Panasonic TC-P55VT60 (TCP55VT60) Review
55" 3D Plasma HDTV Infinite Black Ultra, Viera Connect Smart TV
by Robert Wiley, Senior Editor
The TC-P55VT60 is a direct replacement for the fine TCP55VT50 from last year. This 2013-2014 model has some new features but keeps the exceptional Infinite Black Ultra Panel. The 3000 Focus Field Drive produces images of 1080 lines for 2D for crisp, clean image motion. This model is active 3D, has 2D to 3D conversion, upgraded side speakers, and the attractive glass and metal design.
Picture Quality - Superior: 9.5/10
Blacks and Contrast
You can get a real sense of the black levels that can be achieved on the VT60 from this shot. As you can see, reflections in exceptionally bright rooms may end up being a problem despite the screen filter. The built-in camera can be seen at the top of the screen
One of the greatest characteristics of the picture performance of the 55VT60 after calibration is the exceptional black levels accessible by the Infinite Black Ultra Panel. These black levels are really only challenged by the OLED TVs that will be out soon. That means the VT60 has the best HDTV blacks in the market for this year. Deeper black levels of course increase contrast and make colors appear richer and more saturated, thus making black levels #1 of the top 3 factors in picture quality. This panel is actually comprised of the Infinite Black Pro Panel with the Ultra Filter – combining to make the “Ultra” panel. The ultra filter is not actually part of the panel but an expensive overlay that enhances depth perception and also black levels by absorbing in-room light and not allowing it to escape. This little trick is especially handy for the anti-glare property it provides as well. This is called a louvered filter and these filters are normally only found on top end models.
Color Reproduction/Image Edges/Processing
This is a great example of the clean line the VT60 is capable of producing. Color is also shown in this shot from the Blu-ray of The 5th Element
The TC-P55VT60 grants viewers a smooth, vibrant, and color-rich picture. Image edges were one thing we thought excelled on the VT60. They are probably the best we have ever seen from a 1080p TV. Light flow through from in-picture light sources is comparible to what can be seen in good LED TVs – a testament to Panasonic's technology changes to combat some of LED TV advances. The couple of negatives we noted were some jerky judder effects during slow panning, and some pixelating artifacts visible on certain situation on light areas of the screen. There is also more flicker present in horizontal lines when there is slow panning. Using the 96hz setting resulted in more flicker for most programming. I prefer the 60hz setting for less flicker. Panasonic high end plasma TVs have suffered somewhat as well from some picture instability – a jumpy effect in some scenes. To me, it is negligible on the VT60.
Picture Mode Settings VT60:
Standard - This setting is much improved over the dim standard mode from the VT50.
Cinema - The Cinema setting bumps up the color saturation and gives pictures a warm tone.
THX Cinema - We liked this one. It provides a slightly brighter and more saturated image than the Cinema setting
THX Bright Room - We like this setting and it's the best of the preset picture modes. It's new and it was needed on many plasma TVs such as the Panasonics that needed a quick setting solution for brightly lit rooms. This or the THX Cinema setting are good options if you do not want to delve into our settings. THX Bright Room runs Contrast all the way to 100%. But it's still not as good as our settings.
Game Mode - This setting will look blown out like the Vivid setting unless you are gaming on the TV, then it is acceptable though to me it shows lots of granulation and artifacts.
Custom - Comes set to 100% of contrast and is your launch pad into our professionally calibrated settings.
Vivid - Shows tons of pixelation and artifacts and should be avoided. There are just too many negative picture effects to name with this setting, so just avoid it.
Motion Smoother (IMPORTANT Setting)
This is an important setting on the 55VT60, but it is also one that can cause some confusion. This setting will probably be activated on the preset picture modes by default. So if the picture looks strange, investigate these settings to see if it can be fixed by switching it off. What happens is, you see the picture as naturally intended with some unintended judder, or use the feature with much of the background blur and judder removed. This may bother some as it produces a somewhat fake appearance – some may have heard it called the 'Soap Opera' effect. The Weak setting option within the control does not seem to produce much problem and is worth considering. Otherwise, we prefer the feature be left off. The Mid and Strong settings produce too much (of that stuff). To get to the control: go to the top left menu button, then the right arrow key to access Picture settings, then scroll down to the second page, and there you will find the Motion Smoother. Turn off or to the Weak setting.
Now let me confuse you. With both 3D programming and Gaming you will definitely want to use the Motion Smoother feature on at least the Mid setting as it enhances the performance of both.
3D Picture Quality – Solid Performance After Finding Best Settings
Once calibrated the VT60 has a good, solid 3D picture performance though it falls behind some of the LG passive 3D TVs in this area. After ramping up the 3D picture a bit through the Custom setting (Motion Smoother to Strong setting, 3D Adjustment setting to +3) we got a very solid 3D picture that popped. What you notice immediately about the TCP55VT60 compared to LED 3D TVs is that the 3D picture is much darker and this takes away somewhat from the 3D quality – whether caused by the glasses or the image. But after these adjustments you get a deep picture with lots of richness and certainly above average 3D picture with little crosstalk or flicker from the glasses. Side-viewing angles with 3D images are perfect on the ST60. There is little crosstalk to observe unless there is very fast motion in the picture. The VT60 is THX certified for both 2D and 3D programming. Two pairs of 3D glasses are included with the VT60 (TY-ER3D5MA) and are large, light and comfortable. Additional pairs of glasses run around $75.
The active 3D glasses that come in the box are a little bulky, but light. 2 pairs are included
2D to 3D Conversion – Leave it Alone!
Nope, not there yet on the 55VT60. That is, unless you are willing to punish your eyes. You'll see tons of crosstalk, fluttering images, blur, motion lag everything you do not want in a 3D picture (or any picture for that matter). We tried it with some good BluRays as well as regular DVDs and it's a feature that you will want to leave alone for now on the Panasonic VT60.
We fired up Gran Turismo 5 and Okami HD on the PS3 to test out the VT60's gaming capabilities. The TV has a Game mode located in the advanced picture settings. It's a good idea to turn it on for action games and shooters. Otherwise there will be a noticeable amount of input lag. There was a bit of judder in the Game mode, but that didn't take away from the experience. The Motion Smoother setting helps with the judder, but has to be disabled when the Game mode is running.
Input lag in the game mode is cut down to levels where we didn't notice during gameplay, though some may say that it is too much
Try out both ways for different games to see what works best, but I still recommend Game mode as best. We gave 3D a try on Gran Turismo 5 as well. The sense of depth was very subtle, but the picture quality did not take a turn for the worse like we saw with other TVs in tests. It could be a lot of fun with the right game. Important Note: This is a plasma TV, so try not to allow static images and HUD elements to remain on the screen for long periods of time to avoid ghosting and burn in.
Okami HD on the Panasonic TC-P55VT60. The strong contrast of the plasma display is really showcased here
3000 Focused-field Drive
Panasonic’s claims for the new specification is that it makes motion scenes more smooth and the image edges more crisp, by manipulating the light emissions of the TV, and in the end producing a picture with less blur especially during fast motion on-screen. Our own eyeball tests of the new Panasonic plasmas show excellent quality with fast moving images, whether it is from some enhancement FFD or otherwise a normal quality of plasma.
Features Rating: 8.8/10
Smart TV Features and Functionality
Internet Browsing/Wifi Connection
Browsing is not difficult to access through the Apps button on the remote. Then scroll across to the clearly noted box marked “Web Browser.” The Panasonic VT60 is slow to browse with even though the Wifi connection through this TV is one of the best we've tested. The 5-way controller on the normal remote control is slow, the touchpad on the touchpad remote is just slightly better, and the voice control feature is novel at first but mus-comprehends words too often. The VT60 uses a url toolbar or a Google browser tab for searches.
The Wifi Connection on the VT60 is the best of any TVs we've tested this year (this and the ST60).
Smart TV Apps
This is the screen where you access the apps you have downloaded onto the VT60
The VT60 has a full complement of Smart TV Apps. Featured Apps include MLB.TV, Netflix, Hulu Plus, Games (Playjam), You Tube, Amazon IV, Accu Weather, Cinema Now, WSJ Live, MLS Soccer, Skpe, Fox Sports, Vudu HD Movies, Pandora, TCN TV Country. Notably missing was Picasa though. One area of superiority with the Panasonic TC-P60VT60 compared to some of the competition is that the wifi connection is excellent. MySpace is not a big part of the selection anymore and other Apps that have taken a backseat or that are not present anymore include Daily Motion, Bigflix VOD, Smagfilms. There are 33 games to choose from with most free and the others costing 99 cents.
The optional Touch Pen allows you to add a pesonal touch to photos and video by writing directly on the screen. The result can then be shared using the Swipe & Share 2.0 features. 2 pens can be added for $80
Follow this link to read a full write up on Panasonic's 2013 Viera Connect platform
My Home Screen
The new My Home Screen allows users to select what content is shown on their personal home screen. To me, it's not a very interesting feature nor something I would likely use. With Swipe & Share 2.0 users can view or play content from their Android and iOS devices on the screen with a simple swipe of the finger.
Here you see the home screen where every user of the TV will be able to customize the home page with any apps they like
Touch Pad Controller
The included Touch Pad Controller is most useful for speeding up web browsing, but doesn't really help navigation through the Viera Connect platform. A mic button located at the top-left of the controller makes it easy to access the new voice recognition controls
The touch pad controller may or may not be a helpful deciding factor for you in purchasing. It's an added accessory of dubious value as is the new Voice Interaction function that goes with it. We were not impressed with the small touch pad controller from the VT50 series from last year as it did not add speed to the slow browsing or Smart TV selection functions.
Appearance and Design
This shot shows off the elegant glass and metal design of the VT60
The VT60 features built in side speakers and a slim metal table top stand which give it a great look. New for this year is the distinctive V shaped neck which is pretty slick. The TV frame is metal with glass accents and overall has an expensive and classy look and feel, while not as slick or modern looking as the frame-less Samsung or LG top end LED TVs (or even Panasonic's LEDs). We recently reviewed the ET60 from Panasonic and it's better looking than the VT60. The front facing pop-up camera on the VT60 is fairly small and curious looking.
This is the easy to navigate picture settings menu. 10 and 2 point white balance adjustments are available
Sound Quality – Somewhat better
Sometimes has a hollow (tunnelesque) effect from the VT60 that turning the volume up does not remedy. Sound is generally good from the 2.1 sound system, has a small 10 watt woofer with 2 X 10 watt speakers. There are lots of sound options available with a surround mode. The Natural Surround mode isn't bad for movies but we prefer the simple Standard mode with everything else off. We adjusted some of the settings and found that treble at +6 and bass at -5 which helped slightly.
Front Facing Camera
The included front facing camera is convenient and a useful you ever want to make a video call. It pops up automatically when Skype App is opened. There are a couple of settings options but generally the camera is of medium quality and with a fairly narrow focus.
Value Rating - 7.9/10
Here is where quality and price converge. The TC-P55VT60 is around $2399 - no bargain basement TV. Yes, it has best in the market black levels that rival the best ever. In a dark home theater type environment the picture quality is astounding. Competition for this top model (along with the ZT60) comes from Samsung's UN55F8000 LED, and the LG 55LA8600 which is slightly lower down on the quality totem pole. Samsung does not make their top end F8500 in 55 inches.
Overall Rating: 8.7/10
- 3 USB
- Dual Core Processing Engine (Hexa)
- Includes 2 pair active 3D eyewear
- Built-in Camera for Skype
- Voice Interaction
|Having reviewed and written about Television Technology for over 10 years, Wiley never tires of researching the newest qualitative trends related to the technology. Most people do not get excited about possibilities behind the latest video engine...Wiley does. Read more about Robert|
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