Top of the Line Plasma

I'm in the market for a high-quality plasma TV, and I have narrowed the choices to two: Samsung PN64D8000 and Panasonic TC-P65VT30. I have gone to three high-end A/V stores in New York City and was told that the Samsung ranks better than the Panasonic. But I was in a Best Buy store today and was told that nobody comes close to the Panasonic, especially since it is THX-certified. How do you rate these two models?

Michael Quinones

I don't think you'll be disappointed with either one. HT reviewed the TC-P55VT30 here, and our review of the PN59D8000 (the TV on the right above) will be posted in a few weeks. Both received very high marks—the Panasonic was rated slightly higher in 2D and 3D performance as well as value, while the Samsung was rated higher in features. Also, the Panasonic exhibited a lower black level—0.006fL compared with 0.009fL on the Samsung—which is important in my book. You might think that a difference of 0.003fL isn't much, but even small changes in this number make a clearly visible difference in the picture.

THX certification assures a certain level of performance, but not having it doesn't necessarily mean poor performance. In this case, the Samsung performs well without THX certification. Still, I'd probably choose the Panasonic for its lower black level.

If you have an A/V question, please send it to askhometheater@gmail.com.

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COMMENTS
chrisv75's picture
Scott Wilkinson's picture
Runco plasmas are probably excellent, though I haven't reviewed any. They include Vivix processing, and some have Runco's OPAL (Optical Path Alightnment) technology, which is a film on the screen that redirects ambient light away from the viewer, increasing contrast and lowering perceived black level. But they are expensive: from $4500 for a 50-inch model to $10,000 for a 65-incher. (By contrast, the 65-inch Panasonic TC-P65VT30 lists for $4300.) Then there's the 103-incher for nearly $100,000, around twice as much as the same-size Panasonic!
Mittchell's picture

While I don't disagree with anything posted here so far,I feel that there is some important info left out :

1) The Panasonic TC-P65VT25 should have even better ( deeper ) black levels than the Panasonic TC-P65VT30 , initially anyway.
The TC-P65VT25 is still available from a handful of merchants in the
$ 3,100 to $ 3,300 price range - after shipping in some cases. That would be about $ 200 to $ 400 more than the best prices right now on the TC-P65VT30. The price differnce could well be worth it to some people.

2) Recent Panasonic plasma sets from the past few years have a known issue of the black levels worsening much more rapidly than they should compared to the industry standard.

3) The flagship Samsung plasma line should have four advantages over the Panasonic plasma displays :
[a] Bright Room Performance - Daytime sporting events in a room with multiple windows might look better on the Samsung flagship plasma series.
[b] The Samsung black levels probably fade more gradually than they do on the Panasonic models.
[c] Standard Definition Performance - The Samsung T.V.'s usually have the best standard definition performance. This is becoming less and less of a factor these days but,it comes down to the rest of the equipment in your system - this might not matter if you have a top notch video upscaler somewhere in your system. Also,the amount of standard definition content that you own \ watch is obviously a factor as well.
[d] Color Accuracy - The current top end Samsung Plasma sets have stellar color accuracy. Only the black levels are not as good as the Panasonic VT series which,as stated before,may or may not still be the case after a few years.

Scott Wilkinson's picture

My replies to your points:

1) The VT25 did have lower blacks than the VT30 in our tests...0.004fL as opposed to 0.006fL.

2) There have been many reports of this problem. We ran a G20 (2009 model) for well over 2000 hours, and saw only a 0.001fL rise in black level, not the dramatic rise reported by some. We are currently running a VT25 (2010) and VT30 (2011) to see if the problem occurs in either one. Of course, this is anecdotal, not statistical, evidence.

3a) I'm not at all sure about this one. The VT30's peak white level measured 25.12fL with a Contrast setting of 80, while the D8000's peak white level was 29.36fL with a Contrast setting of 86. Yes, the Samsung was a bit brighter, but not by a lot, and its Contrast control had less headroom than the Panasonic's. On the other hand, in my experience, the Contrast control on Samsung TVs can be maxed out without clipping, but Panasonics clip whites at some point below the max value.

3b) There's no way to know this without running both of them for thousands of hours. As I mentioned above, we are running the VT30 to see if the black level rises over the long term.

3c) You're right about this. The Samsung's scaling was rated excellent, while the Panasonic's scaling was rated poor.

3d) The D8000 plasma does have stellar color accuracy, but so does the VT30. The Samsung's grayscale calibration was slightly better, but both were excellent.

Mittchell's picture

I just read that Panasonic claims that they have fixed the
problem of worsening black levels starting with their 2011 models
( i.e. the VT-30 line ).

Can anyone confirm or deny this ??

I believe that they made a similar claim for the 2010 models which turned out to be false. .... It may be best to wait until the late spring of 2012 for next year's models.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
We are currently running a VT25 and VT30 to see if this problem occurs, and we'll report on our findings when we hit the 2000-hour mark or so. Of course, this is anecdotal, not statistical, evidence. We did not find a significantly increased black level on a G20 (2009 model) after well over 2000 hours of operation.
Mittchell's picture

The point on the white levels is valid but,those levels are not the only factor when it comes to bright room performance.

The last I heard,Panasonic does not have the best anti-glare screens / coatings on their plasma displays.

Having said that,if I needed a plasma set right now and could not or would not pay the high premium for a Runco plasma,I would go with a Panasonic VT-25 series model.

The deal breaker for me with the 2011 Samsung plasma sets mentioned above is the fact that the black levels get worse when the 1080p 24 frames per second mode is engaged ( as well as the related shadow detail problem ).

If I were in the market,I would seriously wait the 8 or 9 months for the 2012 models. Black levels fading rapidly over time ( which is fairly well documented ) or black levels becoming less black in 24 frames per second mode are BOTH unacceptable to me @ this price point.

B.T.W.,I am fairly certain that the G-20 Panasonics are 2010 models. They are a step or two down from the VT-25 models. The 2009 models were the G-10's , the Z-1 and the V-10's. Correct me if I am wrong.

I still don't regret picking up a last generation Pioneer Kuro plasma monitor. Now,I just need a 3 D converter box and I'm good to go.

TheJoBoo's picture

The Runco plasmas are definitely top to the line. Thankfully, the new Vistage series, which are far and away years ahead of the older series, are priced reasonably for a best-in-class display. The V-63HD, at $9,995, is well in line with the pricing everyone was more than happy to pay for a Pioneer Elite Kuro 60" and it's a better set. The V-50HD, at $5,995, is also well justified for a panel you can own for years. As with anything, priority determines budget. If picture quality is really your thing, then the Runco Vistage is the only way to go in today's market.

Lisa's picture

Hello! Very good TV as a technological point of view and from the designer. I hope that the future will be the following plasma tv ...... The main thing that they were not sensitive to the trojan because of the inconvenience them too much. But I trust that the developers worked well on it.

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