After years of speculation Panasonic finally confirmed that plasma production would end. Early in 2014 the last panel will come off their line and the best current displays will go away. Despite having not spent much time viewing one in person, I still took advantage of the current availability and bought myself a 60” Panasonic VT60.
After spending time watching and analyzing the Panasonic VT60 I can say, without hesitation, that anyone after the best display they can get should pick one up now. Black levels are amazing, light output is high enough for almost any situation, and the contrast ratio is jaw dropping. It is a beautiful set that will keep you happy for years to come.
So Long Plasma
|Inputs:||3x HDMI, 1x Component, 1x Composite, 1x Antenna/Cable, 3x USB, 1x SD Card|
|Outputs:||Optical, Audio Return Channel (HDMI 2)|
|Streaming Services:||Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vudu, YouTube|
|Display Size:||56.2" x 32.7" x 2.0"|
|Display Weight:||80.5 lbs.|
|Review Date:||December 21, 2013|
|Price:||Out of stock|
The final straw might be the rise of 4K. As detailed in an article at HDTV Test, making a 4K plasma is hard to impossible. The limitations that keep us from seeing plasma screens under 42” will keep us from seeing a reasonable 4K plasma display. When the writing is on the wall like this, it probably makes sense for Panasonic to move away from plasma to LCD.
Four years is forever
My 50” plasma, a Samsung PN50B650, is just over four years old. At the time it was a mid-range model that was affordable and let me replace my hulking DLP display. Though the Samsung works perfectly, and is calibrated to be very accurate, I felt the need to upgrade to the Panasonic VT60 before it went away for good. What I didn’t expect was how much things had improved in this time.
The VT60 manages to completely blow away the Samsung in every way. Subpixel noise, which makes many people avoid plasma, is almost non-existent now. Black levels are an order of magnitude better and the contrast ratio is 20x as high. The peak light output, despite being a 60” model instead of 50”, is far higher and I can push over 50 fL now instead of 32 fL. For watching during the day this makes a large difference.
The VT60 also has filters to help reduce reflections on the screen. Compared to my older plasma with a plain glass screen, reflections are more subdued. I have it directly across from a large window and have no issues watching football on a Sunday afternoon. Even with ambient light the improvement in black level is instantly apparent over the older plasma. It is almost impossible to determine when letterbox bars end and the screen bezel begins. Aside from a $9,000 OLED display nothing I have seen in person comes close to the blacks the Panasonic VT60 can produce.
Compared to my old display the Panasonic VT60 is far better in design and profile. It weighs less at 60” than my old display did for 50” and it is far, far thinner. I never bothered with the thinnest wall mount because the plasma was so thick but now I will. The three HDMI inputs are all mounted to the left side and HDMI 2 supports Audio Return Channel. There is also an optical output for the integrated tuner and apps.
There are three USB ports for photos, movies or music and they will also power a Chromecast. It even includes an SD card reader for photos. In a nice little touch the IR sensor extends to the bottom of the display so IR emitters for universal remotes are hidden away.
I’m not a fan of the included touch-pad remote. It is too hard to navigate around using it and the voice search does not work that well for me. Searching for “Netflix” or “Hulu Plus” brings up a lot of options, none of which is the app I want. The standard remote is better, though the Home button is too large and prominent I feel. I’m happy that Panasonic provides the normal remote and the gimmick remote as other companies only offer one.
So, So Black
Watching anything on it is a joy. The bright colorful trains when my sons watch Thomas and Friends jump off the screen. Everything is bright and bold, but also dead-on accurate. Watching football on the VT60 the motion is very good compared to a LCD. The Panasonic VT60 offers motion interpolation, of which I am not a fan, if you want things even more fluid. Even if you have a snowstorm, like during the Lions-Eagles game this year, the VT60 looks fantastic.
Putting on a movie is where the Panasonic VT60 truly shines. Watching Drive the pink credits float on top of a pure-black background. The shadow details that are visible from the VT60 are incredible and the depth of the blacks is entrancing. The 96 Hz mode for film does a great job of keeping that film cadence without introducing flicker like 48 Hz or judder with 60 Hz. As soon as the skyline shots of LA appear you’ll never want to let the VT60 go. Only JVC projectors have produced similar contrast ratios for me. The VT60 easily puts out contrast ratios greater than 20,000:1 while LCDs I’ve reveiewed of the same price and size struggle to even hit 3,000:1.
To torture a TV and see how it does shadow detail, the last Harry Potter film is the best. As Voldemort and his minions gather on a hill outside of Hogwarts you must to make a compromise. You can keep your dark blacks and only see a blob on top of the hill, or you can make out details and raise the black floor. The VT60 forces no compromises on you. The blacks are inky as possible but you still see fine details. I make out the robes of each person instead of them being a black blob and when they fire on the school the bright explosions are on top of a pitch-black background.
While not a 3D fan I still am happy to have a 3D display for review purposes. Watching some of Monsters University the 3D is overall very good on the VT60. Way ahead of most LCDs but a bit behind a DLP. The image is very bright and punchy but there is some crosstalk at points. I also still find myself getting a big of a headache watching it. Of course every 3D display, save the $60,000 SIM2 SUPERLUMIS, does this to me so it isn’t uncommon.
The VT60 also has a large selection of apps to pull from. Netflix supports SuperHD and Profiles and is very quick to stream. As the VT60 has integrated Wi-Fi you won’t need to run an Ethernet cable to it either. Hulu Plus also works well and let my wife watch Glee without a problem. You can also use the VT60 as a target for YouTube and other apps. From my phone or laptop I can simply click in the YouTube window and send it to the VT60 instead.
Using the default THX Cinema mode the VT60 has very good overall performance. The grayscale and colors are all very good with almost invisible errors and the default light level is a good 32.2 fL. With no adjustments at all you have an image that most people will be happy with. If you want to make it perfect you can use the Professional 1 and Professional 2 modes to calibrate it. Results for those are found on the next page.
Buy One While You Can
To many, a TV that sells for close to $2,000 is hard to label a bargain. That’s well above what most people pay for a TV, and prices keep coming down. I will give that label to the Panasonic VT60 as finding better performance requires spending far more. You can get the Panasonic ST60 for a bit less, but it’s out of stock now and might be gone. Or you can step up to the ZT60 if you want every last ounce of performance. The Panasonic ZT60 only looks better in a room with lights, so if you watch in a dark room the displays are identical.
Beyond this you need to move up to a 55” OLED screen from Samsung or LG to find similar contrast ratios and picture quality. That is a $9,000 investment instead of a $1,850 one. OLED will eventually be affordable, we think, and will be the TV that everyone wants. Until then, the Panasonic VT60 is going to hold me over nicely. It’s the best-looking TV I’ve ever had in my house, and the black levels wow me every time I turn it on. If you want the best image you can get for under $2,000, nothing will beat the Panasonic VT60. Just get one before they’re gone.
1/22/2014 Update: Amazon is sold out now of everything though 3rd party vendors have some. Best Buy has the ZT60 available (it rejects light better than the VT60 but is identical in a dark room) but they’re almost all gone at this point.
|Pros:||Amazing black levels, reference level picture quality, good integrated streaming features|
|Cons:||Not a fan of the smaller remote|
|Summary:||Thanks to a price drop it is the best TV under $2,000 right now. Picture quality that you can't beat without spending close to $10,000 that you should pick up while you can.|