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Panasonic TC-PG10 review: Panasonic TC-PG10

The TV lacks picture-in-picture and cannot freeze the image temporarily to catch a phone number, for example. It can, however, accept SD cards with digital photos into a slot on the left side, which allows it to play back the images on the big screen.

Panasonic TC-PS1 series
Here's a look at the thumbnail screen that appears when you insert an SD card filled with digital photos.

Connectivity on the TC-PG10 series is perfectly adequate but not overboard, starting with three HDMI inputs, two on the back and a third on the side. Other back-panel connections include two component-video inputs, an AV input with composite and S-Video and an RF input for cable or antenna. There's also an optical-digital-audio output and an analog stereo audio output. In addition to the HDMI port and SD card slot, the side panel offers a second AV input with composite video along with a VGA-style PC input (1366x768 maximum resolution).

Panasonic TC-P54G10
The back panel includes the standard connection suite. Not shown is the Ethernet port for VieraCast.

Panasonic TC-P54G10
Along the side there are plenty of easy-access ports, including HDMI, PC, and the card slot for digital photos.

The TC-P54G10 delivers nearly identical picture quality to its smaller brethren, which makes it among the best-performing HDTVs we've tested this year, second only to the company's own V10 models. Its picture starts with deep black levels that lend realism and contrast to every scene, especially dark ones, and also offers relatively accurate color. On the downside, its video processing can't handle 1080p/24 sources properly, and color suffers from insufficient user menu adjustments, but neither issue spoils the 54G10's excellent overall picture quality.

TV settings: Panasonic TC-P54G10

As we saw on the smaller G10 models we reviewed, the TC-P54G10 requires certain compromises during picture setup that result from a paucity of picture control. The THX mode offers more accurate color and a low light output that cannot be increased, while Custom is less color-accurate yet can be made brighter. For what it's worth, THX on both the 46-inch and 54-inch G10 models we measured was virtually identical, to the point of topping out at a maximum of exactly 28.26ftl on both sizes. Primary and secondary colors were likewise within a hair's breadth of one another, and the secondaries of cyan and magenta were equally less accurate than the other colors, which were equally spot-on. Gamma in THX on the 54-incher was 2.14, compared to 2.25 on the 46-incher, and both came quite close to the standard of 2.2.

As before, we used THX for our critical evaluations because of its superior color accuracy, but our picture settings do include Custom, for people who want a brighter image and are willing to compromise color and gamma performance. We used the scant available user controls to calibrate Custom to our nominal 40ftl level and adjusted the rest of the controls as well as we could, but in the end the dimmer, albeit more color-accurate, picture of THX was still preferable. We wish Panasonic had allowed us to eke more light out of THX mode, or simply provided a choice of color spaces, gamma, and fine color temperature controls with all modes, like many manufacturers do, but that's not the case with the G10.

Our comparison of the Panasonic TC-P54G10 pitted it against a few 50-inch plasmas, including the company's own TC-P50V10, the Samsung PN50B850, the LG 50PS80, and our reference Pioneer PRO-111FD. We also threw in our favorite 52-inch LCD, the Samsung LN52B750. For our image quality tests we checked out the luscious "Speed Racer" on Blu-ray.

Black level: When the camera stopped long enough for us to appreciate them, it was clear that black levels on the TC-P54G10 were superb. The depth of black in the letterbox bars, the shadows behind the announcer in Chapter 2, and the recesses inside the car for example, all appeared darker and truer than on any of the other displays, aside from the V10, which was basically equal, and, of course, the Pioneer. Shadow detail also looked more natural than any of the others, aside from those two sets, from the hair in John Goodman's mustache to the side of young Speed as they both observe the race. Blacks stayed constant with no fluctuation we could observe in program material.

The G10's excellent gamma, which affected shadow detail as well as the appearance of bright areas, worsened considerably when we switched from THX to Custom, which made brightness progressions appear less natural, especially in side-by-side comparisons.

Color accuracy: In THX mode, colors on the G10 looked mostly excellent, although not up to the levels of the other displays in our lineup. Primary and secondary colors were spot-on for the most part, as evinced by the riot of reds and blues in the racing scenes. The G10's solid grayscale came through in shots of white and gray areas, like the test paper young Speed fills out in the opening scene or the white of Rex's car. We also loved the rich, lush color saturation of this film as reproduced by the G10, which matched that of any of the displays in the room aside from the Pioneer.

But like other Panasonic displays, THX mode on the G10 betrayed a slight yellow/green tinge, for example in the pale face of Christina Ricci as she watches the race at the start of Chapter 3. We still preferred that look to the bluer, paler look of Custom (the result of its less-accurate color temperature) and in Custom her red lipstick, for example, appeared inaccurate and less natural compared with THX and our reference.

Regardless of mode, we appreciated that blacks and dark areas on the G10 remained true, without veering into the bluish tinge seen on so many other displays, especially LCDs like the Samsung B750. The G10 also outdid the Samsung B850 plasma in this regard, although the difference was much more subtle.

Video processing: In our resolution tests, the TC-P54G10 performed very well, and matched the performance of its smaller brothers in the series. It delivered every line of 1080i and 1080p content with still resolution test patterns, properly deinterlaced both film and video-based 1080i content with the "3:2 pulldown" control set to "On" (a first for Panasonic in our experience, whose displays have always failed the film test, prior to this year) and passed all 1080 lines of motion resolution, matching other 1080p Panasonic plasmas and most other displays we've tested, including other plasmas, which hit between 800 and 1,000 lines at most. As usual, however, we found it basically impossible to discern any differences in resolution, motion or otherwise, between the Panasonic and the other 1080p displays in our test when watching actual program material as opposed to test patterns.

The company also includes a "24p direct in" setting that's available when the TV detects a 1080p/24 source, typically from a Blu-ray Disc. As with the other G10 sizes, choosing the "48Hz" setting, as opposed to the standard 60Hz setting, causes the display to refresh at 48Hz to match the 24fps cadence of film. And as with those sets, selecting 48Hz on the G10 causes flicker, more intense in brighter areas, but visible everywhere, that basically renders the image unwatchable. We don't expect any of the videophiles toward whom this setting is aimed to stand for the flicker, so we kept the G10 set to 60Hz. It's worth noting that the step-up V10 series refreshes at 96Hz, eliminates the flicker problem, and properly reproduces the cadence of film.

Bright lighting: The TC-P54G10 did a solid job attenuating ambient light and glare in our bright room--not quite as good as the Pioneer or Sony, but better than the highly-reflective Samsung LCD or the Samsung plasma. It uses the same antireflective screen as other 2009 Panasonic plasmas and handled bright lighting as well as those displays. The G10 did not preserve black levels in the bright light as well as any of the other non-Panasonic displays, however, and the Samsung in particular delivered better blacks in bright rooms.

Standard-definition: The Panasonic was a mediocre performer with standard-def material. It resolved every line of the DVD format, although details weren't quite as sharp as on the Samsungs, for example. It did a subpar job with moving diagonal lines and stripes on the waving American flag, leaving plenty of jaggies along the edges. Noise reduction was solid, on the other hand, and both Video NR and MPEG NR settings contributed to removing moving motes and snow from low-quality shots of skies and sunsets. Finally, the set properly engaged 2:3 pulldown to remove moire from the grandstands behind the racecar.

PC: With an HDMI source and set to THX mode, the G10 performed perfectly, resolving every line of a 1920x1080 source, with no sign of edge enhancement or overscan. Via VGA, the TV would accept a maximum resolution of 1366x768, as the manual indicates, and the test looked softer, blockier, and generally worse than via HDMI. We'd love to see a full-resolution VGA input on a TV this expensive.

Panasonic TC-P54G10    
Before color temp (20/80) 6487/6696 Good
After color temp N/A  
Before grayscale variation 198 Good
After grayscale variation N/A  
Color of red (x/y) 0.637/0.333 Good
Color of green 0.295/0.61 Good
Color of blue 0.151/0.057 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Pass Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Pass Good

Power consumption: The Panasonic TC-P54G10 is the first 54-inch HDTV we've tested, so it's impossible to compare directly with others of its size. We have checked out one 55-inch LCD however, the Vizio VF550XVT, which, as expected, used considerably less power, but the rest of the models in our post-calibration comparison are different sizes. Like other Panasonic plasmas, the default setting for the 54 incher is quite a bit dimmer (29.19ftl) than our post-calibration setting (40ftl), which as in previous models is designed to help the TV achieve Energy Star status (and results in a "Good" overall rating in our system). No matter which way you slice it, however, the Panasonic TC-P54G10 is a power hog.

Juice box
Panasonic TC-P54G10 Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 282.85 324 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.23 0.26 N/A
Standby (watts) 0.13 0.13 N/A
Cost per year $61.03 $69.90 N/A
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Good

Annual energy cost after calibration (in dollars)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

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