Watching the intro during the credits, it became clear that dark scenes are not the Panasonic's forte. The black letterbox bars, the shadows and the dark uniforms of the soldiers all appeared significantly lighter than they did on other TVs in the room, which robbed the images of punch and realism. We also noticed that highly detailed dark areas, including the side of the tank and the recesses of the doorways, appeared slightly less-detailed--a combination of lighter black levels and less-than ideal shadow detail.
Also impinging on our enjoyment of dark scenes was the Panasonic's tendency to get extremely blue in black and very dark areas, to the point where we maybe should be talking about its blue-level performance instead. We tried adjusting the user-menu controls to alleviate the bluish blacks, but it didn't help.
Color accuracy otherwise was very good for skin tones and other areas dependent heavily on an accurate grayscale and solid color decoding, both of which the Panasonic exhibited after grayscale adjustment. Colors started to look unnatural when they came close to being pure primaries; the red of the Mina Harker's scarf appeared too flush next to our reference PRO-FHD1, while the blue sky above and the blue water below the Nautilus submarine both looked too greenish. These observations were borne out in our primary color measurements, which, taken together, were worse then we've seen with any HDTV for awhile. It's especially rare to see any display score a Poor in blue accuracy, which explains the greenish ocean and sky.
Uniformity across the screen was about average for a rear-projection HDTV. Looking at full-field test patterns, it was obvious that the middle of the screen was brighter than the sides and especially the corners, although the resulting "hot spot" wasn't as prominent as with the Samsung. We also noticed discoloration in some areas of the screen with test patterns; the upper-left was decidedly bluer than the middle, while the sides and edges appeared slightly redder.
The PT-61LCZ70 had a pair of pair of sharply defined, albeit faint, horizontal bands running across the middle of the screen, artifacts we haven't seen on any rear-projection HDTV before. In program material, the bands were more subtle than in the flat-field test patterns, although in scenes with fields of color, such as the sky around the Nautilus or the white walls inside the submarine, we certainly noticed them. And unfortunately, like many such uniformity issues, once seen they were hard to ignore, although at least the bands were not visible in every scene.
The set's geometry proved excellent for a rear-projection HDTV, and in program material we didn't notice any distortions, even in difficult areas such as the program guide grid from our DirecTV HR20. With test patterns we did detect very minor bowing on the right edge, where the top and bottom corners bowed out a bit compared to the middle, but that's it. From our seating distance of about nine feet, we couldn't detect any fringing around the white lines of a grid, indicating fine panel alignment of the three LCD chips and minimal chromatic aberrations in the lens.
We didn't detect any sign of the "screen-door effect," the visible pixel structure that's plagued LCD-based displays in the past, from any reasonable seating distance on this 1080p LCD. We did see the same kind of stationary screen grain common to all rear-projection HDTVs. In the Panasonic's case, the tiny specs on the screen were more prominent than on the Samsung, and among the most noticeable we can remember among rear-projection sets.
Details, owing to accurate focus and the ability of this big 1080p display to deliver every line of a 1080-resolution source, were plenty sharp, although not noticeably sharper than either of the other two rear-projection models. The set failed to properly deinterlace 1080i film-based sources, although, as usual, we had a difficult time spotting this failure in normal program material. Those keeping track will be disappointed to hear that the PT-61LCZ70 cannot accept 1080p/24 sources, although it handled standard 1080p sources well.
We ran the TH-61LCZ70 through the gamut of tests on the HQV DVD, and it performed quite well. The set resolved every line of vertical resolution from the disc, although horizontal resolution was a bit soft. We didn't notice any additional softness in the stone bridge and grass from the disc's Detail chapter, however, so that's a good thing. With difficult moving diagonal lines, the Panasonic smoothed out the edge relatively well, although we still noticed some jaggies in the waving American flag and elsewhere. The set did a good job of reducing the amount of noise in shots of sunsets and skies from the disc as we stepped up the noise-reduction modes, and it also implemented 2:3 pull-down properly.
With PC sources connected to the Panasonic's HDMI input from the DVI output of a computer, the PT-61LCZ70 delivered the goods. It resolved every horizontal and vertical line of a 1,920x1,080 source according to DisplayMate, and text looked sharp and in focus across the screen. As with all rear-projection sets we've tested, the Panasonic overscanned along the edges of the screen, which in the case of a computer desktop, caused elements such as the taskbar along the bottom and icons on the left side to disappear. Many video cards have overscan compensation to correct this issue, although they won't deliver the full resolution after correction. Connected via the analog VGA input, the Panasonic provided a much less impressive computer experience. The highest widescreen resolution the set could display was 1,366x768, which didn't fill the screen, and the highest resolution to fill the screen, 1,280x1,024, looked quite soft and stretched out (which is natural for a 4:3 resolution on a 16:9 screen). As usual, best results are achieved by going digital.
|Before color temp (20/80)||7020/7264||Good|
|After color temp||6493/6512||Good|
|Before grayscale variation||+/- 659K||Average|
|After grayscale variation||+/- 146K||Average|
|Color of red (x/y)||0.666/0.326||Poor|
|Color of green||0.258/0.705||Poor|
|Color of blue||0.133/0.072||Poor|
|Black-level retention||All patterns stable||Good|
|Defeatable edge enhancement||Y||Good|
|480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps||Y||Good|
|1080i video resolution||Pass||Good|
|1080i film resolution||Fail||Poor|
|Panasonic PT-61LCZ70||Picture settings|
|Picture on (watts)||264.6||211.35||N/A|
|Picture on (watts/sq. inch)||0.17||0.13||N/A|
|Cost per year||$80.75||$64.58||N/A|
|Score (considering size)||Good|