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Panasonic: Plasma black levels no longer worsen

According to Panasonic, the black levels of its plasma TVs are no longer programmed to incrementally lighten over time.

David Katzmaier Editorial Director -- Personal Tech
David reviews TVs and leads the Personal Tech team at CNET, covering mobile, software, computing, streaming and home entertainment. We provide helpful, expert reviews, advice and videos on what gadget or service to buy and how to get the most out of it.
Expertise A 20-year CNET veteran, David has been reviewing TVs since the days of CRT, rear-projection and plasma. Prior to CNET he worked at Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as the Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics. Credentials
  • Although still awaiting his Oscar for Best Picture Reviewer, David does hold certifications from the Imaging Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Standards and Technology on display calibration and evaluation.
David Katzmaier
2 min read
Panasonic says the black level rise on its plasma TVs has been fixed in 2011. Sarah Tew/CNET

Today a representative for Panasonic told CNET that a design change in the company's 2011 plasma TVs allows them to maintain a relatively constant depth of black, or black level, over their life spans.

The change represents an improvement over 2009 and 2010 designs, which evinced worse black levels as they aged, as tested by CNET.

"The engineers made significant changes to the internal panel materials...to improve the luminous efficiency of the panels," said Bill Schindler, technical consultant to Panasonic. "In so doing they had a byproduct effect, which allows them to not adjust the black levels over the panel aging time."

Schindler also confirmed that the changes apply to every Panasonic TV in the company's 2011 lineup.

To test this statement, CNET will continue aging and periodically measuring the 2011 Panasonic plasmas we have in-house, as well as compeditive plasmas from LG and Samsung this year.

For the sake of clarity, it's worth noting that these changes over thousands of hours of life span are different from changes we've noted during the initial "break-in" period of 100 to 200 hours, during which black levels actually improve slightly. We mentioned to Schindler that the TC-P55VT30 we're reviewing now behaved this way, and he told us that behavior was consistent with his expectations.

Black level contributes directly to contrast ratio and is one of the most important aspects of television picture quality.

2010 Panasonic plasma TVs: still lose black levels, but should remain 'blacker' than competition (October, 7 2010)
Tests of Panasonic black level loss negative so far (August, 19, 2010)
Follow-up: Panasonic plasma black-level loss measured in long-term test (April 2, 2010)
Tests point to extent of loss in Panasonic plasma black-level performance (March 2, 2010)
Panasonic does not plan fix for reported black-level increases (February 9, 2010)
Panasonic admits plasma TV black-level change but says picture quality still 'excellent' (February 4, 2010)
Are Panasonic plasma TVs losing their dark black levels? (January 26, 2010)