Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U 65-inch plasma HDTV Page 2

PERFORMANCE

The 65VX100U comes with some impressive specifications , including 60,000:1 contrast ratio and 18 -bit video processing, which helps the TV display smooth gradations of light with no visible banding artifacts. Both were immediately obvious in the picture. While watching an episode of the series How the Earth Was Made on the History HD channel, I was quickly struck by the Panasonic's punchy contrast and color, and its overall smooth, stable image. A scene as mundane as a scientist sitting in a chair in an office setting looked invitingly lifelike, with a natural skin tone and subtly rendered highlights. Details like the fine, short gray hairs on his balding head and the fabric of his black- and-white checkered shirt simply popped off the 1080p-rez screen.

Switching over to singer Keyshia Cole's performance on Jay Leno's Tonight Show showed off the Panasonic's ability to reveal detail in dark parts of the image. I could clearly see ripples of fabric in t he black bow Cole wore on the waist of her pink strapless dress, and plenty of fine detail in the texture and pinstripes in the dark black suits worn by her band. The same qualities were also evident in an early scene in the Blu-ray Disc of the movie Australia in which an Aborigine boy witnesses the murder of a white settler that takes place in a lagoon. The details and depth in the shadowy clumps of giant swamp grass were obvious, as were the undulations in the wet skin of the victim's black horse as it leaps from the water. The Panasonic didn't deliver blacks quite as deep as our reference Pioneer Kuro plasma or some of the LED-backlit LCDs I've tested. But blacks looked sufficiently dark, and the Panasonic's ability to draw out details in shadows while maintaining bright highlights elsewhere on the screen was exemplary.

I found colors to be accurately rendered on the Panasonic. In the aforementioned lagoon scene, the differences between the light green swamp grasses and darker green lily pads were easily discerned and looked as they might in nature without seeming cartoonish or overdone. Likewise, the set did a nice job delineating the range of skin tones in Australia, from the tanned, rugged face of Drover (Hugh Jackman) to the pale, fair complexion of Lady Ashley (Nicole Kidman). The blue skies behind the film's vistas were rich and striking, and the Outback's sandy tundra came across convincingly.

BOTTOM LINE

A select few TVs I've reviewed made me want to drop the test discs and just sit back and watch them , with every click of the HD cable box holding the potential for another engaging visual experience. Pioneer's Kuro plasma models qualified, and so does this Panasonic monitor. Its image offers film like smoothness and stability and rich, natural color - qualities that are rarely found even in the best LCD models. Sure, the TH-65VX100U may cost a pretty penny. But it delivers one pretty picture.

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