at a table in a bar. There were many of these fluctuations and it got quite annoying.
It does not seem to matter which input is used: HDMI, component, or composite for the fluctuation to occur. From my observation it does not matter which display mode is used either, including game mode. I connected my trusty old PS2 and played some classic SOCOM Navy Seals. There are many situations where the scenes changed from light to dark and vice versa. There were lots of the brightness fluctuations.
The sad part is that this is an otherwise great TV and I really do like the picture, but it is spoiled by the brightness fluctuations.
I'm waiting to hear back from Panasonic after I called tech support and they walked me through a few settings changes that did not resolve the fluctuation issue. They said they are researching it. The TV's firmware can be updated. I can't say whether or not this issue will be fixable through a firmware update.
I will probably be returning this TV as I have had it for less than 30 days. In my opinion, this fluctuation is unacceptable for a $2000+ TV.
I've researched some online on this fluctuation issue. Take a look at forums like AVforums.com, AVSforum.com, and HighDefJunkies.com. Search with keywords like: Panasonic 2011, fluctuating brightness. Decide for yourself.