Panasonic TX-P55VT65B (VT65) Plasma TV Review

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Can they do it again?

by hodg100 Apr 9, 2013 at 12:00 AM

  • TV review

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    Reference Status
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B (VT65) Plasma TV Review
    SRP: £2,399.00

    What is the Panasonic TX-P55VT65B?

    Panasonic surprised the AV world when they announced that they were replacing the VT series at the pinnacle of its Plasma line-up during CES 2013. The VT50 was a fantastic TV and fully deserving of AVForums first Reference Status Award, for a television, in over 4 years but Panasonic has decided to play it a little differently this year, both to give their products more differential and to widen appeal so the VT65 sits just below the new Flagship ZT series in the 2013 pecking order. Like the ZT65, the VT65 also features a new red phosphor which they claim is able to achieve 98% of the Digital Cinema standard which is certainly interesting but we’ll have to wait and see just how much benefit that brings to the home, where we watch content with less saturated colour spaces. The VT65 marks its uniqueness by being the only Panasonic Plasma TV to come equipped with a video camera, built-in, and is the sole choice for those that like a truly big-screen experience in the home, being the lone 65-inch TV in the range. Steve Withers has already had his mitts on the enormously impressive - step-down product - the GT60 so we literally can’t wait to get stuck in to the VT65 to see what progressions Panasonic has managed to squeeze in there. We love this time of year!

    Design and Connections

    To buck the modern trend for putting flagship TVs on starvation diets, Panasonic has actually bulked out the VT65, a touch, over last year’s series. It’s actually more a move based on practicalities than a conscious design-led decision in order that the VT65 is able to accommodate front-firing, side-mounted speakers to give the audio performance a welcome push in the right direction; most TVs these days feature downward-facing speakers that do little to convey a convincing soundstage so it’s great to see Panasonic having the courage to stand up for their convictions.

    The speaker performance was greatly helped along by the addition of a small subwoofer, secreted somewhere within the confines of the chassis, which helped deliver genuinely defined voice tones and more clout than you would expect, with special effects benefitting significantly from the added low frequency. We generally treat manufacturer’s claims for improved sound quality with a pinch of salt but Panasonic has actually managed to make good on theirs this time and the VT65 produces a very pleasing audio performance with enough dynamism to make you think twice about that soundbar purchase.

    The more we look at it the more we like the Panasonic TX-P55VT65B and it’s predominantly down to the fact its overriding colour is black in its outward projection. The VT65B features a ‘one sheet of glass’ design with an integrated 3cm wide bezel – to the sides - and there’s a further half a centimetre, or so, where the perforations of the speaker grille can be seen and it’s all finished off with a silver trim, providing a very solid frame for the on-screen images. That’s not to say the VT65 is old-fashioned in appearance and the base-stand, in particular, is extremely stylish with the new V-Shaped connector which secures it to the chassis. The VT65 doesn’t swivel, unfortunately, but since viewing angles are not an issue with plasma technology, it’s not a huge omission. Here is also probably a good place to mention the efficacy of Panasonic’s new-and-improved High Contrast Filter Pro which performs its primary goal of maintaining the pictures’ punch in more challenging environments by combatting the amount of light let it in to the plasma cells, extremely well. The fact we can now choose from a range of ‘Panel Brightness’ settings only helps the VT65’s cause further but we’ll look at that more later on.

    The front of the panel doesn’t just act as a filter, it also protects the screen when it’s being used in conjunction with the Touchpen, although with having kids in the house, we’re never going to get that out, other than for test purposes when they’re safely tucked away in chambers. The chassis is just over 5cm deep and has numerous vents on the back of the panel for cooling – but some might be disappointed by the inclusion of a couple of cooling fans, at either side, that you can sometimes here whispering in low volume scenes. It never troubled us but we realise there are personal tolerances to consider.

    All 3 – and we think there should be 4 – HDMI connections are sideways facing, which makes wall mounting easier, but are only 12cm, or so, from the edge of the bezel. Which means if you prefer chunkier HDMI cables, you may need to apply more force than you would want to your cables in order they can be concealed effectively. Along with the HDMI ports, also side-pointing are three USB ports, a headphone socket, a SD card slot, a Common Interface (CI) slot and an optical digital audio output. Facing downwards there are aerial and satellite inputs, an Ethernet port and the AV1 and AV2 inputs for legacy connections. The AV2 connection doubles up for component and composite video and the AV selection menu lets you manually select which type of signal is being sent, whilst the AV1 input is exclusively for SCART sources. There’s two satellite antennae inputs (for dual tuner recording), a single DTV aerial terminal – internally it’s also dual for Freeview HD recording - and the VT65 also features a service port which we assume can be used in place of the absent RS232 port for the custom install market; those involved in that particular business may also like to know that the P55VT65B comes with a 1.5m long three-pin power cable that attaches to a rearward facing socket using a right angled connector to aid wall mounting. It’s also probably worth noting that Panasonic has dropped D-SUB VGA connections for PC’s in 2013, so it’s DVI/HDMI only from here on in.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Design and Connections
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Design and Connections

    Panasonic is mixing it up with the remote controls this year and this is the third different design this particular reviewer has had his hands in only the last few weeks but it’s an almost identical remote to those seen with last year’s plasma range only with new and prominent buttons for Home and Apps, which ties in well with Panasonic’s newly designed interface. The remote has a gloss black finish and feels very comfortable to hold and has well planned button placement which, in combination, with the backlight makes it a doddle to use in the dead of night. We keep unsociable hours, see.

    If you fancy a simpler way to navigate around menus and assume general control of the VT65, the new Touch Pad controller might suit your tastes. It’s very similar to last years, which we liked, but now includes a ‘trigger’ to the rear, so it’s even better! It’s actually a very good design choice by Panasonic, making the Touch Pad much easier to use one-handed; whereas previously you were required to enter in to a spot of thumb gymnastics to keep the experience smooth when wanting to verify a selection. That’s a long way of saying it acts as an Enter/OK button and does so very well. As the name would suggest, the Smart controller has a touchpad that allows for some rudimentary TV controls, such as volume or channel selection but it really comes in to its own when used to scroll the internet functions and apps. New for 2013 is a built-in microphone offering its own command interface which actually works very well and comes in to its own more with the likes of content and web searches than it does for day-to-day duties, such as changing channel or volume. That’a matter for personal taste, of course, but credit to Panasonic for integrating a voice control system that can respond to a Northern accent!
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Design and Connections
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Design and Connections

    Also new this year to the Panasonic plasmas, is the inclusion of an electronic Touchpen, which Panasonic have ported over from some of their professional panels. The Touchpen pairs with your TV via Bluetooth and then uses the light from each pixel to provide positioning data which, thanks to the fast response time of the panel, allows for free drawing on the screen. There is a protective layer on the screen that you touch the pen against, although Panasonic do stress that you don’t push too hard. You can use the Touchpen for drawing pictures, adding messages or playing games and, although it does work very well, the novelty ran out quickly and probably those most impressed by its capabilities (children), are the very ones it needs to be kept furthest from.

    The TX-P55VT65 ships with two sets of Panasonic’s latest active shutter 3D glasses (TY-ER3D5MA), which seem to have had a slight makeover since last year. The new glasses share the same general design as the earlier ones, so they’re still relatively featherweight and comfortable to wear and they’re also pleasingly tint-free so wont discolour 3D images in any meaningful way. The glasses utilise the new RF standard so you should never have any problem with syncing and run from watch style batteries.

    Menus

    After first tuning and setting up the VT65, new owners will be greeted by Panasonic’s new My Home Screen which comes with 4 default views – Full Screen TV, TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen & Info Screen – with a further option to create customised screens as one sees fit.

    Moving in to the Menus ‘proper’ and the basic look of the Graphical User Interface (GUI) is familiar from last year’s ranges with a two-tone blue and gold colour scheme and sharp, easy to read text in sharp white. The Menus are split in to six submenus, Picture, Sound, Network, Timer, Set and a new Help section which, amongst other things, includes an ‘eHELP’ interactive menu, which like similar iManuals we’ve seen from other manufacturers, provides excellent assistance to more novice users, although we’d imagine the user-friendly nature of most of the menus shouldn’t require much in the way of explanation.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Menus
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Menus

    The Picture Menu has seen some dramatic extension work since the 2012 system with many of the new ‘enhancements’ being the first things you should be looking to switch off. It’s good to see that Panasonic has finally managed to add numbers to the control sliders in all the modes, which makes life much easier. They have also included of a new Viewing Mode - Custom - to accompany the existing Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, THX and Professional (ISF) options. The Custom and Professional modes both offer the same calibration features but you can only adjust the Custom mode using the Smart Calibration feature in the remote app. Otherwise the first page includes the standard picture controls, plus the Colour Temperature setting which has a choice of Cool, Warm and Normal. In addition there are the Vivid Colour, Colour Remaster and Reversal Film Effect controls, which you can turn off.

    Moving on to the second page there are controls for the Ambient Sensor, Noise Reduction, MPEG Remaster, Resolution Remaster, Caption Smoother, Brilliance Enhancer and Intelligent Frame Creation - all of which should be turned off if image fidelity is important to you. Don’t forget that Intelligent Frame Creation becomes 24p Smooth Film when you’re watching 24p content and in some of the modes it defaults to maximum, so make sure that is off as well. Also on this page you can access the Advanced Settings, Option Settings, Screen Settings and 3D Settings submenus.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Menus
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Menus

    The Advanced Settings sub-menu includes some new features and the most important is the Panel Luminance Settings which offers a choice of Low, Medium or High. One of our few complaints about last year’s model was its lack of brightness, so this new feature is a huge plus. There is also an Adaptive Gamma Control and a Black Expander feature, both of which we zeroed and the Colour Gamut, with the option to select Rec.709 best suited for HDTV content. Then we have all the conventional calibration controls in the form of a two- and ten-point White Balance, preset Gamma values with a 10 point adjustment feature and a Colour Management System for detailed adjustment of the primary and secondary colours.

    The Option Settings sub-menu allows for selecting the Game Mode and the 1080p Pure Direct mode, as well as engaging the Film Cadence Mode. Here is also where you’ll find the setting for HDMI RGB Range, which, unless you’re hooking up a PC, will be best set at Normal range but it’s good to see that it’s assignable per input. Finally, should you so wish, the HDMI inputs can be set to be expecting Graphics or Photos with some automatic picture adjustments then applied, but unless this a professional requirement, we’d advise leaving at the default Auto setting.

    The next submenu is Screen Settings, where you can turn 16:9 Overscan off - although make sure you have also selected the 16:9 Aspect Ratio. If you have the aspect ratio set to Auto, Panasonic TVs will still scale the picture up even with 16:9 Overscan set to off. Other controls include H-Size, Zoom Adjustments, Screen Display, Side Panel, Pixel Orbiter and the Scrolling Bar, with the latter two designed to prevent and reduce the effects of image retention, respectively.

    The last submenu is 3D Settings and here you can make adjustments to the 3D performance, although generally you shouldn’t need to make any changes when watching 3D content. However should you need to the options include 3D Detection, 3D Signal Message, 3D Refresh Rate, 2D to 3D Depth, 3D Adjustment, L/R Picture Swap, Edge Smoother and Safety Precautions.

    Features

    The P55VT65B includes Panasonic’s new Hexa-Processing chip, which delivers a very nippy Smart TV experience, loading web pages with almost PC speed. Panasonic has also given their Electronic Programme Guide (EPG) a slight make-over and introduced a window showing the channel you are currently on, along with a choice of the guide itself, a list of the channel and a search feature. There’s two ways in to Panasonic’s smart experience this time around; one can either go straight in to the Apps screen where the full suite can be uncovered or opt to go via the more personalised My Home Screen interface. The Apps screen is very reminiscent of a tidied-up version of Samsung’s Smart Hub and none the worse for it. We like it a lot, especially as it provides a unified location for the full bag of goodies: including access to the Web Browser, Media Player and Server, the Main Menu and TV Guide as well as the installed apps. The Panasonic VT65 came pre-loaded with plenty of apps including the usual big hitters, iPlayer, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Skype plus access to the likes of Netflix, SHOUTcast Radio and the BBC Sport app. If that’s not enough for you, then feel free to visit the Viera Connect Market where a range of further games, VoD services and Social Networking apps can be downloaded; some free, others not.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Features
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Features

    As well as the new content and interface, Panasonic has also launched their new VIERA Remote 2 app. This latest version of their remote app is available for both iOS and Android and includes a redesigned interface and some new features such as access to the apps page. There is also Swipe & Share 2.0 which allows for easier sharing of content between devices, with just a flick of the finger (or thumb). The new Smart Calibration interface Panasonic’s allows full access to the necessary adjustments for a full picture calibration and has the great benefit of not calling up the user menus, which is an annoying trait of the Panasonic’s on two fronts: a) the menus time out too quickly and you’re often left measuring them and b) even their presence at the bottom of the screen affect measurements, albeit only slightly. The only slight drawback is that the Smart Calibration feature only works in conjunction with the ‘Custom’ Viewing Mode; ideally we would have like to have seen it interact with the professional modes too. We’re also very pleased to report that the updated Android version of the new app is now as steady as the iOS version and we experienced only one crash during some very extensive testing.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Features
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Features

    As mentioned in the introduction, the VT65 includes a built-in camera for video calling through the Skype app; it can used in conjunction with the face recognition technology on-board to bring up personalised My Home Screens and it can also be utilised to create video messages. The Camera automatically pops up when a relevant application is detected but needs to be eased down, by hand, in order that it can be hidden within the confines of the bezel – another reason why it’s more thickset than your average 2013 high-end TV. We found the camera worked very well when the room was bright but struggled when the lights were down low, so make sure you illuminate suitably if you want to be seen clearly during that Skype call or when leaving a video message for others in the house.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Features
    The Media Player and Media Server also worked flawlessly, connecting easily with our home network and a number of devices and providing extensive file support. Overall we found the 2013 version of Panasonic's Smart TV System to be hugely successful in its ambitions of uniting and simplifying the experience and offering bags of content, to boot. We’re increasingly finding ourselves using the apps built-in to TVs, instead of turning to external devices, as they increase in effectiveness to rival them and the VT65 was certainly excellent for our diet of streamed on-demand content. The inclusion of a fully-fledged dual tuner PVR for both Freesat and Freeview HD services is further testament to the TV becoming an all-in-one solution but you need to make sure the external Hard Drive used is USB 3.0 compliant.

    Test Results

    Basic Setup

    Panasonic’s new Custom Viewing Mode gives calibrators a third – or arguably 4th, including THX Cinema – accurate preset from which to make their manipulations and it has all the necessary adjustments to gain first-class accuracy. As it transpired, the Custom and Professional ISF modes measured near identical once some basic adjustments had been made and we could just as easily have used one over the other for our calibration but what everyone really wants to know is, how does the new Red Phosphor affect performance? Well, let’s first take a look at that.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Test Results
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Test Results

    Comparing the two charts above, we can see that the Native Gamut, shown on the left, is indeed very wide and does get close to the DCI spec, although the claims of 98% of DCI for red are a little overblown. The CIE chart on the right is much closer to the Rec.709 standard, used to master HDTV content, but isn’t fully saturating red. The question is therefore; can the Native Gamut be brought back to hit its targets, not only at full saturation but also at lower stimuli, which will be vital for delivering convincing images? We’ll answer that in the section below but it’s already looking like a lost cause for Native, with Green and Cyan, in particular, so wide. We might be able to bring them in at full saturation but it will be asking a lot of the CMS to bring the less saturated tones in to line.

    Elsewhere, Greyscale tracking was fantastic for an out-of-the-box mode (both Pro and Custom with Warm Colour Temperature) but the Gamma tracking wasn’t quite so flat. It should be noted that the panel had less than 50 hours on the clock before calibration and it’s likely that will settle down some as the panel ages but we simply couldn’t wait to get stuck in and watch some calibrated images. With the available controls we shouldn’t have any problems in rectifying the gamma, in any case.

    Calibrated Results


    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Test Results
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Test Results

    We were easily able to obtain ruler-flat greyscale and gamma tracking using the 10 point controls and we’d have been disappointed had that not been the case, being as the VT65 is such a prestigious TV. With a maximum Delta Error of 0.4, we’re easily in the territory where our eyes cannot perceive any lack of neutrality, although a 20 point stair-step pattern did show up a few inconsistencies at the points in between. For example, 55% stim had a touch of pinkness and 35% was a tad to green but it’s not something that’s likely to trouble real world content in any meaningful way.

    As we suspected, there was absolutely no chance in bringing the Native Gamut in to anything like the Rec.709 standard so its uses in the home should be limited to, perhaps, gaming and/or animation, where it can be fun to have over-saturated colours. For anyone serious about their video, Rec.709 is the only option for other HD material and we were actually able to fix the pre-calibrated under-saturation of red using a combination of the Contrast slider, White Balance calibration and a tickle on the CMS. So whilst the DCI claims are just a bit of marketing bluster, the new red phosphor is useful. About the only thing we couldn’t get perfect was Blue, which was irretrievably over-saturated but seeing as its overall Delta Error is only around 1.5, not something you’re going to notice. As we can see from the chart below, we can also see that the VT65 can be brought in to hit its lower saturation targets too but, not – we repeat not – in the Native gamut which will always look overblown, no matter what you try.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Test Results

    Contrast, Black Levels and Screen Uniformity

    We were already satisfied with last year’s Panasonic’s in this department so the fact they’ve managed to extend the dynamic range, at both ends, is a fantastic achievement. Using the Mid Panel Luminance setting we were comfortably able to achieve 120cd/m2 on full white pattern and with an all black screen reading of 0.005 cd/m2, this gives a staggering 24,000:1 On/Off contrast ratio. We could push the Mid-level setting to around 145 cd/m to get around 30,000:1 but didn’t feel the need. Naturally the High Panel Luminance can give you even more but since it messes with the rest of the picture so much, we didn’t bother measuring.
    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Test Results
    We get a more revealing idea intra-scene contrast performance using a checkerboard pattern and the VT65 behaved interestingly here and slightly differently to the GT60 we covered recently. With Contrast and Panel Luminance set as per the 120 cd/m2 window measurement, the VT65 returned an average peak White of just under 72 cd/m2, compared to the GT60’s numbers which were in the 90’s. The difference in panel size, and therefore energy consumption, could well be a contributory factor but let’s not underestimate an ANSI figure of 11,300:1 and note that the VT65 has absolutely oodles of dynamic range with lower to mid APL (Average Picture Level) content which is, frankly, where most of the material you watch sits.

    Panasonic’s bête noire amongst our forum members for the 50 series came in the form of some unevenly illuminated strips running vertically down some panels, also known as ‘Vertical Banding’. We did see it ourselves with a few of the review samples but it rarely bothered us whilst watching real-world content but we are, nevertheless, delighted to report the VT65 under scrutiny here was absolutely beautifully uniform. We checked with grey and coloured slides, the Software update screen and several televised Football games and we saw not a glimpse of any banding so Panasonic seems to have got on top of that issue. For the conspiracy theorists out there - who frankly have no clue on how the process works - the TX-P55VT65B reviewed here was from a retail source so any notions of the so-called – and mythical – ‘Golden Sample’ can be put to bed.

    Video Processing

    Panasonic’s new Hexa-Processing Engine is seriously good and with a few twiddles of the, otherwise unnecessary, added controls such as MPEG Remaster and Resolution Remaster and Noise Reduction settings, it’s possible to get even low quality content looking relatively good. We hate to admit that’s an important concern but in the days of Smart TV, the internet and YouTube et al, it is a concern for many. The VT65 passed all the resolution tests with it scaling the images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. The Panasonic also scored very highly in the jaggies tests on both discs as well as performing very well on the diagonal interpolation test, with two of the three moving bars appearing smooth and only the bottom most extreme bar showing very slight jaggies. The P65VT65B had no problems correctly detecting both 3:2 (NTSC - USA/Japan) and 2:2 (PAL - European) film cadence, as long as the Film Cadence Mode is turned on.

    When it came to 1080i material the P50GT60 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests provided 16:9 Overscan was set to off in the Screen settings. As per last year’s V Ts, when it came to 1080p24 content it was able to produce superbly smooth movement and even on the torturous moving wedge tests on the Spears and Munsil disc. The P55VT65 was comfortably capable of hitting reference white and, even more impressively, was able to show 1% black simultaneously, giving a staggering dynamic range.

    Panasonic’s latest 3000Hz Focused Field Drive meant it was able to ace the FPD Benchmark disc, where the full 1080 lines of resolution were clearly visible on the moving tests. The VT65 includes an Intelligent Frame Creation setting for 50 and 60Hz content, which is a frame interpolation feature that offers a choice of Off/Min/Mid/Max. As Steve found with the GT60, the Min setting does very little with motion perhaps appearing just ever so slightly clearer but we honestly never felt a pressing need to engage it, at all. That goes double (maybe more) for the 24p Smooth Film function which makes film appear as video shot on a (not very good) handheld camera.

    Gaming Performance


    As with the GT60, the VT65B was able to improve on its gaming responsiveness this year, returning a lowest reading of 39 milliseconds. That was achieved in the Dynamic Picture Mode which requires major surgery before becoming anything like visually palatable, however, so we stuck with using THX Cinema - in conjunction with enabling the Game Mode in the Options Menu – which gave us a number of just over 40 milliseconds, which we found perfectly good as a mixture of low latency and a pleasing image. We still think Panasonic could shave of a few more milliseconds but we absolutely loved our stints on FIFA 13 and Halo 4 in our time with the VT65 – yes we are a bit behind in our pile of outstanding games!

    Energy Consumption

    • Standby: 0W
    The following measurements were taken with a full screen 50% white pattern:
    • Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 388W
    • Calibrated – Professional Mode: 203W
    • Calibrated - 3D Mode: 403W

    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Picture Quality 2D

    With so many fabulous aspects of picture quality to choose from, it’s difficult to know quite where to begin with this year’s VT Series but let’s highlight something that has seen vast improvement over recent Panasonic Plasma TVs – motion with 50Hz based content. Ever since Panasonic introduced NeoPDP to the World, they’ve had troubles in ‘accommodating’ the 50Hz signal within their 600Hz sub-field driving, which would often manifest as broken and multiplied edges to objects when under panning. We’ve seen gradual improvements since the 20 series but we could never say they’d cracked it – even the mighty VT50 would fall back in to the bad old ways when the vector processing was at full stretch – so it’s with absolute delight that we can say, they’ve nailed it this time around. As a sports fan, this is manna from Heaven and I’ll wave a cheery goodbye to the days of seeing 3, 4 and 5 halfway lines as the ball was hoofed up the field. Naturally, it’s not only of benefit to sports, it applies to everything but it’s with that kind of content where it’s generally easiest to spot. The Panasonic VT65 is a benchmark for motion performance. End of story.

    We’ve never had cause for complaint with the handling of 1080p24 content but it’s equally gratifying to impart the fact that the best with Blu-ray’s just got better. The benefits of the tweaked Focused Field Drive (FFD) make their way on to high definition disc too, and we were transfixed in reverence by The Hobbit Blu-ray, which looked considerably better at 24 frames per second than it did at the cinema in HFR. But it’s not only the motion, it’s the look and ‘feel’ of the VT65’s picture that inspires, delivering the most analogue and film like experience we’ve seen since TVs went digital; LED TVs will never look like this and if OLED can’t manage it either, we’re in no rush for its almost inevitable replacement of PDP as the connoisseur’s choice of TV display.

    Speaking of OLED, it had also better make good on its claims of almost infinite contrast and cavernous black levels as the VT65 is imbued with such dynamic range that it can fair take the breath away. Apologies to regular readers – and it’s almost over now so I won’t keep harping on about it – but the Spartacus HD series really is a treat for the eyes (and not just for the candy), with its stylised colour palette underpinned by some great CGI and photography and it’s a categorical fact that this reviewer has never seen it delivered in such fine style – colours were deliciously rich and saturated, skin-tones wonderfully realised and shadow detail abundantly clear; probably a good point to mention that the VT65 is very neutral near black, with no visible colour tint and all the better for that. In fact, the beautiful nuance of the fine colour gradations starts at black and pretty much just keeps on going until pictures go very, very bright.

    Away from the test patterns and software, we used Spartacus to test the effects of trying to force Rec 709 in to the Native Colour Gamut which only confirmed what we suspected, it really doesn’t work unless you like all your actors to have suntans, even when they don’t. We can see a superficial appeal, especially with colours at full saturation but that’s not where most of the action is so we’d advise avoiding its initially enticing allure – television and film doesn’t get made by accident, it gets made to standards and won’t look as it’s supposed to unless they’re followed. Simple stuff really.

    There has to be a catch, right? OK, there are a couple of things that could be improved but they’re fairly minor. Despite the fact that Panasonic has seemingly managed to finally nail motion at 50Hz, we could – just ever so often – see instances of false contouring manifesting as magenta and green fringing to edges such as peoples’ cheekbones or on objects of solid white. We’d put good money on the fact that most will never see it and instances are uncommon and usually very fleeting but it is there and at least it gives Panasonic something to work on for 2014. The only other quibble some might have, is with detecting flicker in brighter scenes. We could see none at ‘Low’ Panel Luminance, a little with ‘Mid’ and lots with ‘High’ but there’s a huge element of personal tolerance at play here so, as ever, we’d advise a demo to make sure you’re not one of the unlucky few that does see it with Panasonic Plasma TVs.

    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B Picture Quality 3D

    Not only has Panasonic improved upon the 2D to great effect, there’s a nice boost in 3D performance too. Seeing as though it’s very topical and we were dying to test our new copy of The Hobbit, we returned ourselves to the Lonely Mountain where the VT65 unearthed a treasure chest of 3D thrills. The use of positive parallax (depth) in the 3D version is truly outstanding and the VT65 delivered it with total assurance, creating a tremendously enveloping landscape with totally believable distant horizons and towering trolls that truly intimidated. The VT65 is not short of brightness in 3D either and the THX Cinema 3D provides a very decent starting point for those not watching a calibrated 3D display. Motion handling, as with the 2D images, was also mostly fantastic and crosstalk was at a minimum.

    Turning away from frame packed 1080p24 Blu-ray, we put the VT65 through its paces with side-by-side content at 50Hz, i.e. what we see from our broadcasters, and there’s no better test than the Wimbledon footage shot by the BBC. Again, the VT65 came up smelling of roses with just the faintest hint of crosstalk on the tramlines as balls travelled with fierce velocity at diagonal angles across the net. Motion was similarly excellent to the Blu-ray presentations and the detail packed in with either format, was utterly spellbinding, at times. As a personal note, with anything but a single lamp on in the room, I was able to detect a fair bit of flicker but you really shouldn’t be watching 3D in a well-lit room.

    Video Review




    Conclusion

    10
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    The Good

    • Superb analogue looking images
    • Reference black levels
    • Incredible contrast ratio and dynamic range
    • Lack of PWM noise and clean looking images
    • Very good out-of-the-box greyscale
    • Reference greyscale after calibration
    • Excellent out-of-the-box colour gamut
    • Reference color gamut after calibration
    • Reference level 3D performance
    • Comprehensive calibration controls
    • Wonderful motion handling
    • Excellent video processing
    • Built-in WiFi, Freesat HD and Freeview HD
    • Excellent Smart TV platform
    • Highly effective remote app
    • Well designed menus and remote control
    • Attractive design and excellent build quality

    The Bad

    • Some DFC
    • Stand doesn't swivel
    • Fans might bother some
    You own this Total 10
    You want this Total 2
    You had this Total 0

    Panasonic TX-P55VT65B (VT65) Plasma TV Review

    The Panasonic TX-P55VT65B isn’t the slimmest of flagship TVs but it’s still a beauty and the reason for the added girth lies in practicalities as it houses front-firing speakers and hides the built-in camera. The speakers themselves are very impressive for a flat panel TV and we’ve no problem in having a relatively solid black bezel framing our pictures. A warm welcome awaits users in the shape of the new My Home Screen which provides the dual benefits of almost infinite customisability and refined navigation, thanks to some clever design choices. The new Panasonic options menus are more sprawling than in previous years and there’s a lot more by ways of unnecessary picture controls but we’re not complaining too vociferously given the inclusion of a fabulous suite of calibration options therein.

    Those above mentioned calibration controls helped us extract reference accuracy from the VT65B but that’s not the only reference thing about this TV, both motion handling and contrast performance are firmly from the top drawer and that’s not just with Blu-ray disc this time, Panasonic has all but expelled any issues with motion on 50Hz content, at last, but there does remain the odd, and we really mean fleeting, spot of false contouring but that’s just about out only complaint with the 2D pictures on offer. The 3D presentation is also tremendous with the improvements in the Focus Field Drive technology translating over in to the third dimension with improved motion and reduced crosstalk.

    The VT65 is an absolute triumph for Panasonic and brings everything to the party one could possibly hope for – stunning dynamic range, steadfastly accurate colours and gloriously silky motion handling. With so many rumours circulating of Panasonic’s imminent departure from the Plasma market , let’s hope that party isn’t a leaving do but we think they’d be crazy to give up on it at this stage when it, so obviously, has so much to give. Bravo Panasonic. Oh, and yes, they’ve done it again, Reference Status.


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £2,399.00

    The Rundown

    Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

    10

    Screen Uniformity

    10

    Colour Accuracy

    10

    Greyscale Accuracy

    10

    Video Processing

    9

    Picture Quality

    10

    3D Picture Quality

    10

    Sound Quality

    8

    Smart Features

    9

    Build Quality

    9

    Ease Of Use

    9

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    10

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