Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U Plasma HD Monitor

Price: $9,995 At A Glance: Superb resolution • Near reference-quality blacks • No tuners or speakers • HDMI is version 1.2a, not 1.3

Custom Home Theater

I watched a lot of television when I was growing up. But I was also a passionate reader. OK, more often than not, I was reading a RadioShack catalog or the latest issue of the now-defunct Audio or High Fidelity. But sitting at least a dozen feet away from my parents’ 21-inch console television, with all the room lights on, it was easy to divide my attention between the book—er, magazine—and the latest episode of Gunsmoke.

This sort of activity is now called multitasking, and it’s not easy to do with today’s big-screen TVs. A big flat-panel image demands your attention. Panason-ic’s new TH-65VX100U certainly does that with its dominant 65- inch (diagonal) images (that’s 12.5 square feet). It’s pricey at $9,995. (A smaller, less expensive 50-inch version may be available by the time you read this.) But put a great high-definition image on its screen, and you won’t want to do anything but sit back and watch.

Not Your Father’s Viera
The TH-65VX100U is unique among the Panasonic displays we’ve reviewed. You won’t find it in the aisles of Best Buy, or with a Viera label attached. It’s only available through your friendly neighborhood custom installer.

More accurately described as an HD monitor, this set adds con- trols and features that conventional HDTVs seldom offer. But it also deletes features that may be important to some buyers. There are no onboard TV tuners of any kind, either SD or HD. But if you get your programming from a cable or satellite set-top box, you won’t need a tuner.

The set has a built-in stereo amplifier but no speakers. If you plan to use the set’s self-contained audio system, you should add a pair of outboard speakers. This will give you far better sound than any flat-panel set we’ve reviewed.

The TH-65VX100U features a brushed-aluminum bezel rather than the shiny bezel that most flat panels sport. Shiny bezels don’t bother me. I don’t notice then since I do most of my viewing in a darkened room. But some critical viewers might find the matte finish less distracting and more professional looking.

Don’t expect other familiar goodies, either, such as picture-in-picture, parental lock, direct Internet access, or a way to view your vacation photos from a flash drive or card reader. You won’t find them here.

The Panasonic Premiere’s video inputs are arranged on removable modules that slide into three slots. The standard configuration is two HDMI modules with two HDMI inputs each, plus a component module with a single component input and stereo audio jacks. Panasonic also offers a variety of different, optional input boards (but none of them provide composite video or S-video). The HDMI inputs are version 1.2a. A set needs HDMI 1.3 to handle Deep Color or x.v.Color, when or if these become important consumer formats. It also has two non-modular inputs: a PC (VGA) connection (with a stereo mini-jack) and an RS-232 serial digital port. There is no USB interface.

If the set receives a 1080p/24 source, it first converts it to a 48-hertz refresh rate. Then it further processes this into a pseudo 96-Hz display refresh rate to minimize flicker.

Like most consumer sets, the Panasonic Premiere offers several preset modes in its Picture menu. I used the Cinema mode for virtually all of my testing and viewing. You can leave the controls in each of these modes in their factory settings, or (in most cases) individually adjust them. You can also set them up separately for each input.

In addition to these modes, the Picture menu offers the usual adjustments. It has a Color Management control, but it’s a simple on/off control and appeared to do nothing apart from disabling Tint. It isn’t a full color-management system.

The TH-65VX100U also includes an Advanced Settings submenu that offers additional controls. I didn’t find any positive benefits to a number of them, but I did find White Balance, 3:2 Pulldown, and Gamma useful. White Balance provides both High and Low calibration adjustments for red, green, and blue. 3:2 Pulldown is a film mode that appears to operate as an auto setting in its On position. The Gamma control offers up to six settings, depending on the source. The 2.2 option produced the best results with most program material. The set also offers several screensaver options to limit the possibility of burn-in and (in 1080i/p) a 1:1 Pixel mode.

The set provides 16 different memories where you can store and name different setups or Picture Profiles, for instant recall when needed. There are also ISF Day and ISF Night modes.

COMPANY INFO
Panasonic Professional Display Corporation
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