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Panasonic TC-PZT60 series prepares to reign

The company's 2013 flagship promises "Beyond the Reference" picture quality.

Sarah Tew/CNET

LAS VEGAS--After several years' absence a Z-series TV -- last seen in 2010 -- has once again taken the crown in Panasonic's plasma television lineup. TheTC-PZT60 series will be available in a choice of two sizes: 65 and 60 inches.

The company's 2013 flagship promises "Beyond the Reference" picture quality, with an all-new Studio Master panel that has the thinnest gas layer yet, which the company says will remove dim and double images. There's a newly developed red phosphor, and it offers faster switching than ever, THX certification for both 2D and 3D, and improved 3D performance -- namely less crosstalk -- according to Panasonic. We called VT50 the best TV of 2012 and one of the best ever, and we expect great things out of the ZT60's picture.

I got a quick look at the ZT60 compared to the VT50 in a dark-room demo at Panasonic's booth, and the new panel did produce slightly deeper black levels than even that vaunted set. Panasonic's rep mentioned the company was still tweaking the software, but the improvements, while subtle, were clearly visible. Blacks didn't look quite as deep the "absolute" seen on OLED TVs, but they were pretty close. I was also told the ZT60 has a slightly better light-rejecting filter than the VT60, but it was tough to tell any difference in the booth. Suffice to say I'm psyched to get my hands on a shipping sample, which Panasonic says will be in the April/May time frame.

The company has added a few new features this year to both the VT60 and the ZT60, including Voice Interaction, a built-in camera (which may only appear on the VT60; that's still TBD), "Voice Interaction," a dual-core processor and an improved touch-pad controller, and an optional Touch Pen that also works with the step-down models. Of course the Viera Connect suite of smart TV services is still onboard; no word on whether it integrates the Smart TV Alliance interface.

The 60-inch ZT60 will hit stores in April and the 65-incher will follow in May. Panasonic has yet to announce prices. The Panasonic online store has some information on the ZT60 already, and is taking preorders for the ST60 follow-up to our other favorite TV of last year, the ST50.

See the full range of 2013 Panasonic TVs here.

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