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 remain one of the best value propositions on the market for shoppers who prize picture quality.
The remote also differs from the one found on less expensive Panasonic plasmas, and in general we liked it. Panasonic's marketing guys got to the button designers, however, and mandated that an unnecessarily prominent trio of keys--Viera Link, VieraCast, and VieraTools--arc above the central cursor control. Each provides direct access to functions we'll warrant most users won't access as frequently as the Menu key, and the trio relegates that button to an easily overlooked spot near the top of the clicker. We still like the feel of the keys, and appreciate the size, color, and shape differentiation that helps us forget that none of the buttons are illuminated. The remote cannot control other devices via infrared (IR) commands, but it does allow some control of compatible HDMI devices connected to the TV via Viera Link (aka HDMI-CEC).
When you engage THX picture mode, the G10's color accuracy, shadow detail, and numerous other picture characteristics improve significantly--at the expense of a dimmer picture--without you having to make a bunch of adjustments.
Panasonic also offers ways to avoid temporary image retention, aka burn-in, and address it should it occur. A pixel orbiter slowly shifts the image around the screen, and you can elect to have it happen either automatically or in user-set periodic intervals. You can chose bright or dark gray bars alongside 4:3 programs. And if you do see some burn-in, chances are the scrolling bar function, which sweeps a white bar across a black screen, will clear it up after while. We appreciated that the VieraCast menu went into screen-saver mode after a few minutes of inactivity.
The TC-P54G10 delivers nearly identical picture quality to its smaller brethren, which makes it among the best performing HDTVs we've tested this year, second only to the company's own V10 models. Its picture starts with deep black levels that lend realism and contrast to every scene, especially dark ones, and also offers relatively accurate color. On the downside, its video processing can't handle 1080p/24 sources properly, and color suffers from insufficient user menu adjustments, but neither issue spoils the 54G10's excellent overall picture quality.