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Panasonic TC-PVT30 review: Expensive plasma TV performs like a champ

Superb all-around picture quality, anchored by the deepest plasma black levels of the year, makes the Panasonic TC-PVT30 series the best-performing TV we've tested in 2011.

The Panasonic TC-PVT30 series is the best-performing TV we've tested this year. Sarah Tew/CNET

For the last couple of years Panasonic's best plasma has been the most highly anticipated TV review on CNET, and 2011 is no exception. The top-of-the-line Panasonic TV-PVT30 series is the most clicked-upon TV on our site and my most asked-for review on Twitter, and despite its coming in No. 2 in our to-review poll to the flagship Sony, we're confident that no other TV commands the same expectations.

In nearly every way the TV-PVT30 lives up to those expectations. If Panasonic's claim about its black-level stability holds true, allowing it to outdo the 2010 models after a few months of age, the VT30 is the blackest plasma we've tested since the Pioneer Kuro (but the Kuro is still better). Other areas of this Panasonic's picture quality are also generally superb, although it doesn't stand quite as tall above the competition as last year's VT25 series did. The competition, namely Samsung's best plasmas, has gotten better, and the PND8000 we tested outdoes the color accuracy of the PVT30, although the Samsung falls short of the Panasonic in a couple of other areas. The Samsung is the better value, however, so if you want the best picture for your dollar, the VT30 is not the way to go. But if you want the best picture regardless of cost, the Panasonic TC-PVT30 series is our No. 1 pick this year.

Read the full review of the Panasonic TC-PVT30 series.