Panasonic's flagship TC-P54Z1 plasma sails far beyond most buyers' price range, but the yacht enthusiasts who can afford it will enjoy superb picture quality and style in a wireless package.
The company that brought you our favorite television of 2009, the Panasonic TC-PV10 series, built much of the same excellent picture quality into its most-expensive showpiece, the TC-P54Z1. Then it added wireless capability and squeezed the panel into an inch of depth, which helps justify the extra 2 grand it costs more than the 54-inch V10. The Z1's combination of picture quality, style, and features is enough to earn it one of the highest overall scores we've awarded to a TV at CNET, and the company deserves credit for advancing the plasma state of the art with this model. Of course, that state of the art is due for another advancement with the introduction of new 2010 models, including the TC-PVT25 series in a few months. None of those sets offer the thin, wireless chops of the Z1, however, so well-heeled style seekers might want to take the plunge anyway.
As we expected, given our experience with the step-down Panasonic TC-PV10 series, the flagship TC-P54Z1 delivered excellent picture quality. It equaled its line-mate in the important areas of black level and color accuracy, and while it fell short in video processing due to some strange (generally sporadic and subtle) quirks, it delivered a distinct advantage in bright rooms.