PLASMA TV REVIEWS

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Tom Norton Posted: Sep 04, 2013 3 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price $3,000

At A Glance
Plus: First-rate blacks and shadow detail • Impeccable color and resolution
Minus: Color decoder error calls for care in calibration • Adequate but not terribly bright 3D

The Verdict
With performance nearly identical to the flagship ZT60 series, Panasonic’s VT60 offers state-of-the-art image quality at a more affordable price.

If the Panasonic ZT60 series is the company’s statement product for 2013, the VT60 is an update of its long-running VT flagship line. What’s in that silly little one-letter difference? Less than you might expect, and more. For starters, the ZT60 line is available only in 60- and 65-inch sizes. The VT60 adds a 55-incher to the mix. In addition, the ZT60 is said to be something of a limited edition, the result of a complex, time-consuming manufacturing process associated with that set’s Studio Master panel.

Tom Norton Posted: Sep 04, 2013 13 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,800

At A Glance
Plus: Rich, accurate color and superb resolution • Full adjustability • Unsurpassed blacks and shadow detail
Minus: Adequate but not very bright 3D

The Verdict
Four years after the Pioneer Kuro plasma exited the market, Panasonic has finally, in its ZT60 series, created an HDTV that is essentially its equal in all key areas of image quality.

In 2009, Pioneer ceased production of its highly regarded Kuro plasma HDTVs, and videophiles everywhere took to wearing hair shirts and pondering self-flagellation.

We knew back then that Panasonic produced excellent plasmas as well, but the Kuro’s inky blacks remained unsurpassed. So when a number of former Pioneer engineers went to work for Panasonic, there was new hope. Big changes don’t happen over a single product cycle, however, or even over two or three. But now, with the release of Panasonic’s new ZT60 series, Panasonic claims to have reached that elusive summit. But has it? Can Kuro buyers stop sweating about their sets breaking down, and can those who missed the Kuro express altogether finally stop kicking themselves? We’re here to find out.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 14, 2013 7 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,150 At A Glance: Crisp, detailed picture • Superb color performance • Near reference-quality blacks and shadow detail

When Samsung launched its new line of plasma HDTVs at last January’s CES, we were impressed. Those early demos indicated improved black levels and overall good performance. We were surprised to find later that the prices, though not exactly “Attention, K-Mart shoppers!” specials, aren’t Beverly Hills exclusives, either. From what we see here, these new Samsung plasmas, while unlikely to alter the market dominance of LCD, are welcome additions to the battle.

Rob Sabin Posted: May 24, 2013 13 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,699 At A Glance: Top-tier black levels and color accuracy • So-so 3D • World-class value

Last year, the number-one TV I recommended to friends, family, and anyone else who would listen was Panasonic’s ST50 series plasma. Although a serious enthusiast might have appreciated the superior black levels and more extensive picture controls of the company’s then top-line VT models, 2012’s ST50, like the ST30 models of the year before, delivered most of the VT’s performance and easily beat out all but the most expensive LED LCDs. It was simply an incredible value and was recognized as such in Home Theater’s Top Picks of the Year.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Dec 21, 2012 1 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,200 At A Glance: Compelling color and resolution • Superb value • Middling black level

Psst, buddy. Wanna buy a cheap plasma?”

You don’t often hear this from your friendly neighborhood white-van salesmen; they’re more into selling cardboard speakers. $1,200 HDTVs, no matter how good, just aren’t their thing.

They aren’t always ours, either, but when Samsung offered us the chance to have a look at its $1,200, 51-inch (diagonal) PN51E550D1F plasma, we couldn’t resist. That may be a lot of green for a public that once considered $300 a fair price for a new television, but today it falls solidly in the lowmid price range for a namebrand flat-screen HDTV in this size category.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 09, 2012 7 comments
3D Performance
2D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,530 At A Glance: Crisp resolution and superb color • Full control and calibration features • White uniformity could be better

With all the talk about LCD this and LED that, and the buzz about upcoming OLED sets that are expected to set the video world on fire (a very pricey fire, at least to begin with), plasmas are still very much with us. Samsung remains one of the technology’s biggest supporters, although LCD sets remain its bread and butter.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 03, 2012 10 comments

3D Performance
2D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,700 At A Glance: Bright, punchy picture • Blacks and shadow detail approaching reference quality • Near-complete adjustability

Panasonic has improved its plasma sets each year, and while that march forward has generated torturous verbiage to describe its continually improving plasma HDTV black levels (Infinite Black, Infinite Black Pro, Infinite Black Ultra, and, perhaps next year, Infinite Black Pro Ultra), the company has kept pushing the design envelope. And it has done so even as flat panel prices continue to drop. A 65-inch plasma for $3,700 would have been considered an impossible dream just a few years ago when the goal was to get prices down to $100 per diagonal inch.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Jun 14, 2012 6 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,700 At A Glance: Superb resolution • Vivid yet natural color • Solid black level and shadow detail • Outstanding value

HDTV manufacturers’ fortunes have been in a perpetual state of flux for years. With prices continually dropping, profit margins are slim. While the TV makers haven’t quite yet adopted a business plan that calls for losing money on each sale, there isn’t much further they can go without them paying you to take the set home. Just kidding, of course. But apart from the dicey economy (or perhaps because of it?), this is a golden age for the consumer to buy a great HDTV for not a lot of cash.

Scott Wilkinson Posted: Nov 28, 2011 1 comments

Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1000 At A Glance: Beautiful color • Sharp detail • Reasonably good blacks • Outstanding value

Panasonic is well known for its high-quality, high-value plasma TVs, but how good can its $1000 50-incher be? Really good, as it turns out. The TC-P50S30 offers nearly identical performance to the highly rated TC-P50ST30—the only real difference is that the S30 has no 3D capabilities. If you're looking for a 50-inch flat panel with only $1000 to spend, look no farther.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Oct 27, 2011 5 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $3,000 At A Glance: Accurate color, excellent resolution • Exceptional control features • Good but relatively dim 3D

We’ve said it before: Plasmas are the sand-in-the-face-at-the-beach, wallflower, last-kid-picked members of the flat-panel team. LCDs clearly dominate today’s HDTV market. But plasmas are also the Cinderella stepsister whose beauty becomes obvious when you really look for it. And at least three major manufacturers, including Samsung, think enough of plasma sets that they continue to make and promote them.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 4 comments
2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,900 At A Glance: Good blacks and shadow detail • Odd gammas in Custom mode • THX certified • Uniformity and calibration issues

The GT30 line is the baby bear in Panasonic's range of 3D plasma HDTVs—not to expensive, not too bargain-basement, but, for many buyers, just right. And at 50 inches, one of today's most popular sizes, the P50GT30 lands right in the sweet spot. But does it offer more than Panasonic's entry-level ST30, perhaps even challenging the pricier VT30 lineup? We're here to find out.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 10 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $1,500 At A Glance: Crisp, detailed images • Odd gammas in Custom mode • Little to complain about • Exceptional value

Panasonic means plasma. Yes, the company now offers a line of LCD displays, but only in smaller sizes. If you want a 50-inch or larger Panasonic, it will be a plasma. And that's not a bad thing. The TC-P50ST30 is Panasonic's latest, budget-priced, 50-inch 3D model. Only a few short years ago, you couldn't touch this level of quality in a 2D-only flat panel for five times the price—or more.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Aug 01, 2011 4 comments

2D Performance
3D Performance
Features
Ergonomics
Value
Price: $2,800 At A Glance: Accurate color points • Odd gammas in Custom mode • THX certified • Best black level and shadow detail

Deciding among Panasonic's range of 3D plasma sets can be more than a little intimidating. But it's a Sunday stroll through the park compared to choosing from the bewildering flood of 3D LCD flat panels that glut the market. And for buyers who want a bigger plasma, Panasonic's top-of-the-line VT30 range—including its smallest member, the 55-inch P55VT30 reviewed here—pushes the envelope in both performance and features.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 16, 2011 2 comments
Price: $2,100 (3D glasses: $150/pair) At A Glance: THX certified for 2D • Accurate color and superb resolution • Near reference-level blacks and shadow detail

Deep Impact

Plasmas have gotten a bum rap in the market for all sorts of nutty reasons. They break when shaken? No, not unless you’re talking about dropping them off the delivery truck, or them falling off the wall in an 8.0 trembler. In either case, you can kiss any flat-panel set goodbye. They leak plasma gas and need to be recharged frequently? A big-box retailer reportedly started this rumor several years ago, apparently in an effort to sell a special power conditioner that was said to eliminate the need for regular plasma transfusions.

Thomas J. Norton Posted: Mar 02, 2011 0 comments
Price: $1,800 (3D glasses: $130/pair) At A Glance: THX 3D certified • Superb color and resolution • Poor black level

THX Goes 3D

I was wandering through the Magnolia section of my local Best Buy the other day when I struck up a conversation with a visitor from Oregon. She had recently bought a 42-inch LCD set. I asked her why she didn’t consider a plasma. She thought for a moment, and the first thing that popped into her head was that someone had told her that plasmas could break if you shake them. A vision of our Sacramento Governator jiggling a 70-pound plasma like a pair of maracas as he bossa-novas down the capitol steps for the last time quickly passed. I assumed she meant a plasma could break if you bump it.

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