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Panasonic TC-PV10 review: Panasonic TC-PV10

Panasonic TC-PV10

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
15 min read


Panasonic TC-PV10

The Good

Superb black-level performance with excellent shadow detail; relatively accurate color in Custom mode after adjustment; great color saturation; properly handles 1080p/24 sources without flicker; uses less power than previous 1080p plasmas; VieraCast provides access to select Internet services; plenty of connectivity with four HDMI and one PC input.

The Bad

Expensive; less accurate primary and secondary colors in non-THX modes; somewhat limited picture controls; still less efficient than comparable LCDs.

The Bottom Line

The high-end Panasonic TC-PV10 series of plasmas delivers the overall best picture quality of any flat-panel HDTV we've tested so far this year.

Editors' note, March 3, 2010: Testing conducted on 2009 Panasonic plasma TVs, similar to this one, has revealed that black-level performance has become noticeably less impressive within what is typically the first year of ownership. As a result, we don't feel confident that the initial picture quality of this TV, as described in the review below, can be maintained over the course of its lifetime, and therefore find it difficult to recommend. Its Performance score has been accordingly reduced by one point to better indicate comparative picture quality after 1,500 hours of use. Click here for more information.

Separately, the Features rating has been lowered to account for changes in the competitive marketplace, including the release of new 2010 TVs. Aside from these changes to ratings, the review has not otherwise been modified.

In our review of Panasonic's G10 plasma we discussed how it competed for picture quality supremacy against Pioneer's now-discontinued Kuro PRO-111FD--still the best HDTV ever--and how ultimately it couldn't quite match the Kuro. The same basic story stays true for the TC-PV10 series, but it's even better than the G10. This Panasonic plasma has the same deep blacks that grace its less expensive little brother, and adds a couple of key improvements: better video processing to handle 1080p/24 sources, and more picture adjustments that allow it to transcend the limitations of THX mode. Its picture should satisfy all but the pickiest of videophiles, and it also outperforms any LCD-based display, LED or otherwise, we've ever tested. Beyond image quality, the V10 delivers plenty of features and an eye-catching one-sheet-of-glass design, for a combination that deserves serious consideration from buyers willing to pay for it.

Series note: We performed a hands-on evaluation of the 50-inch Panasonic TC-P50V10, but this review also applies to the 54-inch Panasonic TC-P54V10. The two sizes share identical specs and should have very similar picture quality.

[Editors' Note: Many of the Design and Features elements are identical between the TC-PV10 series and the TC-PG10 series we reviewed earlier, so readers of the earlier review may experience some déjà vu when reading the same sections below.]

The Panasonic TC-PV10 is one sleek plasma. Its main external differentiator is what the company calls "one sheet of glass" design, where a pane of glass extends beyond the edge of the screen and over the bezel itself, leading to a seamless look that's even more impressive in person than in pictures. (It's worth noting that only the 50- and 54-inch models feature the one-sheet design; the larger members of the series have the more traditional, visually separate bezel around the screen). The V10 series eschews the relatively bright silver fade along the bottom of the frame seen on the company's step-down TC-PG10 models, instead opting for a much subtler silver accent that arcs slightly upward in the middle. We think the V10 looks more attractive and sophisticated than the G10, and indeed it's one of the coolest-looking TV designs we've seen this year.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
The one-sheet-of-glass design makes for an extra-sleek look.

The black frame around the screen is a bit wider than that of the G10 series, leading to the V10's slightly larger height and width dimensions (0.2 and 0.9 inch larger, respectively, on the 50-incher, for example). The panels' depth dimension, on the other hand, is just 3.3 inches--not quite as thin as Samsung's 850 series plasmas or Panasonic's own Z1, but thinner than the 4.2 inches of the G10 models. If you're keeping track, the 50-inch V10 also weighs 4.4 pounds more than the 50-inch G10, which is probably due to that big pane of glass. Unlike that of the 50-inch model, the 54-incher's stand does not swivel.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
The rounded stand looks sleek, but does not incorporate a swivel on the 54-inch model.

Beyond the panels and stands, the V10 models are pretty much identical in design to the G10s. The remote differs from the one found on less expensive Panasonic plasmas, and in general we liked it. Panasonic's marketing guys got to the button designers, however, and apparently mandated that an unnecessarily prominent trio of keys--Viera Link, VieraCast and VieraTools--appear above the central cursor control. Each provides direct access to functions we'll warrant most users won't access as frequently as the Menu key, and the trio relegates that button to an easily-overlooked spot near the top of the clicker. We still like the feel of the keys, and appreciate the size, color and shape differentiation that helps us forget that only the huge volume and channel buttons are illuminated. The remote cannot control other devices via infrared (IR) commands, but it does allow some control of compatible HDMI devices connected to the TV via Viera Link (a.k.a. HDMI-CEC).

Panasonic tweaked its menu design for 2009. The same yellow-on-blue color scheme is in evidence (albeit a lighter shade of blue), and navigation is basically unchanged, but the main menu actually has a couple of icons now. Overall it's still one of the more straightforward, basic-looking menus on the mainstream market, but we still wish the company would see fit to include onscreen explanations of selections. A new Tools menu showcases some of the TV's functions, including THX mode, Digital Cinema Color and VieraCast.

As Panasonic's nearly top-of-the-line plasma series, excepting the Z1, the V10 models offer a couple of extras. One is the ability to refresh the screen at 96Hz, which allows the TV to properly maintain the cadence of film when fed a 1080p/24 source--typically from a Blu-ray player (the refresh rate remains fixed at the standard 60Hz for non-1080p/24 sources). The V10 also has a 48Hz setting, but we recommend using 96Hz instead since the 48Hz option can introduce flicker. (Here's where we mention that, like all Panasonic plasmas, the V10's spec sheet includes mention of a 600Hz subfield drive. Our best advice is to ignore this spec--it has no visible bearing on picture quality, aside from a slight improvement in motion resolution that's extremely difficult to see.)

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
To work with new Blu-ray players to preserve the frame rate of film without flicker, the V10's 24p mode includes a 96Hz refresh rate.

The other big step-up is Digital Cinema Color, which allows the V10 to show a wider color space than the traditional HDTV color space. Since Blu-ray discs are produced in the HDTV color space, however, we prefer to leave DCC turned off--in fact, DCC is defeated and rendered nonadjustable if you select THX mode. See Performance for more information.

The V10 models also offer THX Display Certification. When you engage THX picture mode, the V10's color accuracy, shadow detail, and numerous other picture characteristics improve significantly without you having to make a bunch of adjustments. THX comes close to a "one-step calibration," but in the V10's case it's not as effective as using the Custom mode and Pro adjust settings.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
THX is available as one of the picture mode selections.

VieraCast, which debuted on the TH-PZ850U series last year, is Panasonic's interactive TV feature. It offers access to YouTube videos, photos stored on your Picasa account, stocks and headlines courtesy of Bloomberg, and local weather. It connects to the internet via an Ethernet port on the back of the TV. Panasonic regrettably does not include wireless capability nor sell a wireless dongle, although it says third-party wireless bridges or powerline adapters will work fine.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
VieraCast allows access to a variety of Internet services, including Amazon Video-on-demand.

New for 2009 Panasonic has added the ability to access Amazon Video on Demand via VieraCast. The pay-per-view movie and TV service is integrated nicely into the television, includes access to so-called high-def content, and can supplement or supplant cable or satellite PPV offerings with its significantly larger catalog. We also appreciate that, unlike some implementations of Amazon VOD, VieraCast allows you to preview content before purchase. One downside of using the system is that it disables many of the TV's aspect ratio controls and doesn't allow access to the THX picture mode, but happily the other picture modes are all available and fully adjustable. Like the G10, the V10 also offers the ability to interface with compatible networked cameras to use the system to for household monitoring.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
Amazon VOD includes numerous HD movie selections, but they'll cost you.

Panasonic offers fewer picture adjustments than lot of other HDTV makers, but the V10 includes more advanced adjustments, thanks to the Pro Setting menu, than step-down models. We liked that all five of the global picture modes, including THX, Studio Ref. and the dim-by-design Standard mode (see below), are adjustable and that the sixth, called Custom, is independent per input. The company's Game mode is basically just a picture mode; it doesn't eliminate video processing like some other makers' Game modes. The Studio Ref. mode, which isn't found on step-down models, supposedly delivers an image closer to that of a studio monitor.

There are five color temperature presets, of which Warm2 came closest to the D65 standard. The Pro Setting menu, which is only available in the Custom mode, offers white balance controls to tweak grayscale, although they're less complete (lacking control for green) than on other HDTVs. That menu also includes a gamma control and numerous other settings, and its presence really helped improve the TV's picture.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
While not quite up to the standards of some other HDTVs, the V10 does include a Pro setting menu, with more picture adjustments than step-down Panasonic TVs.

Adjustments available on all picture modes include a "C.A.T.S." function that senses ambient light and adjusts the picture accordingly; a Color management toggle that made color decoding worse when engaged; a trio of On/Off settings affect video noise; and another allows you to set black level (the Light option exposed the correct amount of shadow detail). The setting to control 2:3 pulldown happily affects both standard- and high-definition sources.

You can choose from five aspect ratio options with high-def sources, including a Zoom mode that allows adjustment of horizontal size and vertical position. The Full mode can be made to match the pixel counts of 1080i and 1080p sources, without introducing overscan, if you select the HD Size 2 option from the Advanced menu (in THX mode this option is called "THX" and you can't disengage it). We recommend using this setting unless you notice interference along the extreme edges of the screen, which can occur on some channels or sources.

Panasonic also offers ways to avoid temporary image retention, a.k.a. burn-in, and address it should it occur. A pixel orbiter slowly shifts the image around the screen, and you can elect to have it happen either automatically or in user-set periodic intervals. You can chose bright or dark gray bars alongside 4:3 programs. And if you do see some burn-in, chances are the scrolling bar function, which sweeps a white bar across a black screen, will clear it up after while. We appreciated that the VieraCast menu went into screen saver mode after a few minutes of inactivity.

While the company touts the V10 series' power-saving chops, thanks to its so-called NEO PDP panel, in reality this is still one of the more energy-hogging TVs you can buy (see Power consumption below). The set's ECO menu only allows automatic turn-off functions; it doesn't offer a specific power saving mode that affects power draw when the TV's turned on.

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-PV10 series is excellent, starting with four HDMI inputs, three on the back and a fourth 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 pot 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-PV10 series
There are plenty of connections on the V10 series, including three HDMI and two component-video jacks on the rear panel, as well as an Ethernet port (not shown) for network connections.

Panasonic TC-PV10 series
The side panel adds a fourth HDMI jack, a PC input and another AV input.

In all the Panasonic TC-PV10 series delivers the best picture quality of any flat-panel TV we've tested so far this year. Its deep black levels are it biggest strength, and its color reproduction was accurate enough, especially given the extra controls, to satisfy all but the strictest videophiles. Said videophiles will also appreciate the V10's ability to properly handle 1080p/24 sources.

TV settings: Panasonic TC-P50V10

Setting up the TC-PV10 for optimal picture quality presented us a somewhat difficult choice: to THX or not to THX? As we noted on the G10 review, THX mode delivers more accurate primary colors than the company's other settings, along with very good gamma and grayscale performance. The downside of THX is a slightly dimmer image (25.75 ftl) and some color decoding issues that bring a greenish cast to the image. With our V10 review sample we actually saw worse picture quality in THX mode than we saw on the G10. For whatever reason the grayscale was quite a bit less accurate and too blue (we measured an average variation of 441K, as opposed to the 150K variation on the G10), and the primary color of red was also a good deal worse.

For those reasons, and also because the V10 allows significantly more picture adjustments than the G10, we decided to use the Custom mode, adjusted with our standard user-menu calibration, for our evaluation instead of THX. It delivered our preferred light output of 40ftl, accurate gamma (2.26 versus an ideal of 2.2--the same as we measured in THX and much better than Custom on the G10, which hit 1.86) and solid grayscale performance (which again surpassed the G10's overly blue Custom, thanks to the Pro adjust settings). Compared to THX, Custom on the V10 evinced less accurate green, yellow, and cyan colors and more accurate red and magenta (the color temperature and primary color numbers in the Geek Box are for THX, however, since it was still the most accurate preset overall before calibration). In case you're curious, we did measure the DCC mode and found it, as expected, highly inaccurate by HDTV color space standards, so we left it turned off for our evaluation.

Our comparison included the Samsung PN50B650, the Panasonic TC-P46G10 and the reference Pioneer PRO-111FD from the plasma camp, along with the Samsung LN52B750 and Sony KDL-52XBR9 representing LCDs. For most of our image quality tests we turned to "Baraka," which is among the best-looking Blu-rays on the market.

Black level: The V10 exhibited the best black level performance we've seen on any flat-panel HDTV aside from the G10 and the Pioneer. In extremely dark scenes, such as the partial eclipse and night sky at the beginning of Chapter 20, or the shadows along the twilight temples in Chapter 21, the black areas and letterbox bars were darker than any of the other displays in our comparison, with those two exceptions: blacks were basically the same on the G10 and visibly deeper on the Pioneer, and compared to the LCDs and the Samsung plasma the V10 was easily darker. As usual, with deep blacks came a picture with more pop, realism, and impact in both dark and brighter scenes, and the improved light output of the V10 in custom versus the G10 in THX made the V10 seem a bit more impactful in our darkened home theater.

Shadow detail was also excellent. Under the starlit sky in Chapter 21, the steps and statues of the temples, as well as the underside of the rock formations under the starlit sky, looked natural and no detail was obscured. The V10 was equal to the G10 and Pioneer in this regard, and again outdid the other displays.

Color accuracy: Overall color on the V10 was quite good, although by no means perfect. The color decoding of Custom mode over-accentuates red a bit, so we had to back the color control down quite a bit to compensate and prevent skin tones from looking too ruddy. As a result saturation wasn't quite as lush as on our reference Pioneer, but it was still as good or better than the other models, as evinced by the vibrant colors of the tribesmen in Chapter 7 for example. Skin tones like the faces of the subway riders looked natural as well, thanks in no small part to the V10's accurate grayscale. This scene also revealed the greenish tinge of the G10's THX mode, and in general we preferred the look of the V10's Custom.

The V10's primary and secondary colors in Custom mode were not perfect, and according to our measurements Green was the biggest offender--a difference that was visible in the rice paddies and grass in Chapter 4, which looked slightly more intense and less natural than we saw on our reference display (although the difference was subtle). The blue sky reflected in the lake in Chapter 8 also appeared a bit too dark, an issue we blame on the too-blue secondary color of cyan.

On big advantage the V10 showed over the LCDs in our comparison was its ability to reproduce a true color of black that wasn't too bluish. Its grayscale stayed true even in the darkest areas, even surpassing the G10 and the Pioneer in this regard.

Video processing: The V10 was superb in this category. Our first order of business was to confirm that the 96Hz mode worked as advertised. It did. We tried our favorite test for proper 24-frame cadence, the flyover of the deck of the Intrepid from "I Am Legend," and the motion looked as film-like as we've come to expect from displays that handle 1080p/24 sources correctly--just the standard rapid-fire judder of film without the hitching motion associated with 2:3 pulldown. We saw similar success in camera moving across the airplanes and oil fields in Chapter 16 of "Baraka." For the record, we engaged the 60Hz setting and the hitching returned, and when we switched to 48Hz the flicker seen on the G10 and other so-equipped Panasonic plasmas was in full effect. Maybe it goes without saying, but for the full videophile experience we recommend using 96Hz mode with your Blu-ray player set to output 1080p/24.

As expected the V10 resolved every detail of still 1080i and 1080p sources when its HD Size 2 aspect ratio mode was engaged. Motion resolution was the best we've ever tested and the equal of the G10, with the V10 resolving all 1080 lines of resolution in our test pattern. The display also successfully de-interlaced both film- and video-based 1080i sources. As usual, however, these excellent resolution characteristics were difficult to appreciate outside of test patterns.

Bright lighting: The V10 and G10 share the same antireflective screen. It did a solid job attenuating ambient light and glare in our bright room--not quite as good as the Pioneer or Sony, but clearly better than the highly reflective Samsung. The V10 did not preserve black levels in the bright light as well as any of the other non-Panasonic displays.

Standard-definition: The TC-PV10 series 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 Samsung, for example. The V10 did a sub-par 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 moiré from the grandstands behind the racecar.

PC: With an HDMI source and set to THX mode the V10 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 naturally 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.

Before color temp (20/80) 6805/6923 Average
After color temp 6464/6400 Good
Before grayscale variation 419 Average
After grayscale variation 101 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.624/0.346 Poor
Color of green 0.298/0.624 Good
Color of blue 0.1518/0.0655 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: We didn't test the power consumption of the Panasonic TC-P54V10, although we did test the TC-P50V10. For more information, please refer to that review.

How we test TVs


Panasonic TC-PV10

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 7Performance 8