Panasonic’s ST60 models fall smack in the middle of their 2013 plasma line. Below it are entry level models and above it, the VT60 and ZT60 lines with a new drive system and every Smart feature Panasonic offers. The ST60 series is packed with the latest Smart apps, streaming services, Skype video (with accessory camera sold separately) a new GUI “home screen”, 3D and oh, the best overall image of any HDTV we’ve ever reviewed.
Read on for all the details.
The TC-P65ST60 (currently $2498 Amazon) is a 65-inch diagonal screen plasma HDTV. The series includes a 50-inch (TC-P50ST60; $999.99 Amazon), 55-inch (TC-P55ST60;$1349.99 Amazon ), and a 60-inch (TC-P60ST60;$1499.99 Amazon). All have a glass-and-metal design with a 2-inch depth. The ST60 features Panasonic’s “Infinite Black Pro” plasma panel, 2500 Focused Field Drive (each subfield pulse lasts 1/2500th of a second), 1080p HD resolution in 2D and 3D, 2D-to-3D conversion, Electronic Touch Pen (an optional accessory), built-in Wi-Fi, VIERA Connect-cloud based access to Internet content for Video-on-Demand movies and TV programs, educational content, a rudimentary web browser, and a wide variety of other apps.
The ST60 has an anti-reflective coating bonded to the top glass. This appears slightly more effective than prior models.
The remote control is changed from last year. It’s not back-lit, but does include a dedicated Netflix key, along with repositioned buttons for menu and home, which took some getting used to after many years of similar remotes.
The ST60 has three HDMI jacks (one with Audio Return Channel), two USB, one component/composite jack (no dongles needed), an SD Card slot, and an Ethernet jack. The ST60 accepts AVCHD, MPEG4, Motion JPEG, MKV, MOV and other video files along with JPEG photos and AAC, FLAC and MP3 music files.
Here is where Panasonic really stepped up to the plate this year. They now five picture modes and have added a 10-point gamma control. They also have a copy feature that permits your picture settings to be transferred to each input (a real time saver). There a numerous other settings for noise reduction, motion smoothing (with accompanying soap opera effect), as well as 48 and 96 Hz refresh for 24 FPS based content (film and some video based movies).
In addition there’s an app for Android and iOS phones and tablets that permit changes in picture settings including the 60’s built in color management system.
There are new home pages to choose from. Several contain a small screen of your cable/satellite content, surrounded by apps. Panasonic includes several templates you can customize with your favorite apps along with weather, time and other information. We played with Amazon Instant to check out its streaming quality and chose the movie the Lincoln Lawyer in HD (one of our recent favorites). We found the HD quality very good: closer to Blu-ray than DVD, and the best we’ve seen from Amazon. We don’t know if the improved image is a result of Panasonic’s streaming and processing quality or Amazon’s, but we are not complaining.
Using the IEC power consumption test we measured 260 watts. While this is far higher than LED LCDs, the price difference for a top performing model will never come close to matching the energy saving realized during a TV’s lifespan.
We broke in the panel for 200 hours prior to testing. We did this by running cable channels with light logos and only full frame content (no black bars). Using the “Custom” mode, we set the contrast at “83” producing a 100 IRE window pattern brightness of 29.1 foot lamberts. After the break-in period, we used full screen raster patterns at different levels to check for uneven wear (burn-in) or image retention (IR). None was observed. We rechecked our initial picture settings.
It’s worth mentioning that all plasmas regulate brightness via a circuit called “ABL.” This is due to the physical limitations on the TV’s power supply, along with energy consumption considerations. So the use of a window pattern for checking brightness more accurately represents how the TV will look with most TV programs and movies. Full white-screen programming is the exception rather than the rule (mostly only seen with ice hockey and skiing competitions).
So we set the TV contrast for maximum brightness for daytime viewing, producing a white level of 45.5 ft lamberts on a 100% white window. We measured 0.0020 ft lamberts as the minimum light level with a full black screen. This tied with last year’s top-of-the-line VT50 black level measurement. The overall result is an outstanding native contrast ratio of 22,750:1. This remarkable contrast ratio really made the picture pop with a 3D-like quality using 2D content and mode.
We ran our upconversion tests using the HDV DVD and Blu-ray discs and the ST60 aced them all. Motion resolution was a full 1080 lines (per picture height).
Color accuracy was very good out of the box, with a red measurement of x=0.654 y=0.322; green x=0.289 y=0.601 and blue x=0.150 y=0.055. The color management system permitted near perfect settings of the primaries.
The Warm 2 color temperature setting came close to 6500K color temperature with an out-of-the-box reading of 6447K at 20 IRE, and 6314K at 80 IRE. Using our spectroradiometer for measurements, the built-in white balance controls permitted adjustment very near the ideal D6500.
We are currently updating our calibration software and plan to publish graphic read-outs of our results in the near future.
We ran through the 24Hz source settings. As in prior Panasonic models the 48 Hz output flickered like crazy and was not acceptable. The 60 Hz setting engaged 3:2 pulldown and passed all our tests. The 96 Hz worked fine except for certain scenes. Horizontal pans a particular seemed to have some stuttering. We believe this phenomenon is a function of the cinematographer picking a pan rate that is too slow to blur the image but fast enough to cause stuttering. It doesn’t seem to be a function of the TV, as we’ve seen this on other displays that do 96 Hz. In I Am Legend where the camera pans while Will Smith hits golf balls off the USS Intrepid, stuttering can be seen on the tail of the jet alongside him.
The TC-P65ST60 uses two tweeters and a rear facing midrange woofer. We don’t like sound emitting to the rear when the TV is on a table stand without a wall close behind. Fortunately, many folks choose a sound bar or surround sound system. Panasonic tells us this model (and higher series) now incorporate audio return channel (ARC) that will permit up to Dolby 5.1 sound to be sent from the HDMI sources connected to the other two HDMI inputs (such as a DVR and a Blu-ray player).
We briefly checked out the 3D performance looking for crosstalk using the outside church scene in Monsters vs. Aliens. There was no double image, a test result we’ve only encountered previously with the testing the 84-inch UHD LG. We found the new active shutter glasses lighter than the prior model but a little tight when wearing our eyeglasses beneath them. Two pairs of glasses are supplied with the TV.
This is where the TC-P65ST60 really blew us away. Our latest favorite Blu-ray disc, Skyfall showed off many of this HDTV’s attributes. Let’s begin with low level detail. While maintaining the lowest black level, we could still make out the outlines of the bricks in the shadows at 16:12. The bright lights and colors Shanghai building at night and the deep dark water with the ripples clearly visible against the night skyline begins at 41:36 and continues to the Macau night shots. Bond getting off the boat on to the dock with the yellow and red lanterns is truly an intense, stunning image. We like the red accuracy and noticed it on Severine’s red dress in the Macau casino. Skyfall was shot on video, not film, at 24fps, making all the night scenes grain free. This is a must have disc for anyone that wants to see the high quality images this HDTV is capable of producing.
We viewed other content including some cable fare and again and again were totally impressed with its magnificent performance.
The icing on the cake of this HDTV’s performance is its remarkable value. While we do not consider price in our final rating, the TC-P65ST60 is simply a steal. Let’s compare it to an LED LCD HDTVs with local dimming, the only types of LCDs that offer performance in the same ballpark. There are only two local dimming LED LCDs remaining and they are both 2012 leftovers. The 60-inch Elite Pro60X5FD (review) is $5,500 at Magnolia/Best Buy. The 65-inch Sony XBR65HX950 (review) sells for $5,198 on Amazon direct (click link for details). Compare those with the $2,498 for this TV from Amazon direct . The smaller screen size ST60s are even less expensive with the TC-P55ST60 55-inch currently offered by Amazon direct for $1350 with free shipping.
While Panasonic has a new VT60 and upcoming ZT60 with the promise of even better images, the TC-P65ST60 sets a benchmark for HDTV performance with excellent color, high quality signal processing/upconversion, deep inky blacks and detailed motion resolution. HD Guru awards the TC-P65ST60 ♥♥♥♥♥ (five hearts) our highest rating.
Disclosure: The TC-P65ST60 reviewed is a manufacturer supplied production sample.
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