LED backlights come in a confusing array of configurations, but in our experience the best-performing varieties incorporate local dimming. This technology enables certain sectors of the backlight to dim independently of others, enabling better contrast and black level performance. We liked the LG LH90 best among the company's 2009 LCDs, mostly by virtue of its local dimming backlight, and in 2010 the LH90's spiritual successor is the LE8500 series.
For some people, a 50-inch HDTV just isn't big enough. Panasonic created its new 54-inch screen size, represented here by the TC-P54G10, for just those kinds of people. This set competes directly against the new 55-inch LCD size for your big-screen consideration, and occupies a nice middle ground between merely large 50-inch plasmas and truly gigantic 58- and 60-inchers.
In our testing, the TC-P54G10 proved every bit the equal of its smaller brothers in the company's G10 series, which remains one of the best value propositions on the market for shoppers who prize picture quality.
Sad but true: Great sound and home theater-in-a-box systems rarely go together.
HTIBs are the province of "good enough" performance and features, but I'm totally jazzed about these two exceptional models: Samsung's HT-BD1250 and Onkyo's HT-S9100THX.
Looking at the Samsung HT-BD1250 Blu-ray Home Theater System ($550 MSRP) it doesn't exactly stand out in a field of black plastic HTIBs. But once I listened to the thing I knew Samsung had a real winner.
The HT-BD1250 sounds great on music and movies, with remarkably good clarity, bass extension/definition, and low overall distortion. Even high-impact, special-effects driven flicks didn't betray the wee speakers and subwoofer weaknesses. Sure, play a Blu-ray really loud or try to fill a very large room and the HT-BD1250 will cry uncle. But in average size rooms, the HT-BD1250 should satisfy most home theater fans.
Rocking out with the Rolling Stones "Shine A Light" Blu-ray the band's punch and impact came through like gangbusters. The HT-BD1250 sounds noticeably less dynamically compressed than HTIBs with similarly sized speakers and subwoofers.
Few HTIBs of any size can sound credible with solo piano CDs, but the HT-BD1250 truly shined with Joel Fan's excellent "West of the Sun" release. The naturalness of piano tone was striking, and even the lower register keys had just the right weight. I credit that to the HT-BD1250's subwoofer, its refined sound perfectly matched the satellites. The sats kept up their part of the bargain, delivering effortless midrange and treble resolution.
In our review of Panasonic's G10 plasma we discussed how it competed for picture quality supremacy against Pioneer's now-discontinued Kuro PRO-111FD--still the best HDTV ever--and how ultimately it couldn't quite match the Kuro.
The same basic story stays true for the TC-PV10 series, but it's even better than the G10.
This Panasonic plasma has the same deep blacks that grace its less-expensive little brother, and adds a couple of key improvements: better video processing to handle 1080p/24 sources and more picture adjustments that allow it to transcend the limitations of THX mode. Its picture should … Read more
Ever since we called the Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD the "best flat-panel HDTV ever," we've been comparing the most expensive challengers on the market directly against it, looking to see if any could topple the champ. When Panasonic announced the TC-PG10 series at CES, we immediately knew it would go up against the Kuro in our lab. What we didn't know is that Pioneer would stop producing HDTVs, leaving the hill wide open for anybody to claim the king's throne.
The Panasonic G10 series is the new king. No, it's not as good overall … Read more
The ability to properly deal with native 1080p/24 content is a big deal to some videophiles, because it guarantees that a display can capture the correct cadence of film. Panasonic tried and failed to implement 24p with its plasmas last year, but, according to the company, it has improved its processing for this year with the V10 series.
The four-model V10 plasma lineup includes the 50-inch TC-P50V10 ($2,299 MSRP) and the 54-inch TC-P54V10 ($2,699), both due in June, as well as the 58-inch TC-P58V10 and the 65-inch TC-P65V10 (both $TBD), due in August.
Panasonic's V10 models … Read more
Last year, our Editors' Choice plasma, the Panasonic TH-50PZ800U, earned a good portion of its praise by virtue of excellent color accuracy, which we lay at the feet of THX Display Certification. For 2009, Panasonic has included THX in two series of plasma TVs, of which the most-affordable will be the G10s.
The company's G10 series of plasmas comes in four screen sizes. The 42-inch TC-P42G10 ($1399 street), the 46-inch TC-P46G10 ($1699), and the 50-inch TC-P50G10 ($1999) will ship in March, while the 54-inch TC-54G10 ($2,399), a new screen size for the company, will ship in May.
THX Display Certification consists of a series of hurdles the TVs must clear to earn the all-important THX logo. While we're generally pretty skeptical of a certification program that refuses to divulge the height of those hurdles--aside from vaguely mentioning that they include certain minimum specifications for contrast ratio, color gamut based on the HDTV standard, uniformity, viewing angle, gamma, and still picture resolution--in our tests of the PZ800 and other THX plasmas from LG delivered improved color accuracy, at least.
Update March 13: According to the Panasonic manual unearthed by the folks at AVS Forum, and later confirmed by Panasonic, the G10 models will have 24p compatibility; previously, Panasonic indicated that the feature would be reserved for the step-up V10 and Z1 lines. According to Panasonic, the G10 and G15 lines will refresh at 48Hz, which leads us to suspect that they'll suffer from the same sort of flicker seen on the 24p modes of last year's PZ800U and PZ850U models. The V10 and Z1 lines, however, will refresh at 96Hz, which shouldn't introduce flicker. We'll know for sure when we get the displays reviewed.
Panasonic's answer to other TV makers' Internet connectivity is called VieraCast, and new for 2009 the company is adding the capability to view content from Amazon Video on Demand. We'd like to see Netflix streaming added too, a la LG, but that's not in the cards so far. Check out our hands-on look at VieraCast for details.
Expecting great sound from a home theater in a box (HTIB) is almost always an exercise in frustration.
Even the top-of-the-line HTIBs, such as Sony's ES BDV-IT1000ES ($2,000 MSRP) don't hold a candle to an equivalently priced separates-based system. It's not even close.
Sound, schmound. Given that HTIBs are sold as lifestyle products, it's more important for them to look good than sound good. Product designers are compelled to make speakers that look slick hugging the wall next to a flat-screen display. That's why we're so jazzed by Onkyo's HT-S9100THX HTIB ($1,099 MSRP). Sleek, it ain't, but it sure sounds like a separates-grade home theater system.
The HT-S9100THX's largish shipping box hints at the reasons why. It weighs a hefty 144 pounds. Inside, you'll find seven bookshelf two-way speakers, a full-size subwoofer, and a 7x 130-watt-per-channel receiver with 1080p-capable HDMI v.1.3 connectivity, and complete decoding for the latest lossless, high-resolution Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio surround formats. You get four--count 'em, four--HDMI inputs, same as Onkyo's TX-SR706 receiver ($899 MSRP).
The HT-S9100THX's receiver also features Audyssey's 2EQ automatic calibration to tailor the sound of the speakers and the 290-watt, 12-inch powered subwoofer, and compensate for your room's acoustic anomalies. The front three speakers feature a 1-inch soft-dome tweeter matched with dual 5-inch woofers; the four surround speakers use the same tweeter and a slightly smaller woofer. The 17.5 by 14.9 by 16.8 inch subwoofer weighs 34 pounds. Compared to the 6-inch plastic poser subs that come with so many HTIBs it's the 800-pound gorilla. You'll feel the difference.… Read more
Earlier this year we awarded the 50-inch Panasonic TH-50PZ800U our Editors' Choice among 50-inch plasma TVs, and now that we've reviewed the newly released 58-inch version, it predictably gets a similar review, with an identical score and Editors' Choice award. Part of the reason has to do with its color accuracy, for which the TV's THX Display Certification deserves credit.
The bigger Panasonic still didn't perform as well as our new reference standard, the Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD--which we assume will perform as well, in turn, as the 60-inch Elite PRO-151FD--but those Elite models are just too expensive to earn our Editors' Choice. The 50-inch Elite, for example, costs more than the 58-inch Panasonic, and the 60-inch Elite is off the charts.
If you're shopping for a massive-screen plasma, the other high-end option is the 60-inch non-Elite Pioneer, model PDP-6020FD. Too bad it's significantly more expensive than the 58-inch Panasonic itself, and judging from our review of the 50-inch version, its color accuracy is a big issue. Couple that with the fact that, according to our observations, the 58-inch Panasonic delivered even deeper black levels than the 50-inch model, we feel the EC and higher rating compared with the non-Elite Pioneer is justified, again.
For folks just looking for a massive screen, regardless of form factor, it's still difficult to justify the higher cost of plasma over rear-projection. Our current rear-projection EC is the 61-inch Samsung HL61A750, a superb-performing LED-based DLP model that can't quite match the overall picture quality of any of those plasmas, but costs a dark sight less.
What's your take? Let us know in the comments section.
Judging from our two previous reviews of THX Display Certified HDTVs, the Panasonic TH-50PX800U and the LG 50PG60, the certification gets at least one thing right: primary and secondary color accuracy. Our recent review of LG's best 60-inch plasma, the 60PG60, finds that those color points are still dang accurate, regardless of size.
The 60-inch LG performed almost the same as its 50-inch brother, and we expect similarities between the 50-inch Panasonic and its 58-inch bro, due to grace our labs soon, according to the company's representatives. We still think LG has some work to do though, especially in the black-level department, but that doesn't stop the 60-inch monster from producing one of the best huge-screen images we've tested this year.
Read the full review of the LG 60PG60… Read more