Big Tick for Tour-de-force THX TV

THX marks the sweet spot of Panasonic’s new V and Z range of plasma TVs.

A shortcoming of Panasonic’s Viera flat-screen TVs has been their limited picture tweaking options.

But engage any of the new models in THX mode and fine-tuning becomes irrelevant, so accurate is the colour.

Just as it set the standard for high-fidelity sound, THX increasingly is being used to optimise video quality in everything from TVs to projectors to digital video recorders.

I’ve appraised several of Panasonic’s top-end consumer plasma TVs over the past few years and none has come close to nailing the natural look that THX delivers.

It shines with high definition movies and sports broadcasts alike. Golf fans will especially appreciate seeing fairways and greens that look like grass rather than gaudy Astroturf.

The true benefits of THX may be lost on the shop floor, where harsh lighting can wash out its strengths and subtleties. But at home, in subdued lighting, the HD images are immaculate.

Panasonic offers THX in its three V models, which range in size from 50 inches to 65 inches, and its wireless, 54-inch Z1 display.

At $3999, the TH-P50V10Z is the most affordable. It’s one of Panasonic’s new-generation NeoPDP Full HD panels that combines improved brightness and energy efficiency with excellent contrast, four HDMI inputs, a PC input, a FreeviewHD tuner and an SD Card slot with a “Viera Image Viewer” for viewing digital photographs.

But it’s not only the technology that makes this a tour-de-force TV: almost as eye-catching as its performance are the cosmetics.

Panasonic may make some of the best plasma TVs but traditionally it’s been a company run by engineers rather than designers. The V series, however, imbues the company’s Corolla reliability with at least a hint of Lexus styling.

The one-sheet glass appearance is sleek and chic while the lippy look of last year’s horizontal arch on the high-end PZ and PY models has been smartly streamlined into a slimmer frame with a narrower bezel that doesn’t reflect as much light as its predecessors.

Best of all, the connections are on the rear, or to the side, of the display; no longer does Panasonic spoil the front of its TVs with a flap under the screen that, when raised, exposes connections from which unsightly cables trail.

Having four HDMI connections is good but barely meets the needs of households with MySky HDi, TiVo, a Blu-ray or DVD player, and a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360.

Panasonic has refined its remote control and at last relocated the volume key from the left side to the right, in line with other manufacturers.

Auto-tuning is a breeze and while the easy-to-adjust menu includes gamma settings, which is rare for a Panasonic display in this market, it still offers fewer customisable options than many rivals.

Although the THX mode largely mitigates this, using it does thwart Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) option. IFC effectively reduces judder in the Dynamic, Cinema and Normal modes but because it introduces occasional artefacts, such as slight shimmering around fast movement, it doesn’t meet THX certification demands.

This notwithstanding, IFC is one of the better motion interpolation methods, and Panasonic has improved it to the point where a ball in flight will no longer break up, as it did on the 11th-generation Vieras. (One of the best tests for the stability of the latest IFC iteration is the opening skyscraper sequence of The Dark Knight).

Audio also is surprisingly good given the speakers are straitjacketed within a frame that’s only 84 centimetres thick and although there is some flickering on a blank screen, it’s not apparent when watching movies or TV.

Standard definition DVDs and broadcasts don’t overly suffer from being showcased on a large display but it’s with HD that the TH-P50V10Z earns an A-plus.

The Blu-ray of the first season of Fringe jumps out of the screen with almost three-dimensional oomph and while the black levels may fall short of Panasonic’s claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1, the shadow detail revealed in the DVD of the Italian gangster drama, Gomorrah, is extraordinary.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!

Leave a Reply