Panasonic Viera TH-PZ750U review: Panasonic Viera TH-PZ750U

A door on the front panel hides a third HDMI input and a set of AV inputs.

The Panasonic TH-58PZ750U is an excellent performer, exhibiting deep black levels and good color reproduction. Its color isn't perfect, however, and it can't get as dark as competing plasmas from Pioneer, but overall its image quality is still among the best available from any large screen HDTV.

Our evaluation began by setting up the television for optimal picture quality in our completely dark room, which involved setting its light output to our standard 40ftl , about the brightest this large plasma can get. We appreciated the fine color temperature controls, which as we mentioned, allowed us to improve the set's grayscale even further. We also choose the "High" setting for panel brightness, after making sure that this setting didn't affect black-level performance.

After setup, we slipped Mr. Brooks, the Kevin Costner serial-killer flick, into our Sony PlayStation 3 and compared the Panasonic with a few other HDTVs we had on-hand, including the company's own 50-inch TH-50PH9UK, the 50-inch Pioneer PDP-5080HD plasma (our black-level reference), the Sony KDS-55A3000 (our color reference) and the Samsung HL-T5687S, a DLP-based rear-projection model.

The beginning of the film is quite dark, including nighttime shots of Costner and his wife at a banquet and on the drive home. During these scenes, the TH-58PZ750U displayed an admirably deep shade of black. Costner's tux and the night sky behind the titles, for example, looked relatively inky, and as dark as any of the sets with the notable exception (as usual) of the Pioneer, which appeared a good deal darker. Both plasmas were about equal in terms of shadow detail, showing the folds in the tux and the lowlights in his wife's hair, for example, quite well. We also appreciated that, unlike the 700U, the 750U maintained a stable level of black regardless of the brightness of other areas of the screen, causing it to pass our black-level retention test.

In terms of color, the Panasonic's acquitted itself well. It benefits from an extremely accurate grayscale that makes white and dark areas look perfectly neutral and skin tones appear relatively good. We did have to back down the color control a bit, sacrificing some saturation and richness, to prevent the set's red push from making skin tones, like the delicate face of Mrs. Brooks, appear too rosy. As a result of that sacrifice, some of the more colorful areas lacked a little punch compared with the Pioneer or the Sony. However, colors still looked rich overall, owing a lot again to those solid blacks.

Like most plasmas, the Panasonic exhibited an inaccurate green primary, which made the grass and trees outside Brooks' first victims' home, for example, appear a bit too bluish and less natural than they did on the Sony. The inaccurate greens also caused some areas, like well-lit skin tones, to appear a bit too yellowish. The differences in both cases weren't drastic, however, and as usual were most-noticeable in side-by-side comparison.

We also noticed a bit of false contouring on the Panasonic that wasn't visible on the Pioneer. The rounded lamp in Brooks' living room, for example, showed some faint bands as the light hitting the top of the body progressed into shadow below, while later Mr. Brooks' flashlight showed some banding around the flare as he aimed it in Dane Cook's face. The other sets, aside from the other Panasonic plasma, showed a smooth gradation without any bands in these areas. The instances of contouring were again few and not distracting, however, even in typically contour-prone areas like white walls and shadows near light sources.

The big screen showed off the detail of this incredibly sharp-looking disc quite well, as we expected from a 1080p television. According to test patterns, the Panasonic displayed every line of resolution from 1080i and 1080p/60 sources (it can't properly display 1080p/24, for what it's worth). Fine details, such as hair and close-ups of faces, looked as sharp as on any other HDTV in the room. The Panasonic did fail to properly deinterlace film-based 1080i material, but we didn't see any evidence of this failure in the Brooks (although the grille from the RV in Chapter 6 of Ghost Rider did exhibit moiré) and we certainly don't consider it a deal-breaker.

The TH-58PZ750U's screen is coated with a similar antireflective compound as the 700U series, and in our experience it didn't do as well at attenuating room reflections as the Pioneer did. On the other hand, the 50-inch Panasonic plasma, which doesn't have any sort of antireflective measures, looked a good deal more washed out in bright light and captured more reflections than the 750U. Naturally, the two rear-projection sets, with their matte screens, fared best in this department.

With standard-definition sources, delivered via the component-video input at 480i resolution and tested with the HQV DVD, the Panasonic performed about average. The set resolved every line of vertical resolution of the DVD format, although it didn't quite hit every line of horizontal resolution, which may explain the slightly softer-looking bricks and grass we witnessed in the Detail test. It smoothed out the edges of moving diagonal lines, including the stripes on a waving American flag, quite well. The Panasonic's noise reduction consists of three On/Off settings, "Video NR," "Block NR," and "Mosquito NR." The last didn't seem to do much, but turning on the first two decreased the amount of moving motes and video noise somewhat, although the noisiest scenes didn't look as good as we saw on some other sets with NR, such as the Sony. Finally, the Panasonic effectively engaged 2:3 pull-down.

With sources from a PC hooked up via the analog VGA-style input, the TH-58PZ750U didn't impress. Its maximum resolution over VGA, as stated in the manual, is just 1,280x1,024 (disappointing for a display with 1,920x1,080 pixels), and as expected the desktop at that resolution looked pretty soft, especially with text and other fine details. We didn't test the HDMI input with a PC, although we expect it to perform just as well as the TH-58PZ700U, which resolved every detail of a 1,920x1,080 source via HDMI.

Before color temp (20/80) 6228/6518 Good
After color temp 6465/6530 Good
Before grayscale variation +/- 216 Good
After grayscale variation +/- 111 Average
Color of red (x/y) 0.655/0.336 Average
Color of green 0.27/0.654 Poor
Color of blue 0.152/0.067 Good
Overscan 0.0% Good
Black-level retention All patterns stable Good
Defeatable edge enhancement Y Good
480i 2:3 pull-down, 24 fps Y Good
1080i video resolution Pass Good
1080i film resolution Fail Poor

Panasonic TH-58PZ750U Picture settings
Default Calibrated Power Save
Picture on (watts) 562.52 489.38 N/A
Picture on (watts/sq. inch) 0.39 0.34 N/A
Standby (watts) 1 1 N/A
Cost per year $171.43 $149.22 N/A
Score (considering size) Poor
Score (overall) Poor