Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U Plasma HD Monitor Page 2
Panasonic includes a world- leading (its words) 18-bit DSP in this set. I tested its 480i-to-1080p video processing with a component connection. It performed well, ranging from good to (more often) excellent on all but one test; it failed our 2:2 cadence test. (2:2 is for video-based sources.) It was also a little slower than normal to grab a mixed-content cadence (a video scroll over a filmed background). However, once it locked on, it held.
On our 1080i-to-1080p video- processing tests, the set again failed to properly handle a 2:2 cadence. It also failed the mixed-content test. But it scored from good to excellent on all of our other HD video-processing tests, from 3:2 pulldown to scenes of real program material.
200 Channels and Nothing On
I saw frequent motion artifacts with standard-definition cable programming of varying quality, whether from my cable box at 480i or 1080i component or 1080i HDMI. (The set will not accept 480i over HDMI.) From the evidence, these artifacts were inherent in the sources. The display’s video processing of reliably artifact-free material was generally good, as noted above. Still, it seemed less able to minimize the negative effects of marginal sources than some other less expensive displays.
Apart from these issues, the Panasonic Premiere performed reasonably well with standard-def cable programming, including some mediocre analog cable channels. But the best SD digital cable channels were a big step up from analog cable. On programming with minimum inherent artifacts, the Panasonic could very well fool less critical viewers into thinking they were watching HD.
The Borg...Sounds Swedish
Unlike with SD cable, I never experienced any significant video artifacts in many hours of watch- ing native 1080i HD cable sources on this display. I didn’t see arti- facts on good DVD or Blu-ray sources, either. While this doesn’t mean that you never will, it does mean that they should be rare.
When I tuned in to Universal HD to watch Star Trek: First Contact, it looked so good that I salivated over the prospect of seeing this and other Star Trek films on Blu-ray. (Memo to Paramount: Star Trek films on Blu-ray in 2009, please!) Still, it’s hard to believe that this film could look better than it did from my cable box into the TH-65VX100U. The colors sparkled, and the detail was precise, right down to the last crease in the costumes, without falling into the trap of edginess or artificial enhancement. While the entire film was a delight to see, one scene, in particular, stood out. It takes place in a 1930s nightclub (a Holodeck simulation, familiar to Star Trek: The Next Generation fans). The resolution in this scene—and in the rest of the film—looked incredible.
But the Panasonic Premiere’s detail could be an excess of riches. In some scenes from this film, the texture of actor Brent Spiner’s skin was clearly visible through Data’s android makeup. While the special effects never looked cheap, they sometimes looked a bit fake. But don’t blame the messenger. The set simply told it like it is, which is what a good display is supposed to do.
Moving on to Blu-ray, I’ve been working my way through the new HD version of Band of Brothers. This transfer has taken some Internet flack for employing grain removal (though not to the extent that Patton did). Frankly, this didn’t bother me at all. If grain removal has actually been used, it’s relatively subtle. Since this production was made for tele- vision, the people who are crit- icizing it have never seen it in a film presentation. I’m not sure how anyone who’s not on the inside can know exactly how it’s supposed to look. Me, I’ll take the HD version any day. On the Pana- sonic Premiere, it was noticeably more detailed than the SD ver- sion. The color was appropriately subdued (inherent in the mate- rial). The dark scenes were deep and rich with no graying out, and the shadow detail was excellent.
Of course, this brings up the $10,000 question: Just how good are this set’s blacks compared with the current state of the art? Does it deliver world-leading blacks?