High End Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U watched a lot of hd television when I was growing up. But I was also a passionate reader. OK, more o en than not,I was reading a Radio Shack catalog or the latest issue of the now defunct Audio or High Fidelity. But sitting at least a dozen feet away from my parentsâ€™ 21-inch console television, with all the room lights on, it was easy to divide my attention between the booker, magazine and the latest episode of Gunsmoke.
This sort of activity is now called multitasking, and itâ€™s not easy to do with todayâ€™s big-screen TVs. A big 5 at-panel image demands your attention. Panasonic TH-65VX100U certainly does that with its dominant 65- inch (diagonal) images (thatâ€™s 12.5 square feet). Itâ€™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 wonâ€™t want to do anything but sit back and watch.
Not Your Father™s VIERA
The TH-65VX100U is unique among the Panasonic displays weâ€™ve reviewed. You wonâ€™t find it in the aisles of Best Buy, or with a VIERA label attached. Itâ€™s only available through your friendly neighborhood custom installer.
More accurately described as an HD monitor, this set adds controls and features that conventional HDTVs seldom oE er. But it also deletes features that may be important to some buyers. ; ere 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 wonâ€™t need a tuner.
The set has a built-in stereo amplifier but no speakers.If you plan to use the setâ€™s self-contained audio system, you should add a pair of outboard speakers. is will give you far better sound than any 5 flat-panel set weâ€™ve reviewed.
TheÂ High End Panasonic Premiere TH-65VX100U features a brushed-aluminum bezel rather than the shiny bezel that most 5 at panels sport. Shiny bezels donâ€™t bother me.I donâ€™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.
Donâ€™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 5 ash drive or card reader. You wonâ€™t tind them here.
The Panasonic Premiereâ€™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 oE ers 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 itâ€™s a simple on/off control and appeared to do nothing apart from disabling Tint. It isnâ€™t a full color-management system.
The TH-65VX100U also includes an Advanced Settings submenu that offers additional controls. I didnâ€™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 X lm mode that appears to operate as an auto setting in its On position. the Gamma control oA ers 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.the multi component remote is easy to use, with well-spaced,appropriately sized buttons. Itâ€™s backlit and offers direct input selection.the only slight annoyance is the lack of volume and mute controls. To change the volume of the setâ€™s amps, you have to go into the menus. But thatâ€™s not really a chore.
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 od en) 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 X lmed 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 accept480i over HDMI.) From the evidence, these artifacts were inherent in the sources.The displayâ€™s video processing of reliably artifact-free material was generally good, as noted above. Still, it seemed less able to minimize the negative eA ects 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 watching native 1080i HD cable sources on this display. I didnâ€™t see artifacts on good DVD or Bluray sources, either. While this doesnâ€™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 Bluray. (Memo to Paramount: Star Trek films on Blu-ray in 2009, please!) Still, itâ€™s hard to believe that this X lm 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 artifacial 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: 1 e Next Generation fans).the resolution in this scene and in the rest of the film looked incredible.But the Panasonic Premiereâ€™s detail could be an excess of riches. In some scenes from this flm,the texture of actor Brent Spinerâ€™s skin was clearly visible through Dataâ€™s and roid makeup. While the special effects never looked cheap,they sometimes looked a bit fake.But donâ€™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 Bluray,Iâ€™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 didnâ€™t bother me at all. If grain removal has actually been used, itâ€™s relatively subtle. Since this production was made for television,the people who are criticizing it have never seen it in a film presentation. Iâ€™m not sure how anyone whoâ€™s not on the inside can know exactly how itâ€™s supposed to look. Me, Iâ€™ll take the HD version any day. On the Panasonic Premiere, it was noticeably more detailed than the SD version.the color was appropriately subdued (inherent in the material).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 setâ€™s blacks compared with the current state of the art? Does it deliver world-leading blacks? World leading, no. But world class, yes. A full black image in a darkened room is clearly lighter and more visibly gray (rather than inky black) than youâ€™ll see on, say, a Sony XBR8 local-dimming LCD or a Pioneer KURO plasma.the differences are most obvious on star fields, which is good as it is on a local dimming
LCD like a Sony XBR8.I was unable to view this set directly next to a
Pioneer KURO (or a Sony XBR8) in time for this review. Still, the Panasonic Premiere clearly doesnâ€™t deliver quite the same sensation of the inky, infinite blackness of space behind the stars that the Pioneers can. On this display, this also translates to a slightly less consistently rich, dark look on less challenging but otherwise very dark scenes with few bright highlights. While the black letterbox bars on 2.35:1 L lms looked respectably dark, they were more visible than on a Pioneer. In the above comparisons, Iâ€™m definitely splitting hairs. But such hairs must be split considering that the Panasonic Premiere is much more expensive than the Pioneer and Sony flagship sets, which arenâ€™t exactly selling for chicken feed,either. Still, apart from those sets,the Panasonic Premiereâ€™s blacks are the deepest weâ€™ve ever measured on any plasma or LCD T at panel. It never failed to produce a convincing image on a high quality source. By any reason able standard, its overall performance on dark scenes is excellent.
The Panasonic Premiereâ€™s shadow detail is superb. Itâ€™s arguably as good as or better than those other sets. Itâ€™s largely immune to the gray fog effect a lightening that can subtly wash out the dimmest regions of a dark scene. Plasmaâ€™s inherent ability to deliver punchy highlights in otherwise low-brightness scenes also works to this setâ€™s advantage.
I had no complaints with this displayâ€™s performance in any other important respects.Motion lag was not an issue. Like other plasmas,you can comfortably view it from far of axis without any visible image degradation. Of course you should use reasonable caution with stationary or partial screen images on any plasma display. Still, I found the Panasonic Premiereâ€™s resistance to image retention (the first stage of possible permanent burn-in) to be well above average for a plasma.
Many, if not most, of the sets that we review these days are excellent
performers. But they usually have one or two major weaknesses, such
as motion lag or poor of -axis viewing, video processing, or black level and shadow detail. the TH-65VX100U isnâ€™t perfect,either, nor is it the best set weâ€™ve reviewed in every respect. And itâ€™s undeniably pricey. But with good program material,it offers a canny balance of strengths with no serious weaknesses. Itâ€™s the type of set that draws you in. Itâ€™s the type of set that keeps you up until 1:00 a.m. watching stuf thatâ€™s been sitting on your DVR for weeks, waiting for you to find time to see. U is is the type of set that turns well-made and great looking program material into compelling entertainment.