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Panasonic TH-65VX100U Review

February 9, 2009 By Geoffrey Morrison



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Panasonic TH-65VX100U
Panasonic TH-65VX100U

Premiere Plasma

Looking to carve out a piece out of the high-end custom market for themselves, Panasonic launched the Premiere line, with 50 and a 65-inch models.

Sporting many custom features aimed at the custom market, does the Premiere have what it takes to compete with the KUROs of the world?

Panasonic TH-65VX100U

The first thing you notice about the TH-65VX100U is how it looks. While not a deciding factor for some, the aesthetics of the Premiere line are noticeable step up from Panasonic's standard line. The brushed metal finish looks and feels very high end. A good start.

The remote, not that most buyers of this product will use it, has discrete input buttons for all the inputs. By far my favorite feature on a remote. I'm sure this was mostly to make it easier for installers to program universal remotes or Crestron type systems.

Setup is easy. The menus, while stark (not a bad thing), are laid out well. When you leave the menu, say to make a measurement while you're calibrating, it remembers where you were when you go back. This may not sound like a big deal, but it saves at lot of time when you're calibrating.

There are good number of adjustments, including RGB gain and bias controls, in the user menu. Again, making calibration an easy prospect. Perhaps most significant of these is the Gamma control.

Gamma is an odd concept for many to figure out, and there is no real simple way to describe it. Without getting to technical, it's how quickly the TV gets out of black, or into white.

Huh? Ok, say you have a dark scene. My favorite test for this is the scene in Batman Begins where Master Wayne is in jail, and Liam Neeson comes and visits him. This scene has a lot of shadow detail, as in parts of the image that are close to, but not perfectly black. Or in another example, think a dark jacket at night. It shouldn't be totally black (absence of information) but it should be close enough that it is dark, but you can still make out detail. In the Batman scene look at their clothes, the shadows on their faces, or the walls behind each of them.

Where gamma comes into play is how close to black are these, well, close to black objects. Some displays will make these objects very dark (or completely black) in an effort to fool the eye into thinking the black level is better than it is. These TVs are described often as having a lack of shadow detail. The "Brightness" control can make these areas more gray, but not actually return the lost detail. Ideally, that's where a gamma control comes in.

The gamma control will actually adjust how quickly the TV "gets out of black" or how dark these shadow details actually are.

There is no agreed upon setting for gamma, and, as blasphemous as this sounds, it is really up to you (at least on TVs like the TH-65VX100U that allow you to adjust it). Personally, I like a lower gamma, as in one that comes out of black fairly quickly. Other videophiles I know like a higher gamma, one that creates a darker picture overall (while still not crushing blacks).

With the TH-65VX100U, either camp can get what they want. I can leave it at 2.0 or 2.2, while others can have 2.5 or 2.6. There is even a 1.0 setting, but this isn't really for TV/film content.

Regardless of the setting, the TH-65VX100U reproduces it perfectly, never crushing blacks and keeping shadow detail, regardless of what gamma setting.

It's also worth noting that you may want a different setting depending on room conditions. In a brighter room, you may want a lower gamma so you can see the shadow detail better, while in a dark room at night you can have a higher, more "film like" gamma.

For a convincing image, though, you still need a good black level to work with that gamma. The TH-65VX100U's black level is very good, not quite to KURO or local dimming LCD levels, but better than most flat-panels I've measured. They're not "inky black" like those others I mentioned, but it's doubtful you'll be noticing the black bars in a dark room.

Light output is excellent for a TV this size. Certainly no flame thrower like any LCD, it was plenty in a fairly well let room where I did some of my testing (the rest was done in the dark, of course). So the contrast ratio was very good, second only to those class leaders I've already mentioned.

Color, on the other hand, was more of a mixed bag. The color points themselves were further off SMPTE spec that I typically like, though some non-videophile passers by who looked at the TV thought the colors really popped. If you're not a stickler for extremely accurate color (as I am), then it's doubtful you'll have a problem.

Panasonic TH-65VX100U close upDeinterlacing and scaling was all top rate. The TH-65VX100U deinterlaced 1080i content over HDMI and component, as well as picking up the 3:2 sequence in 1080i material.

The same was true with 480i content. The scaler was able to pull a lot of information from DVDs, and created a very detailed image.

Reduction of jagged edges on 480i material was only ok with synthetic test patterns, but with actual video material it did an excellent job.

While an external scaler wouldn't strictly be necessary with this TV, another custom oriented feature is an "external scaler mode" that does as you'd expect, bypassing the internal for your external.

In conjunction with the 1:1 pixel mode, this pretty much guarantees no chance of any cascading scaler effects. The TH-65VX100U is able to reproduce a 1-pixel on/1-pixel off pattern with both HDMI and component inputs, so resolution/detail with Blu-ray sources will be reproduced in all their glory.

The best aspect of the image was an impressive lack of video noise. With my normal test material, I noticed no extraneous noise in the image. This is very impressive for a plasma, which typically have some amount of dithering noise (though on most it is unnoticeable at any distance from the set).

The most notable custom feature is one I wasn't able to test. The TH-65VX100U is set up to accept different modules depending on how you/your installer plan on using it. It allow a certain amount of fine tuning if you have, say, more component sources than HDMI or vice versa. You can read more about the different modules here.

The only real complaint I had with the TH-65VX100U was the fan noise. If you watch something very bright for more than a few minutes (say, a football game), the fans on the back kick on like a Dyson. Depending on installation, this may or may not be an issue for you, but it's worth noting.

So what does all this mean for the Premiere TH-65VX100U? It performs better than most flat-panels across the board, and a lot better in some ways. You get added custom functions (like the external scaler mode), plus the added flexibility of modules. While the price is a little higher than others, it is larger than the largest KURO, and it puts out a great picture. If added functionality and a large screen, high-quality picture is something you or a client needs, then the TH-65VX100U is a great choice.

Panasonic TH-65VX100U
PRICE: $9,995
CONTACT: Panasonic.com (direct link)

 Panasonic TH-65VX100U

Comments

Looks like Panasonic took some of the great features from the PRO models to the Consumer models....cuts & drives, gamma, etc., etc.

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