With the exception of Laser TV, recent display technology improvements have been more Ã¢â‚¬Å“painstakingly evolutionaryÃ¢â‚¬Â than revolutionary.
While plasma contrast ratio and black level performance improvements have been relatively modest over the past few years, average plasma TV performance significantly exceeds that of LCD, especially in terms of off-axis contrast and off-axis brightness.
That said, the improved picture quality of the 50Ã¢â‚¬Â TCP50G10, PanasonicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s latest plasma entry, goes well beyond incremental.Ã‚Â In addition to a much improved picture, the TCP50G10 features a more compact form factor, lower power consumption, increased image brightness, accurate colorimetry, better anti-reflectivity and improved signal processing.
Shrinking the top and side bezels to about 1.5Ã¢â‚¬Â compared from about 3.5Ã¢â‚¬Â on the 2008 TH46PZ800, produces a more compact set measuringÃ‚Â (48Ã¢â‚¬Â wide x 30.3Ã¢â‚¬Â high without stand).
The result?Ã‚Â The shiny, black bezeled, curved bottomed 50Ã¢â‚¬Â TCP50G10 is only about Ã‚Â¼Ã¢â‚¬Â taller (on the included stand) and about 1Ã¢â‚¬Â wider than the 46Ã¢â‚¬Â TH46PZ800.Ã‚Â The G10 might fit in a space a competitorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 50Ã¢â‚¬Â set might not.Ã‚Â The compact form factor required a performance price most potential buyers will gladly pay: the G10’s downward facing, single driver, internal stereo speakers produce adequate, though unexceptional sound quality and are a step down from last year’s two-way speaker system (separate woofer and tweeter).
The new remote control adds hot buttons to access extra functions including Viera Cast (internet widgets and downloads), and Viera link (HDMI-CEC command and control of Panasonic sources such as a Blu-ray player).Ã‚Â A Viera Tool button provides direct access to the Ã¢â‚¬Å“picture modeÃ¢â‚¬Â function, Network security camera activation (optional), SD card functions and ECO/energy saving menu (auto power off, etc).
On-screen menus cover picture and audio controls, timer, SD card options, closed captioning and setup.Ã‚Â New for 2009 is a toggle for 3:2 pulldown (conversion of film based 24 frames per second content to the TVÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s native 60 Hz display function).
The TCP50G10 includes a fixed (non-swivel) table stand.Ã‚Â The setÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s rear panel houses two HDMI inputs, two component video inputs and one combo, S-video/composite video input, all with accompanying L/R audio inputs.Ã‚Â A left side indentation houses an SD card slot (for viewing photos or AVCHD movies made on a camcorder), a composite video input with L/R audio and a 15 pin sub-D PC input that accommodates a variety of computer resolutions.
The performance and feature packed Ã¢â‚¬Å“Full HDÃ¢â‚¬Â (1920x1080p resolution) TCP50G10 is the least expensive 2009 Panasonic plasma set to include THX certification.Ã‚Â What does that mean to consumers?Ã‚Â THX originally created audio standards for movie theaters and later for home theater sound systems. In 2008 THX issued a set of home video display standards for its certification.
What are these standards?Ã‚Â The question cannot be fully answered at this time. THX hasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t released the complete criteria a display needs to meet for certification.Ã‚Â However, it states a display must conform to the Rec. 709 HDTV standard color points.Ã‚Â How closely, though, we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t yet know.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Neo PDP,Ã¢â‚¬Â PanasonicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s name for the 12th generation panel within the G10, represents a remarkable advance in technologyÃ¢â‚¬â€one that furthers plasmaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s performance edge over competing technologies.Ã‚Â Utilizing new phosphors and gas mixtures along with 600 Hz sub-fields, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Neo PDPÃ¢â‚¬Â achieves lower power consumption, far higher light output capabilities and full motion resolution.
The TCP50G1 accepts 1080p/24 signals that may be displayed at 48Hz or 60 Hz.Ã‚Â Like last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s TH50PZ850 reviewed here, the 48 HzÃ‚Â rate suffers from image flicker and is deemed unwatchable.Ã‚Â Use the 60 Hz mode.
The five aspect ratios include full, just (progressive stretch), and 4:3.Ã‚Â The set offers a choice of HD content screen size: HD Size 1 produces 2.5% overscan.Ã‚Â HD Size 2 has no overscan.Ã‚Â The advantage of eliminating overscan (HD Size 2) is pure pixel for pixel resolution without Ã¢â‚¬Å“aliasing artifacts,Ã¢â‚¬Â though on some broadcast channels you may see noise in the extreme top or side edge.Ã‚Â Switching to HD Size 1 pushes the edge noise off screen.Ã‚Â Edge noise is nonexistent with any other HD content, including Blu-ray discs, home video and downloads.
This is where the G10 really shines.Ã‚Â The TCP50G10 virtually nails the HDTV color standard (in the THX mode) with primary color points within .005 or less in the x and y axis of the Rec. 709 standard.Ã‚Â In simple terms, many reviewers and videophiles feel compliance with the Rec. 709 HDTV color standard (used to master Blu-ray discs) is essential for excellent HDTV performance.Ã‚Â The readings and 709 standard (for red, green and blue in parenthesis) are R= x.642, y.329 (x .64, y.33) G= x.299, y .605 (x .30, y .60) B= x .15, y.056 (x .15, y. 06). (Note the THX certified TH46PZ800 came close but was not as Rec. 709 accurate as the G10)
Another area of vast improvement over previous plasmas is its white level uniformity.Ã‚Â The G10 brightness is far more consistent across the screen than the 2008 TH46PZ800 or PioneerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Pro 141FD (or many LCD flat panels).Ã‚Â Ditto for white (color) uniformity.Ã‚Â The Pioneer produces light pink tones in parts of the screen while viewing a full white raster pattern.Ã‚Â The G10, though not perfect, only slightly deviates from pure white, a change that isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t significant.Ã‚Â You wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be able to discern differences when viewing content such as a solid blue-sky scene.
Panasonic claims its NeoPDP panel design can output far higher light levels than previous plasma designs, so we put it to the test.
Using a 100 IRE window pattern, we verified PanasonicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s claim.Ã‚Â In the THX mode with the user controls (including contrast) optimized, the TCP50G10 measured a very bright and comfortable 31 ft. lamberts.Ã‚Â To achieve far higher brightness (needed for rooms with high ambient light levels) requires a simply change of the picture mode to Custom or Vivid mode and an increase of the contrast control.
With the contrast control set to 100% and the picture control set to Vivid, the G10 produced a retina searing maximum brightness of 92.2 ft lamberts (using the same window pattern).Ã‚Â This is the highest level weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve measured on any plasma and is comparable to many LCD models.Ã‚Â Viewing HD content with the contrast control maxed out confirmed the G10 is capable of producing an image so intense, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s uncomfortably bright.
In the past, LCDs were the only recommended flat panel technology for high ambient light environments, not any more.Ã‚Â This display can provide high image brightness along superb motion resolution, wide viewing angles and excellent color.
Most LCDs panels use fluorescent lamps (called CCFLs) as the light source.Ã‚Â To increase light output, the lamps output must be raised with the TVs backlight control, often resulting in muddy blacks and lower contrast ratios.Ã‚Â Plasmas generates its own light (like a CRT), maintaining deep blacks while raising the light level.Ã‚Â With arrival of the TCP50G10, you can use plasma in brightly lit rooms that previously required an LCD panel.
After resetting the user controls to their optimum position in the THX mode, signal processing evaluations were made using the Silicon Optix standard and high def HQV Benchmark test discs.Ã‚Â The results?Ã‚Â This Panasonic aced the 3:2 pulldown HD test (a first for a Panasonic consumer HDTV) as well as the SD 3:2 test, jaggies 1 test, noise reduction and 1080i deinterlacing tests, besting last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s model and the Pioneer plasma as well.Ã‚Â Here are the results:
SD Benchmark (@480i via composite video input)
Jaggies Pattern 1- 5 out of 5
Jaggies Pattern 2-5 out of 5
Waving Flag-Ã‚Â Ã‚Â Ã‚Â 5 out of 10
Detail Enhancement- 10 out of 10
Noise Reduction (with NR activated) 10 out of 10
Motion Adaptive NR (with NR activated) 10 out of 10
3:2 Detection: 5 out of 10 (there are technical reasons why a set should take a few frames to lock in and this should not be considered a downgrade.
Film cadence tests passed except of the DV Cam (2-3-3-2) 8-7 anime and 2-2.Ã‚Â These three non-standard frame rates are insignificant when measuring overall signal processing performance.
HD Noise Reduction 25 out of 25
Video Resolution Loss Test 20 out of 20
Jaggies Tests 20 out of 20
Film Resolution Loss Test One 25 out of 25
Film resolution Loss Test Two 10 out of 10
The G10 conquered the motion resolution test as well, scoring a perfect 1080 lines (Per Picture Height) using the FPD Motion Resolution test disc, again besting last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s TH46PZ800 and the Pioneer Pro-141.Ã‚Â Those plasmas measured just fewer than 900 lines (PPH).Ã‚Â By comparison, 120 Hz LCD flat panels typically measure around 600 lines PPH.
Black levels on the G10, Z800 and the PioneerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 60Ã¢â‚¬Â Pro-141 are below my test equipmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s accuracy.Ã‚Â However, the PioneerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s black is deepest, followed by the new G10 with the Z800 coming in last.Ã‚Â The deeper blacks of the Pioneer come at a cost.Ã‚Â The Pioneer obscures details in some dark scenes where the G10 revealed every nook and cranny using the same dark content.
An example, the interrogation scene in the Blu-ray disc, Quantum of Solace.Ã‚Â At times, the basementÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s stone walls details were buried into black when viewing the Pioneer, while the textures were always visible on the Panasonic G10.
A related area of dark detail concerns the anti-reflective (AR) filter.Ã‚Â PioneerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s monitor produces a purplish cast that tinges both reflections and dark detail, the Panasonic G10Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s AR filter provided excellent attenuation of reflections while maintaining color neutrality.Ã‚Â Score another plus for Panasonic.
White points were measured too.Ã‚Â In THX mode the G10 measured 6698K at 30 IRE (x .309, y.329) and 6760K at 80 IRE (x .Ã‚Â 308, y .329).Ã‚Â One disappointment, a gray scale adjustment cannot be performed in the THX mode (using the HDTVs service mode) leaving the gray scale performance close, but not exactly conforming to the D6500K standard.
Topping the improvements over last yearÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s plasma models is reduced energy consumption.Ã‚Â Using the new industry standard IEC test disc, repeating the 10-minute test sequence six times (with the G10 user settings optimized and in the THX mode), the Panasonic consumed only 230 watts in one hour.
This reading is comparable to findings of etailer Crutchfield, although they use different measurement methodology.Ã‚Â You can find CrutchfieldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s results at (Link). The 230 watt measurement places it in the range of the energy usage of many CCFL 52Ã¢â‚¬Â LCD 2009 flat panels (according to CrutchfieldÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s tests).Ã‚Â The days of electronics salespersons saying plasmas are energy hogs are over.Ã‚Â Potential buyers can be assured the G10 is comparable to many similar size LCD flat panels.
Observing hours of cable and broadcast HD and SD content revealed excellent 709 color in the THX mode. Switching the Panasonic G10 to the wider color gamut Ã¢â‚¬Å“CustomÃ¢â‚¬Â picture mode produced a distinctly different color appearance and pallet.Ã‚Â It is very similar to the “Pure” picture mode of the Pioneer Pro-141 (post normal user settings adjusted color, contrast, brightness etc.).
Upconversion of SD content on the G10 provides a virtually artifact free, enjoyable experience.Ã‚Â You canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have the SD source look as sharp as HD, but one does not have to live with the distractions of image artifacts such as combing and jaggies.Ã‚Â The G10 has top quality upconversion.
DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be lured by the lower closeout price of the last year’s PZ800, the superior performance of this new model is well worth the added cost.
The Panasonic TCP50G10 will meet the needs of anyone seeking very high HDTV performance along with a compact attractive design. At its new lower retail price of $1799.99, this Panasonic represents a real value as well. The HD Guru commends PanasonicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s engineering improvements and awards the TCP50G10 its highest Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥Ã¢â„¢Â¥ rating.
HD Guru with Michael Fremer
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