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Panasonic TC-PZT60 review: Closer than ever to perfect picture quality

Five years after Pioneer's Kuro and a few before OLED becomes mainstream, Panasonic's ZT60 plasma TV now owns the picture-quality crown. But is it worth the extra cost?

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David Katzmaier
David_Katzmaier.jpg

David Katzmaier

Editorial Director -- TVs and streaming

David has reviewed TVs, streaming services, streaming devices and home entertainment gear at CNET since 2002. He is an ISF certified, NIST trained calibrator and developed CNET's TV test procedure himself. Previously David wrote reviews and features for Sound & Vision magazine and eTown.com. He is known to two people on Twitter as "The Cormac McCarthy of consumer electronics."

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21 min read

Let me get this out of the way first: Panasonic's TC-PZT60 is now the best-performing TV we've ever reviewed. Perhaps a few of the old, supertweaked Pioneer Kuros out there might deliver slightly superior black levels, but I've never had any of those in the lab. This one beats my in-house Kuro, and every other TV in my lab. Finally.

07Panasonic_TC-PZT60_35564328_35567247.jpg
8.2

Panasonic TC-PZT60

The Good

The <b>Panasonic TC-PZT60 series</b> plasma TV can produce the best all-around picture quality available; deepest black levels in its class; highly accurate color; excellent video processing, off-angle viewing and screen uniformity; best-in-class preservation of contrast and reduction of reflections under bright lights; very good 3D picture; classic styling; plenty of Smart TV content; includes two pair of 3D glasses.

The Bad

Exceedingly expensive; not as suited to extremely bright rooms as the Samsung F8500 plasma or LED LCD TVs; identical picture quality to the Panasonic VT60 in a dark room; consumes more power than LED LCD TVs.

The Bottom Line

For those who can afford it, the Panasonic TC-PZT60 comes closer than any TV yet to picture-quality perfection.

The TC-PVT60 also beat our in-house Kuro, so the most important question for videophiles with money to burn becomes: Why did you like the picture quality of the ZT60 better than the VT60's? The sole reason is that the ZT60 looks better in a bright room. If you watch TV swathed in dimness, as any dedicated videophile does whenever possible, the VT60 and ZT60 have basically identical pictures -- starting with their virtually indistinguishable, and truly inky, black levels. Meanwhile the Samsung PNF8500 plasma and of course some of the better, brighter LED TVs look even better than the ZT60 in a bright room -- although they can't touch it in the dark.

That's why an extra $500 or so for the ZT60 over the also-superb VT60 and PNF8500 is only worth spending if you absolutely must have the very best. The narrowness of its performance advantage over those TVs hurts its value proposition, so if money is an object, that extra cash is tough to justify. At least the big spenders who pony up for the ZT60 can console themselves that compared with 4K models like the Sony XBR-X900A, or even OLEDs (if they ever come out), their TV is a bargain.

And if you demand the very best right now and can afford it, none of those caveats or qualifiers matter in the face of the ZT60's commanding performance. It simply offers the best overall TV picture quality you can buy right now, period.

Editors' Note, November 15, 2013: Panasonic has announced that it will no longer manufacture plasma televisions after 2013, making these TVs the last of their kind. That fact doesn't negatively affect our buying advice; in fact, just the opposite. We have confidence Panasonic will remain a viable company, and continue to support its plasma TVs, for years.

Series information: I performed a hands-on evaluation of the 60-inch Panasonic TC-P60ZT60, but this review also applies to the 65-inch size. The two sizes have identical specs and according to the manufacturer should provide very similar picture quality.

Models in series (details)
Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 (reviewed) 60 inches
Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 65 inches

Sarah Tew/CNET

Design
When you first turn on the TC-PZT60, before the banner ad fires up, the lines "Studio Master Panel" and "Panneau de reference studio" appear on the screen in a cursive font pulled straight from an embroidered "Downton Abbey" doily. Further classing up the joint is a glossy black "ZT" booklet proclaiming the air-gapless joys of said panel, complete with messages from and signatures of Kazunori Kiuchi (head of TV Design division) and Hideyo Uwabata (president of TV manufacturing). Each TV also gets a unique "sequential number." The one on CNET's review sample was A00000; the bidding starts...now!

Sarah Tew/CNET

Otherwise the ZT60 is tough to distinguish from the VT60 in person. Both are black rectangles with a single pane of glass edged by chrome. I did like the ZT's subtle accents better, and the same frame width and beveled metal on all four sides make it look more symmetrical than the VT. There's also no chintzy-looking transparent strip of plastic along the bottom, and the VT is a bit wider due to its forward-facing speakers.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The two share the same brightwork below the belt. The garish V-shaped stand atop the flat metal base doesn't swivel, and suspends the TV higher than low-profile stands like the VT50's from last year.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The ZT60 also gets two remotes. One is a small touch-pad-based clicker with just a few select keys. It employs Bluetooth so you don't need line of sight to the TV and has been upgraded from the one that shipped with the VT50 last year to include a microphone for voice search. I found it responsive enough and easy to use, with the same kind of quick, fun, swoopy navigation I experienced with the Samsung's 2013 touch pad. I especially appreciated the ability (absent from the Samsung) to tap the pad to select something, just like on a laptop computer. I also liked the nook under the remote where my index finger rested above a hard button I could also use to select.

On the other hand the remote lacks numerous essential buttons, such as "Menu," and the buttons it does have are cryptically labeled with confusing icons. It's definitely designed as a secondary clicker for use with apps (particularly the Web browser) and Smart TV, not as a full-blown universal replacement like Samsung's.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The second clicker is the standard illuminated multibutton variety. Tweaks for 2013 are mostly improvements (dedicated Netflix key, better labeling, and a few extra keys) but there are exceptions. Apps and Home," both part of the Smart TV suite, get too-prominent keys, while Menu is tiny. More than a few times I accidentally hit Home instead of the Up cursor.

The TV has two separate menu systems -- one for Smart TV and the other for more mundane TV settings like picture and network options -- and there's no way to get from one to the other using the menus themselves (update There is but it's still tough to find; select the Menu icon from top row of the main Viera Connect apps page). I thought the blue "Settings" icon from within the Smart TV Home system would take me to the TV's settings, but instead it took me to a configuration page for Smart TV itself. Once I found them, Panasonic's 2013 settings menus were a big improvement over last year's version, with easier navigation and sleeker design.

Key TV features
Display technology Plasma LED backlight N/A
Screen finish Glossy Remotes Standard, touch-pad
Smart TV Yes Internet connection Built-in Wi-Fi
3D technology Active 3D glasses included 2 pair
Refresh rate(s) 96Hz, 60Hz, 48Hz Dejudder (smooth) processing Yes
DLNA-compliant Photo/Music/Video USB Photo/Music/Video
Other: Optional touch pen (model TY-TP10U, $79); Skype camera (model TY-CC20W, $90); additional 3D glasses (model TY-ER3D5MA, $79)

Features
The most expensive TV in any company's lineup is usually the most loaded too, but that's not the case for Panasonic's 2013 plasmas. The ZT60 actually has fewer extras than the VT60, the most glaring omission being the pop-up camera. The ZT60 also lacks the VT60's front-facing speakers, so it doesn't sound nearly as good. It does have the same voice interaction system, however, as well as the same dual-core processor and Smart TV suite.

The picture-affecting features of the V and Z are more alike than different. The two share the same contrast ratio specification (for what it's worth), "3000 FFD" panel drive, umpteen shades of gradation, a new red phosphor, and other minor step-ups over the ST60. The $500 extra you'll spend on the Z over the V nets you two spec sheet improvements: a Studio Master Panel and Ultimate Black Filter. The company has eliminated the air gap between the panel and the front glass, and strengthened the light-rejecting filter over the VT60's. Both enhancements are said to improve black levels, especially in high ambient light, and they do.

Sarah Tew/CNET

You get two pairs of 3D glasses in the box, compared with four on the Samsung PNF8500. The included glasses, model TY-ER3D5MA, are much nicer than Samsung's throw-ins but not quite as good as Panasonic's own separately sold TY-ER3D4MU from 2012 (still $75 each). The TY-ER3D4MU glasses are also rechargeable, while the included ones require a coin battery. Additional pairs of the new 5MA glasses would sell for $79 each, or $149 for a two-pack. The ZT60 complies with the full HD 3D standard, so it will work with third-party glasses like the aforementioned Samsungs ($20).

One unique extra for all 2013 Panasonic plasmas is a touch-pen accessory ($79), which allows users to draw on the screen, though this is more of a business tool than an in-home one.

If you have a smartphone, Panasonic's improved Viera Remote app enables some functions like basic control if you misplace the remote and "swipe and share" to display photos on the big screen. It also allows direct access to relatively advanced calibration functions, although I didn't test this feature.

I also didn't test voice interaction on this set beyond a few simple tries with the Web browser (see below). I'll update this section when I can get to those tests.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Smart TV: Like other 2013 Panasonic Smart TVs, the ZT60 comes with a couple of dumb options enabled by default. One is a pop-up banner ad that appears for about 5 seconds when you first power up the TV (above), and pops up again when you adjust volume. The other also happens on power-up, showing not full-screen video of whatever source you last chose -- typically your cable box -- but instead the home page for the Smart TV suite. Happily, both dumb defaults can be disabled.

Sarah Tew/CNET

After you do so, Panasonic's new interface is mostly good, although it's not nearly as ambitious or capable as Samsung's. Multiple "pages" are available, and all show the currently playing input in an inset window along with a grid of apps. You can place any app anywhere you want on the grid. Panasonic ups the custom ante further by offering three different templates for new pages you can create, custom backgrounds (including your own pictures), and the ability to name pages -- for example, each member of a particularly tech-savvy family could set up his or her own page.

Sarah Tew/CNET

There's also some bad. For someone used to swiping left or right on a smartphone to access different pages of apps, Panasonic's method isn't intuitive; you have to press the Home key again to switch between pages, rather than simply navigating among them directly. And it's potentially confusing that one page is actually the "Full Screen TV" page, and that hitting Exit from another page doesn't take you there (you have to actively select the window). Conversely, hitting the "Return" key from within an app often exits it completely, as opposed to navigating up a level. I was also annoyed that you can't delete or change the default Info and Lifestyle pages, although you can rename them. Overall Samsung's Smart TV interface is much more intuitive to use.

Sarah Tew/CNET

All of the apps from 2012 are still available, and it's a very healthy selection (minus HBO Go). Hit the "apps" key and you'll be taken to a page with a bunch of thumbnails showing preinstalled apps, such as YouTube and Netflix, and a product support app, as well as a few custom utilities like a calendar, a memo app, and an event timer. It would be nice if they could tap into common cloud apps like Google Calendar or Evernote, but no dice. Typing a note using the remote and virtual keyboard is hardly worth the effort.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Non-preinstalled apps can be accessed from the Viera Connect market, where the most useful names include Vudu, Pandora, TuneIn radio, Rhapsody, a free classical music portal, and full episodes and photos from a Panasonic-sponsored series on National Geographic TV about World Heritage sites. You'll have to create a Viera Connect account to install them, unfortunately. The rest of the apps are much less useful. They include apps for use with the optional touch pen, a smattering of kids' apps, and the requisite crappy games. Panasonic is still the only maker whose store also offers real merchandise, from a $10 SD card to a $526 microwave.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The ZT60's Web browser is a big step up from that of the ST60, mainly because of the touch-pad remote. Yes, I still had to use a tedious virtual keyboard to enter URLs and search terms, but navigating the page was much easier, and I especially appreciated that the right side of the pad allowed me to scroll. Rendering was fine among the sites I saw, load times were relatively quick, and it passed this Flash support test. The biggest misstep is that there's no apparent way to remove the big bookmarks bar and inset TV window to make the browser full-screen. I tried a few voice searches that mostly went well; the exception was that my "CNN" was constantly misinterpreted as a command to "Zoom In."

Samsung's F8500 TV browser is still much better, with suggestions on its virtual keyboard, intuitive settings (I couldn't find any settings options in Panasonic's browser), and better responsiveness. Heavy TV-browser users would be well served buying an external keyboard; the Logitech K400 worked well in my testing with the ZT60, for example.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Picture settings: The ZT60 offers the same exhaustive number of picture controls as the VT60. There's a pair of THX-certified modes, one for "Cinema" and one for "Bright Rooms." Advanced tweaks include a 10-point gray scale and 10-point gamma system as well as color management for the primary and secondary colors. The company has also added a cool "copy adjustments" option that allows you to migrate your picture settings from one input or mode to others.

Other controls include three levels of dejudder, aka soap opera effect, an unusual seven different aspect ratio settings, and the usual array of items to help prevent and treat image retention, including a pixel orbiter and scrolling white bar.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Connectivity: Disappointingly for such an expensive TV, the ZT60 only includes three HDMI ports. If you have a cable box and more than two other HDMI devices (like a game console, Roku, or Blu-ray player), you'll need to invest in either a HDMI splitter or, more practically, an AV receiver.

Other inputs include three USB ports (for accessories like a wireless keyboard and external storage), a shared composite/component output, and a digital optical. The TV also comes with an SD card slot for sharing photos and videos.

Picture quality
I was frankly surprised when our initial look at the ZT60 revealed essentially identical picture quality to the VT60's in a dark room. Now that I've had the opportunity to compare them both after aging and calibration, that impression is confirmed: the two high-end Panasonics deliver basically the same picture, including the same black levels, contrast, color and video processing, in dark home theater environments. The only difference arises when the lights come up. In a bright room the ZT60 maintains black levels and reduces reflections better than the VT60.

Speaking of "ever," both Panasonics also outperformed my in-house Pioneer Kuro plasma. Yes, I have seen other Kuros come closer to these Panasonics, but as far as I'm concerned, with review samples I have on-hand, the ZT and VT are both ultimately better than the Kuro. And since the ZT is better than the VT in bright rooms, it is the all-around best-performing TV ever tested by CNET.

Click the image at the right to see the picture settings used in the review and to read more about how this TV's picture controls worked during calibration.

Editors' Note: For the purposes of this review, Panasonic sent me another Pioneer Kuro, a 60-inch PRO-151FD manufactured in March 2009, ostensibly to help prove that the ZT60 was a superior performer. Unfortunately the Panasonic-supplied Kuro review sample didn't perform as well as I expected, or even as well as CNET's older Kuro (the 50-inch PRO-111FD I've been using as a reference since 2008). The 60-incher showed lighter black levels and a few other issues, which were serious enough that I don't consider it representative of the Kuro breed. For that reason I left it out of the comparison below, with the exception of select bright-room tests. Of course I did keep CNET's older PRO-111FD, which is still entirely representative of the breed, in the mix.

Comparison models (details)
Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-inch plasma
Samsung PN60F8500 60-inch plasma
Panasonic TC-P65VT50 65-inch plasma
Sharp Elite PRO-60X5FD 60-inch LED
Pioneer Elite Kuro PRO-111FD 50-inch plasma

Black level: While every TV in the above lineup can produce exceptionally deep black levels, when placed side by side after calibration in a dark room, differences do emerge. Overall the ZT60 tied with the VT60 in producing the consistently darkest shade of black. I'd love to be able to pick a winner between them, but it was almost impossible. In most dark scenes, for example the dim cabin shootout from "Skyfall" (Chapter 27), I couldn't see any difference between them.

Meanwhile the difference between those two and the Kuro -- which did look darker than either occasionally, but mostly appeared a tiny shade lighter -- were more apparent but still vanishingly slight. The VT50 and the F8500 both appeared visibly grayer in the letterbox bars and other black areas, and while the Sharp Elite looked very dark too, it wasn't as consistent as the plasmas.

Among numerous other dark scenes, the largest differences I saw occurred in my favorite black-level torture test, Chapter 12 of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," which starts with a nearly completely black overhead view of Voldemort's invading armies, and maintains a low (dark) average picture level throughout. Again, the subjective rankings among the sets were the same: the two 2013 Panasonics were too close to call, a smidge better overall than the Kuro and Elite, and visibly better than the F8500 or VT50.

According to my measurements, the Kuro and the Elite actually have deeper black levels than the Panasonics, which in turn actually tied the measurement of the F8500. Regardless of those numbers, measured on a black screen, to my eye in a dark room the two 2013 Panasonics looked darkest, particularly in exceedingly dark shots like the night-enshrouded Hogwarts at 46:27.

Shadow details, for example in the clothes of M and Bond and the recesses along the walls during the "Skyfall" shootout, were superb, with even the darkest differences exposed and clear. The folds of M's jacket (1:57:53) appeared neither too dim nor too bright, and every bit as realistic as I'd like. Meanwhile Hogwarts and Voldemort's robes from "Hallows" reinforced those impressions. The ZT60 was again among the best, barely edging out the others including the Kuro and the F8500, although the other two Panasonics were just as good.

Remaining with "Hallows" for a moment, I checked out the all-white vision sequence in Chapter 22, and as usual the Panasonics showed the dimmest level of white. The smaller Kuro and the LED-lit Sharp were a good bit brighter, as expected, while the same-sized F8500 also looked significantly brighter. While this discrepancy can be seen as a disadvantage to the Panasonics, in my experience the light-output limitations of (non-F8500) plasmas in such scenes are visible only in side-by-side comparisons, and don't detract at all from critical viewing in dim and dark rooms.

Color accuracy: The ZT60 was as accurate as any TV in the room, and certainly surpassed the Sharp Elite in this category; the differences between it and the others, particularly the VT60, were much subtler. The brilliant colors during the chase sequence from Chapters 2 and 3 of "Skyfall," for example, all looked dead-on accurate, from the cars to the trees to the rugs and fruit in the market whizzing by. Skin tones, from the pale face of M in the office to the light coffee skin of Eve holding the sniper rifle, appeared just right, and a tad better than on the very slightly greenish VT50 and bluish Kuro and F8500. Colors near black looked as accurate as any in the room as well, and again better than on the the Sharp.

Video processing: The ZT60 handles 1080p/24 film cadence correctly, as expected, but only when you engage its 96Hz mode. In 60Hz mode the set engages the characteristic 3:2 pull-down cadence, which introduces a slight halting stutter compared with the smoother (but not too smooth) motion of correct 24p cadence. That's a marked difference from the ST60, which handles 1080p/24 well in both 60Hz and 96Hz, but I prefer using 60Hz because 96Hz flickers on that TV. On the ZT60 and VT60, conversely, 96Hz is essentially free of flicker, so that's the mode I'd recommend anyone use on this TV with 1080p/24 sources like many Blu-ray movies.

The amount of smoothing (dejudder) in the various Motion Smoother settings also depended on which Hz mode I selected. When the TV was in 60Hz mode, the Weak setting introduced plenty of artificial smoothing. In 96Hz mode, however, the smoothing in Weak was impossible for me to discern; I had the VT60 and ZT60 next to one another, one in Weak and the other Off, and I couldn't tell the difference in smoothing. That's important because, according to my motion resolution test, Panasonic plasmas achieve their best results only when dejudder (Weak or higher on the Motion smoother control) is activated. That's why I kept the ZT60 in Weak mode even with film-based sources, and that's why it scored the maximum result in our Geek Box test under "Dejudder off."

If you're a fan of smoothing, you'll also appreciate that I saw fewer halos and other interpolation artifacts on the ZT and VT than on the ST60 when I used the higher dejudder settings, namely Mid and Strong.

Bright lighting: The ZT60 was the best plasma in the room at maintaining black level in high ambient light, and probably the best plasma I've ever tested in that department, but the Samsung F8500 is still better in bright rooms overall.

Panasonic's gapless design seems to have really paid off here -- or maybe it's a more aggressive filter -- but the end result is better preservation of black levels, and hence contrast and image pop, than ever. Only the Elite LED looked blacker under the lights, and the ZT60 trounced the Kuros (both mine and the one Panasonic supplied) and beat the two other Panasonics (VT50 and VT60 -- although both were still very good) in this department.

The other component to the ZT60's excellent filter was reflection reduction. Bright objects reflected on the screen, like my white shirt as I watched the TVs, appeared dimmer and thus less distracting on the ZT60 than on any of the other sets aside from the Kuros, which dimmed reflections about as well. The Elite, on the other hand, suffered the brightest (worst) reflections of any set in the lineup, while second-worst, surprisingly, was the VT60. Indeed, the VT60's grayer blacks and brighter reflections under the lights constituted the main picture quality difference between the two, and while the VT60 was still very good in a bright room, the ZT60 was superb.

In addition to black fidelity and dim reflections, high light output is a major factor in how much "pop" the picture has under the lights. This is where the contest between the Samsung F8500 and the ZT60 gets interesting. The ZT60 wins in the first two areas, with a screen filter that provides deeper blacks and dimmer reflections, but the F8500 is a light cannon in comparison.

I don't normally calibrate for bright rooms, but I performed a quick one anyway, pitting the F8500's Standard setting (I tweaked it by disabling the room-lighting sensor and selecting the Warm 2 color tone, my Custom color space settings, and a Sharpness setting of zero) against THX Bright Room on the ZT60. In those settings the maximum light output of the ZT60 is 43.3 fL (footlambert) with a window pattern; the F8500 reached a scorching 81. With a full-screen pattern, the difference proportionally was even greater: 10.2 and 24.4, respectively.

For a subjective face-off I started with the worst-case scenario, setting up the two TVs opposite an open window in the afternoon. The Samsung unquestionably looked better, more dynamic and punchier. I also noticed that black areas of the ZT60's screen looked a bit greenish under that very bright lighting, while the Samsung was more neutral. When I closed the shades and simply left on bright overhead lights, the difference narrowed quite a bit, and to my eye the F8500 looked a bit too bright in many scenes -- but I can imagine many viewers would prefer its image anyway, and a judicious calibration could always tame it somewhat while still keeping it brighter than the ZT60.

Overall it's tough call, but I think the Samsung's superior light output beats the great black levels of the ZT60 in very bright rooms. In turn, of course, that means LED TVs like the Elite, which can get even brighter than the F8500, are even better in bright rooms -- and it doesn't hurt that many high-end LEDs like the Elite are also exceedingly good at preserving black levels, much like the ZT60. That said, the ZT60 is still superior to the VT60 in a bright room and still beats the F8500 in dark and moderate lighting.

Sound quality: The ZT60 sounded very good for a flat-panel TV with rear-facing speakers, although it still couldn't hold a candle to the VT60, which has forward-facing speakers. Our Nick Cave test track, "Red Right Hand," evinced decent bass with a nice, full-range sound; my main complaint was that the high end sounded too scratchy and distorted. The other non-VT60 sets, particularly the F8500, sounded thinner, less present, and less impactful in comparison. The explosions, shattered glass, and vehicular destruction from Chapter 11 of "Mission: Impossible III" also sounded second-best on the ZT60, and details like the tinkling of former windshields on the pavement were easy to catch. The ZT60's scratchy treble was a bit more annoying in dialogue, for example a voice-over of announcers during a recording of the Masters Golf Tournament, but it wasn't terrible.

3D: The ZT60's 3D picture quality is very good, but the TV wasn't quite up to the standards of the brighter F8500 in that area, and still showed more crosstalk than the best active LED TVs.

In terms of crosstalk, the ZT60 performed as well as or better than any of the other plasmas, but not at the same level as my 3D reference, the LED-based UN55ES8000 -- which I subbed into the lineup in place of the 2D-only Kuro. Crosstalk is a bugaboo of active 3D TVs, and appears as a ghostly double-image around many onscreen objects. During my favorite crosstalk tests from "Hugo," including Hugo's hand as it reached for the mouse (5:01), the tuning pegs on the guitar (7:49), and the face of the dog as it watches the inspector slide by (9:24), the ZT60's crosstalk was quite dim and unobjectionable -- about the same level as the VT60's and F8500's. If I had to pick a winner it would probably be the ZT60; its image, being dimmer than the other two, resulted in slightly less-visible ghosting, but the difference was extremely subtle.

New for this year Panasonic has added three "Hz" values (96Hz, 100Hz, and 120Hz) under "3D refresh rate" in its 3D menu. Although described as designed to combat flicker from fluorescent lights, they also have a major impact on the prevalence of crosstalk. The results above were obtained in the best setting, 96Hz. Choosing the 100Hz setting worsened crosstalk considerably, and the 120Hz setting was worst of all. This adjustment didn't seem to do anything else to picture quality, and I didn't test its effects on fluorescent light flicker.

In other areas of picture quality I actually preferred the VT60 to the ZT60, mainly because its THX 3D mode seemed set up better. (Any of the following observations might change if the ZT60 was calibrated differently, but I don't calibrate for 3D). The ZT60 showed somewhat less shadow detail, for example in the dark bowels of the clockworks in Chapter 2, and the Samsung F8500 and UNES8000 showed more detail than either one. Black levels on the ZT60 were the deepest in the lineup in 3D, and a tad deeper than on the next-darkest (the VT60), but it also mustered the least light output. Again, the two Samsungs were the brightest, and the F8500 has the most punch overall. Colors were good across all of the high-end plasmas, although the F8500's shadows looked more neutral than the bluer Panasonics'.

Panasonic's throw-in 3D glasses fit much better than Samsung's, but not as well as the TY-ER3D4MUs from 2012. Their thin temples do little to block light from the sides, and they didn't fit over my prescription glasses as well. They're still fine, however, and I didn't notice any overt picture quality difference between any of the pairs.

Power consumption: The 60-inch ZT60 is quite the power hog even by plasma standards, using almost as much energy after calibration as the 65-inch VT50. It also uses quite a bit more than the same-sized Samsung PN60F8500 -- 84 watts more, or about $18 per year extra in electricity -- to produce the same amount of light.

The current Energy Star specification is still version 5.3, which still imposes a hard cap of 108 watts for any size of TV. According to Energy Star's April 2013 list of qualified TVs, no 2013 Panasonic plasma earns the blue sticker.

Editors' note: CNET has dropped TV power consumption testing for 60-inch or smaller LCD- and LED-based TVs because their power use, in terms of yearly cost, is negligible. We will continue to test the power use of larger LCD or LED models, as well as all plasma models.

Juice box
Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power save
Picture on (watts) 210.35 359.28 189.01
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.14 0.23 0.12
Standby (watts) 0.11 0.11 0.11
Cost per year $46.20 $78.85 $41.52
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Poor

Annual energy cost after calibration (in U.S. dollars)

Geek box: Test Result Score
Black luminance (0%) 0.002 Good
Avg. gamma (10-100%) 2.22 Good
Avg. grayscale error (10-100%) 1.400 Good
Near-black error (5%) 1.052 Good
Dark gray error (20%) 1.19 Good
Bright gray error (70%) 0.735 Good
Avg. color error 1.540 Good
Red error 1.045 Good
Green error 0.35 Good
Blue error 3.768 Average
Cyan error 2.049 Good
Magenta error 1.13 Good
Yellow error 0.896 Good
1080p/24 Cadence (IAL) Pass Good
1080i Deinterlacing (film) Pass Good
Motion resolution (max) 1200 Good
Motion resolution (dejudder off) 1200 Good
Input lag (Game mode) 46.2 Average

Panasonic TC-P60ZT60 CNET review calibration results

07Panasonic_TC-PZT60_35564328_35567247.jpg
8.2

Panasonic TC-PZT60

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 10Value 6