Panasonic Viera TC-P60ST60 3D Plasma HDTV Page 2

Out of the box, the Cinema mode’s gray scale adhered fairly close to the neutral gray industry standard with brighter images only; as things got darker, my sample veered off toward blue. A full calibration using the 10-point white balance adjustments allowed much improved tuning. The default 2.4 gamma setting actually measured a little closer to the 2.2 target than the 2.2 setting (2.1 versus 2.0 at 2.2), so I started with this and worked with the 10-point gamma gain controls to get as close as possible. The color points that define the set’s gamut weren’t dead-on but were close enough to not be of concern to non-purists, though red showed some modest oversaturation, so I used the CMS (limited to the primary colors red, green, and blue) to bring all the points in line.

Tuning for 3D, using the Custom mode to help wrench a little more brightness from the set, resulted in a far less than perfect result. But it still noticeably improved the image quality against any of the Panasonic’s preset 3D modes. Still, I was never able to get much more than about 4.5 foot-lamberts of light out of the set in 3D, which, while not unheard of, is barely bright enough for satisfying viewing in a totally darkened room. You can read more on that later.

The TC-P60ST60 flew through our video bench tests and did well scaling 480i standard-definition content to fill its native 1080p screen. I watched a few chapters of the DVD of Walk the Line, the Johnny Cash biopic starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, and found it noise free and not distractingly soft, though my Oppo BDP-103 Blu-ray player produced a noticeably sharper and more saturated image when the upconversion was done there instead. The set also performed well with overhead room lights, and I was impressed to find that in my lit room, even a bright LED flashlight aimed down at the screen from above failed to cause much reflection or seriously wash out the image. Of course, as with all plasmas, viewing angle was never an issue.

As Good as It Gets
As great as the TC-P60ST60 looked without calibration, it took on another layer of goodness after tuning, delivering impressively deep blacks that seemed to drop out to near infinity in my dark viewing room and the deliciously rich, saturated colors I’ve come to expect from Panasonic’s better plasmas. Something as simple as the CBS coverage of a golf tournament became a riot of visual delights. Fleshtones after calibration were slightly more saturated and a bit rosier and more natural than the paler faces in the default Cinema mode. The greens of the golf course were never cartoony or exaggerated, and the teal and orange shirts and bright pastels worn by the more fashion-savvy golfers called attention to themselves, but in a good way—not the kind that makes you reach for the color control to turn things down. Blue skies took on pungency that elicited my “wow” response. Shadow detail in the dark areas was excellent. I had the set’s ultimate black level set so low that at first I thought I’d gone too far and crushed the fine shadings, but as quickly as my eyes adjusted to the black areas, I could see details emerge. When the broadcast’s two anchors came on camera wearing black jackets with white-thread embroidered CBS logos, it took but a moment for me to fully delineate the undulating folds and creases in their sleeves and the clear outlines of their lapels against the body of the jacket. And all the detail in the bright logos just popped right out of all that blackness. There was so much good stuff happening on screen that I actually began looking forward to the colorful commercials, with their punchy golf clothing, sunny golf course landscapes, and tight close-ups of finely detailed metallic club heads or deep, mesmerizing dimples on perfectly white golf balls. This is the mark of a great TV—when every scene change seems to yield fresh, evocative surprises.

Moving on to Blu-ray, I spun the recent transfer of Prometheus my colleague Tom Norton has been using as one of his black-level torture tests and swam into the rich darkness of outer space, with its endless blackness and an unusually sharp pinpoint specificity to starfields you don’t often see with the competitive backlit LCD display technology. Well-defined shadow details were easily evident in the flashlight-lit cave scene early in the movie and later in the aerial space shots of the passing Prometheus ship. This movie overall has a dark and sinister feel, but when color is used, it’s used spectacularly, as in the opening sequence when an alien drinks a nasty cocktail and disintegrates before our eyes. As the camera zooms deep inside his biology, we see his DNA breaking up, a winding helix of yellow so bright and saturated it almost flies off the screen. The various environments on the ship were also breathtaking, and when the camera zooms in on a small artificial Christmas tree set up by the captain, I couldn’t help but be taken with the dead-on accuracy of the green color in this familiar object.

Let There Be Light…Please
I sampled several 3D Blu-ray Discs on different presets before settling on the Custom mode as the best to attempt a calibration because it offers brighter output than Cinema along with that mode’s full access to the white balance and CMS controls. Some of the others had a bit greater perceived brightness prior to adjustment but at the expense of inaccurate color and the ability to tweak. Admittedly, even the calibrated results looked pretty bad on paper, yet the visuals were really quite good—putting aside the general lack of brightness that typically still plagues 3D playback in many sets, particularly plasmas. Still, in my darkened room, I had no problem getting lost in the story of Avatar, with its lush green landscapes and colorful flying creatures, or in the animated fright-fest that is Coraline. The Jet Li film Flying Swords of Dragon Gate proved a good test for 3D because of all the rapidly moving sword fights and the colorful costumes. I ended up having to set the 3D refresh rate to its high setting of 120 hertz and the Motion Smoother control to Strong to keep motion looking natural on 3D titles, though it didn’t seem to put much of that video-like sheen into the 3D image. Nor did a ridiculously low gamma that measured out around 1.5 (!) look even remotely washed out the way it would with 2D.

Unfortunately, along with the less-than-optimal brightness, ghosting was apparent on a couple of the discs. Coraline had a few subtle moments of this, such as when I could see a double shadow against the edge of a black cat’s tail rising up into a night sky, and for some reason Puss in Boots was unwatchable no matter how I tried to tweak the settings. The two live-action movies seemed to be fine, though Flying Swords suffered from some cartoonish-looking low-budget CGI effects, not to mention unintentionally hilarious dubbed English dialogue that cheapened its serious script with awkward Chinese translations like, “Hey, you drank so much pickled-flesh wine that you can’t even draw your sword. You really do deserve to die!”

All in all, I found the 3D playback acceptable with my small sampling of titles but compromised compared with the best we’ve seen lately, particularly from the new higher-end LCDs.

Everyman’s TV
Most of the best plasma HDTVs I’ve seen have a kind of smooth, film-like texture and solidity to the image, coupled with a special quality to the phosphor-based color that’s hard to explain considering that it doesn’t really show up in the measurements. I once asked a plasma TV engineer about this, and he described plasma’s unique look as “organic.” If by that he meant natural, accurate, engaging, dimensional, even addictive, then I think it sums up the Panasonic ST60 series. With its spectacularly deep blacks, excellent shadow details, and richly saturated colors, Panasonic can chalk up another affordable hit for all us little people with big eyes and small budgets.

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micho09's picture


Great review!, the black levels of the ST60 will be similar to the blacks of the VT60 series?

Rob Sabin's picture
No, the 2013 VT60 and ZT60 have deeper blacks, and the ZT60, in particular, will do a better job of rejecting ambient light in brighter viewing conditions than the VT60. However, the blacks of this year's ST60 series are essentially equivalent to the blacks delivered by last year's top of the line VT50 models.
Nathan McDonald's picture

Any plans to review the lower level s60 model?

Rob Sabin's picture
We hope to get to it eventually but have both the VT60 and ZT60 to get through first.
literarymayhem's picture

I have had this TV now for about three weeks and really love it. A definite step up from my 56" JVC HD-ILA set that was getting a little old.

I didn't know how great this TV could look until I applied the settings you give at the end of the review. Now it looks really awesome.

Not too interested in 3D, though I am going to try it once I can find a 3d Blu-Ray to borrow since it came with a pair of glasses.

Hockey looks amazing on this set and since it is the playoffs and I live in NH and am a Bruins fan...!!

Rob Sabin's picture
Great purchase, and glad settings worked for you. There's enough variation from set-to-set that you really cannot count on the fine color/gamma adjustments being the same among samples, but it's always worth a try to see if you prefer. We always recommend that readers make note of their existing settings so they can restore them later if the adjustments don't lend superior results or if things somehow look odd. Enjoy your new HDTV!
todd95008's picture

What kind of patterns did you use for grayscale & gamma calibration ?
Were they window patterns or windows with APL (average picture level) ?
See this thread & post # 138 (by me) on the AVS web site:

Great review

yahtzeejimbob's picture

Thanks for the great review, and special thanks for pointing out the quirky interface issues the set puts the user through. Dumb inclusions, really dumb.

Doesn't a company division such as Panasonic USA have marketing folks that can provide input to the Motherland on things like this, or do you think the USA staff actually asked for these unnecessary inclusions? Surely, these things can be modified for different international markets.

Anyway, thanks again for the fine review.


mdanderson's picture

I really enjoyed your review of this set in the latest issue of your magazine. I just ordered the 65" ST60 and this will be my first plasma and first 3D tv. I currently have a Sony LCD that looks great but I never had it calibrated. I used Spears and Munsil's disc and it worked very well for the settings. I am planning on having the ST60 professionally calibrated. Your review has me excited about the picture quality of plasma. Thanks again for the review.

ScaryFatKidGT's picture

So glad I got my ST50 no ugly crome, no start up menu, better input lag and only slightly less picture quality. Id love the extra light rejection of the ZT if it wasn't over 3 grand

chitoac's picture

love your review its complete and simple. my question is related to optical audio out. You say the optical audio converts any dts o dolby to stereo. but theres press article from DTS that says they do decode dts. does im reading it wrong.? ty for any ansewer i cant find a concrete ansewer anywere. Sorry my english. Here is the article related to DTS.

yhadi's picture

Hello: so I ran across the whole not getting DD 5.1 through other hdmi outputs thru the TV. Does this happen with their vt60 series? I have the sonos playbar, sub, two play 1's and only get dd 5.1 if I manually plug the optical into the devices. I was wondering if the 55 inch vt60 series is the same way or if it will pass through. thanks.

greyjoy76's picture

I have tried averything........but my viera st60 will only read some files.. the majority of them come up as "not supported" but these are files that play from USB....wHY why why why????