Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B (ZT65) Plasma TV Review
The KURO is dead, long live the ZT65!
What is the Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B?It came as something of a surprise when Panasonic announced at this year’s CES that the VT65 would not be the flagship model in 2013. Finally after years of asking Panasonic would be releasing the ZT65, a true enthusiast’s TV that promised to go “Beyond the Reference.” That’s a fairly bullish claim and Panasonic were obviously confident in their new model and perhaps emboldened by the VT50’s reference badge winning status last year. In actual fact, Panasonic said that the reason they used that phrase was because so many people still held the KURO up to be the reference to which all other TVs are measured. Four years after Pioneer stopped making them, the KURO still hangs around Panasonic’s table like Banquo’s ghost and this year they were determined to exorcise it!
Flagship status aside, the big difference between the ZT65 and the VT65 is Panasonic’s new Studio Master Panel, which used a new production process that eliminated the air layer between the glass at the front and the panel itself. Panasonic claim that this new panel will deliver previously unheard of black levels and dynamic range. The ZT65 would also have a number of other unique features, all of which would help differentiate it as an uncompromising performer aimed squarely at the enthusiast. This uncompromising performance doesn’t come cheap of course and the ZT65 will set you back nearly £4,000, whilst the difficulty in making the new panel means there is only one screen size and limited supply. So the big question is, does the P60ZT65 live up to Panasonic’s claims and have they finally laid to rest the ghost of the KURO? Let’s find out...
Styling and DesignThe P60ZT65 certainly looks every inch the flagship TV with its gorgeous single sheet of glass design and futuristic chic finish. Whilst the P60ZT65 might be expensive, at the very least it has the build quality to match the price tag and you certainly won’t be disappointed with the styling. The entire panel just oozes class and the gloss black finish, silver trim and brushed metal stand create a look that perfectly combines both the contemporary and the classic. Beneath the glass there is a black bezel that surrounds the panel itself and measures 2.5cm all around. Along the entire outside of the chassis is a silver trim that is 1cm wide and at the centre bottom there is the Panasonic logo, which thankfully doesn't illuminate. To the left of that there is the infra-red receiver for the remote and on the right hand rear edge there are some buttons for basic control. There is also a tiny power LED next to the IR receiver but for those that plan on using their new P60ZT65 in a pitch black room, Panasonic claim it can be dimmed or even turned off completely. This is slightly misleading, as this can only be done using the ECO sensor, which will dim the LED depending on the amount of ambient light. There isn't, however, an actual control to turn the LED off manually.
Although the entire front of the 60" screen is made of glass, thanks to the filter designed to reject ambient light it wasn't especially reflective, even during the daytime. The front of the panel doesn’t just act as a filter though, it also protects the screen when it’s being used in conjunction with the Touchpen, although why anyone would want to use that with the P60ZT65 is beyond us! The chassis is a remarkably thin 3.5cm deep, the back plate is made of black metal and the whole display has the well-engineered and solid finish that we have come to expect from Panasonic. There are numerous vents on the rear of the panel and two fans for cooling but these were inaudible when actually watching content on the P60ZT65. As is always the case with a plasma TV, there was a very slight buzz from the power supply but this can only be heard when you hold your head a few centimetres from the back of the panel. The P60ZT65 weighs 44kg with its stand and 37kg without and there are the standard fixing points for wall mounting. The P60ZT65 can’t be swiveled and the stand itself uses the v-shaped chrome support with a rectangular base in what Panasonic call a ‘hairline’ finish - that’s brushed metal to the rest of us.
To accommodate the sleek proportions, the rear connections are downwards and sideways facing, which also makes wall mounting easier. However once again the side facing HDMI inputs are only 10cm from the edge which is far too close. What’s the point in having a beautiful looking TV like the P60ZT65, if the elegant lines are ruined by cables poking out the side? Along with sideways facing HDMI inputs of which there are only three, even on the flagship model, there 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. To differentiate the P60ZT65 from Panasonic’s other models it uses gold coated terminals for its connections and overall it’s a reasonably comprehensive set of connections and our only criticism would be the absence of a RS232 serial connector. It’s also probably worth noting that Panasonic has dropped D-SUB VGA connections for PC’s, so it’s DVI/HDMI only from here on in. The P60ZT65 comes with a 1.5m long three-pin power cable that attaches to a rearward facing socket using a right angled connector to aid in wall mounting.
The P60ZT65 comes with a high-end remote control that harks back to the remotes provided with Panasonic flagship models in years gone by. This remote is very well made and comfortable to hold, with an attractive black finish and silver trim that matches the design of the TV itself. All the essential controls are present and correct, with an intuitive layout that’s easy to use. We definitely prefer this remote to the glossy ‘fingerprint magnet’ included with most of Panasonic’s other TVs. As an alternative the latest Touch Pad controller offers a simpler way to navigate around menus and assume general control of the P60ZT65. It’s very similar to last year’s but now includes a ‘trigger’ at 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 be rather dextrous 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 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, recognising normal speech. Although it’s more useful when it comes to content and web searches than for routine duties, such as changing channel or volume.
New for this year 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 whilst we had fun playing with it initially, the novelty wore off fairly quickly. Panasonic have obviously included this feature because they can but we really can’t see the kind of enthusiast who will buy a P60ZT65 having any interest in the Touchpen.
The P60ZT65 ships with two pairs of Panasonic’s latest active shutter 3D glasses (TY-ER3D5MA), which appear to have had a slight makeover since last year. The new glasses share the same general design as the earlier ones and as such they are incredibly light and comfortable to wear. The lenses on the glasses are still neutral in tint but are now more rectangular in shape, whilst still being large enough to fit over regular glasses and provide a suitably wide field of view. There is a button at the top of the frames, above the bridge of the nose, where you turn on the glasses; they sync automatically and will switch off if they don't receive a sync signal for 5 minutes. They use the new RF standard so we never had any problems syncing to the P60ZT65 and we never lost the connection once. They are not rechargeable but instead use a standard CR2025 battery, which will give approx 70 hours of use.
MenusWhen you first turn on the P60ZT65 you are greeted by a custom bootup screen that says “Studio Master Panel” (nice touch Panasonic) followed by their new My Home Screen interface, although you can select to just open on the normal full TV screen if you prefer. My Home Screen comes with four default views, the previously mentioned Full Screen TV and three others - TV Home Screen, Lifestyle Screen and Info Screen – with a further option to create customised screens if you so desire. The Full Screen TV option obviously just displays a full video image where the other options provide a windowed video interface with a variety of apps and widgets surrounding it.
The menu system itself is familiar from last year’s ranges with a two-tone blue and gold colour scheme and sharp, easy to read text in white. The Menus are split in to six submenus, Picture, Sound, Network, Timer, Setup and a new Help section which, amongst other things, includes an ‘eHELP’ interactive menu. This is similar to the iManuals we’ve seen offered by other manufacturers and provides excellent assistance to neophytes amongst you, although the user-friendly nature of most of the menus shouldn’t require much in the way of further explanation.
As is the case with most of Panasonic’s models this year, the Picture Menu has been expanded extensively and the P60ZT65 now has a bewildering array of picture controls. It also includes a number of preset viewing modes, one of which is exclusive to the P60ZT65 - ‘EBU Default’. This new mode is based on the EBU’s (European Broadcasting Union) guidelines for consumer flat panel displays. These guidelines are designed to ensure that displays produce “images that adequately reflect the creative values intended by their programme director.” We couldn’t agree more. To achieve this EBU certification, the P60ZT65 had to meet certain industry standards for luminance, black level, contrast, gamma, colour and frame rate presentation. Along with the new EBU Default viewing mode, there are also the Dynamic, Normal, Cinema, Custom, 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.
The Advanced Settings sub-menu includes some new features, at least for Europe, 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 should help. 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. 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 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.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.
FeaturesThe P60ZT65 is a statement TV that’s aimed squarely at the enthusiast market, as such it obviously costs more and will only be available from selected retailers. In addition, the P60ZT65 includes many features that are exclusive to it such as the already mentioned EBU Default viewing mode that is compliant with the EBU’s TECH 3321 guidelines, custom boot-up screen, gold coated terminals, high-end remote and power LED dimming feature. New owners of the P60ZT65 will also receive a special booklet complete with a golden owners card and a unique serial number. However, the most important feature that is unique to the P60ZT65 is the Studio Master Panel which removes the air layer between the glass front and the panel itself. The removal of this gap optimises the light transmission and eliminates reflections thus improving the black levels. These panels are very difficult to make, which explains the higher price tag, limited availability and single screen size. The P60ZT65 also has the Ultimate Black filter to again reject ambient light and improve the black levels, even when watching during the day. Like the VT65, the P60ZT65 also includes the new red phosphor to achieve 98% of the DCI colour space, 3000Hz Focused Field Drive and 30,720 steps of gradation for a smooth and detailed picture. In fact the only feature that’s missing from the P60ZT65 is the built-in camera found on the VT65 but if that’s important to you, there’s always am optional camera that you can buy.
Along with many of Panasonic’s TVs this year, the P60ZT65 proved to be surprisingly capable in the audio department, delivering a reasonable performance with clear dialogue and a nicely expansive soundstage. Obviously the built-in audio of a TV will never be able to compare to an AV receiver or even a soundbar but the P60ZT65 certainly did a good job of delivering a stereo soundstage, no doubt helped by the larger screen size. The VR-Audio Pro Surround 2.1 processing combined with the 2 x 5W of speaker amplification and 1 x 10W of subwoofer amplification definitely paid dividends. The P60ZT65 could be played reasonably loud without distorting and the overall audio had a well-balanced feel to it, meaning that even film soundtracks were handled quite well. The built-in audio also managed to reproduce music streamed over our home network effectively and whilst it wouldn't be our first choice, it certainly wasn't unpleasant. In these days of slim TVs it's always nice to discover a model that is capable of delivering a competent audio performance.
The P60ZT65 includes Panasonic’s Hexa-Processing Engine, which promises a better image performance and a faster Smart TV platform. This certainly proved to be the case and from the EPG, to the Apps to the My Home Screen, the P60ZT65 delivered a smooth and responsive performance. This year Panasonic have 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. To access Panasonic's Smart TV system, you can either go straight 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 includes access to the Web Browser, Media Player, Media Server, Main Menu and EPG, as well as the installed apps. The P60ZT65 came pre-loaded with plenty of apps including 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, you can visit the Viera Connect Market where a range of further games, VoD services and Social Networking apps can be downloaded.
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 and we really liked the new remote app, finding it well designed and easy to use. The app also includes the Smart Calibration function which allows full access to the calibration controls without calling up the user interface. This is great news because on Panasonic TVs not only do the menus time out too quickly but their presence at the bottom of the screen can affect the measurements very slightly. We found the Smart Calibration feature only works in conjunction with the Custom Mode but it does work really well. However it’s best used with larger tablets because on smaller devices and especially smartphones, the interface can get a bit fiddly. 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.
Basic SetupSince there are a number of preset viewing modes on the P60ZT65, we measure them all to see which was closest to the industry standards. Unsurprisingly the EBU Default, THX Cinema and Professional modes all performed the best, each delivering a highly accurate Greyscale and Colour Gamut. Whilst they were all excellent presets, there were subtle variations, with the EBU Default mode delivering the most accurate performance by a tiny margin. According to Panasonic, the EBU Default mode has a Gamma curve of 2.3 but we actually measured it at 2.4 and we also discovered that this mode was less bright and crushed the blacks. The Professional modes were brighter and didn’t crush the blacks but the gamma curve wasn’t tracking our target as well as we would have liked. So that left the THX Cinema mode as the best out-of-the-box choice, with an accurate greyscale and colour gamut, superb blacks, a gamma that tracked closest to 2.2 and a bright image. All we then needed to do was make sure the aspect ratio was set to 16:9 and set the brightness and contrast controls to best suit our viewing environment. As a general rule if a TV has a THX mode, we would always recommend using it unless you plan on getting a professional calibration. However the THX modes on the Panasonic plasmas turns off the Pixel Orbiter feature and some users have reported occasional image retention as a result.
The greyscale performance is shown on the left above and was excellent for an out-of-the-box setting, with most of the errors below the visible threshold. As is usual for a Panasonic plasma, there was a tiny excess of green in the RGB Balance graph and also a small deficit of blue, resulting in very minor discolouration on a greyscale pattern. The gamma curve was tracking close to our target of 2.2, although there was a minor dip at 10 IRE. Overall though this was an excellent performance and we should be able to easily improve it with the two- and ten-point White Balance controls. The colour gamut is shown on the CIE on the right above and it was also excellent, with all the colours close to their targets for Rec.709. There were some minor errors that needed adjusting, particularly for red and magenta, but this should be simple enough using the Colour Management System (CMS).
Calibrated ResultsFor the calibrated measurements we used the Professional mode and the same basic setup recommended for the THX Cinema mode but we also set the gamma to 2.2 and selected the Rec.709 colour gamut. We then used the white balance and CMS to accurately set the greyscale and colour gamut.
We started by using the two-point white balance control to get the greyscale more accurate and then we fine-tuned using the ten-point control which allowed us to individually adjust at 10 IRE, 20 IRE and so on. As the RGB Balance chart above shows, all three primary colours were now tracking in equal amounts and at the target of 100. As a result the DeltaEs (errors) were all less than 0.5 which, for want of a better word, was perfect. We also used the detailed gamma controls to get the curve to track our target of 2.2 exactly. Overall, this was an absolutely reference performance for both greyscale and gamma.
The first thing that you’ll notice on the CIE chart above is that white is now hitting its target of D65 exactly thanks to the reference greyscale. As a result of this, the accuracy of the secondary colours improved and it was just a case of fine tuning the overall colour performance. Since the CMS provides control of the luminance, saturation and hue of all three primary colours and all three secondary colours, this was relatively easy. We quickly had all the luminance measurements spot on and also adjusted the hue and saturation measurements until they were hitting their targets exactly. We were glad to see that thanks to the new red phosphor we were able to set that colour more precisely than we had on previous Panasonic plasmas but the 98% of DCI colour space is currently more of a marketing gimmick. As with the greyscale, this was a absolutely reference colour gamut performance from the P60ZT65.
Moving on the CIE tracking chart, we measured the primary and secondary colours at different saturation levels, rather than just the 100% level used in the previous CIE charts. The reason for these measurements is to check that the display is consistent at all saturation points because when watching normal content it won’t all be at 100% saturation but usually at a lower level. As you can see from the chart above, despite the new red phosphor, the P60ZT65 was actually very slightly under-saturated in red at the 75% and 50% saturation levels. However all the other colours were tracking their targets very closely indeed and overall this was an excellent performance, as evidenced by accurate skin tones and other telltale signs in actual viewing material.
Contrast and Black LevelsEver since Pioneer left the plasma market, leaving Panasonic to position itself as the preeminent plasma manufacturer, enthusiasts have been waiting to see if they could deliver a TV that surpassed the KURO. Initial expectations may have been slightly unrealistic, after all it took Pioneer nine generations to get where they were in 2009, but with each passing year Panasonic got closer and closer to the black levels seem on the KURO. This year Panasonic have finally achieved their goal and with the Studio Master panel and Ultimate Black filter used on the P60ZT65 have managed to deliver black levels that are better than the KURO. Now numbers aren’t everything of course and there are many factors that go into creating a great TV but if its statistics you want, then the P60ZT65’s make for seriously impressive reading. After a suitable period of running in and using our Klein K-10 meter we measured the black level on the P60ZT65 at 0.001 cd/m2 in all three primary viewing modes (THX Cinema, EBU and Professional). As a comparison we measured our KURO at 0.002 cd/m2, so in terms of absolute blacks the P60ZT65 wins. In the THX Cinema and Professional modes the P60ZT65 was also able to maintain highly effective shadow detail just above black, so these impressive numbers weren't being achieved simply by crushing the blacks in the image. However in the EBU mode the blacks were crushed and thus shadow detail was compromised in this setting. The P60ZT65 was also able to maintain these incredible black levels even when measured on an ANSI checker board, as shown below, and as an aside the measurements also showed how consistent the P60ZT65 was across its entire screen.However blacks aren’t everything of course and we found that when it came to brightness the THX Cinema mode hit 94 cd/m2 and the Professional mode reached 92 cd/m2, whilst the EBU mode was only able to reach 56 cd/m2. We assume that the reason the EBU Default mode is less bright is because it uses studio monitor standards, which tend to place more emphasis on consistency rather than brightness when it comes to luminance. By comparison, the KURO measured at 97 cd/m2, which basically matches the P60ZT65, although the Professional mode could go brighter. We measured the Professional mode at 92 cd/m2 using the Mid Panel Luminance setting but if we used the High setting we could get up to 108 cd/m2. However in this setting the blacks were crushed, which again compromised shadow detail, so we would recommend using the Mid setting. Besides a brightness measurement of 94 cd/m2 is still excellent and with a black level of 0.001 cd/m2 that gives an absolutely incredible on/off contrast ratio of 94,000:1! When it came to the ANSI measurements we found that blacks remained superb, measuring between 0.002 and 0.003 cd/m2, but the brightness did drop off, measuring between 51 and 55 cd/m2. However the resulting ANSI contrast ratio was a superb 20,333:1 and this remarkable dynamic range was easy to see when watching actual content. Interestingly there was a similar drop off in brightness when measuring the ANSI numbers on the KURO and again, as a point of comparison, it produced an on/off contrast ratio of 48,500:1 and an ANSI contrast ratio of 16,676:1. It might have taken Panasonic four years but in the P60ZT65 they have finally produced a plasma that can lay to rest the ghost of KURO.
Video ProcessingAs expected, the performance of the P60ZT65 in the video processing tests was excellent, with the new Hexa-Processing Engine clearly providing benefits. The detail and resolution tests were all reproduced correctly, with the P60ZT65 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 P60ZT65 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. The P60ZT65 also performed well when displaying film material mixed with scrolling video text and correctly displayed the words without blurring or shredding.When it came to 1080i material the P60ZT65 correctly deinterlaced and displayed both the video and film resolution tests provided 16:9 Overscan was set to off in the Screen settings.
The P60ZT65 also showed very good scaling and filtering performance as well as extremely impressive resolution enhancement capabilities. When it came to 1080p24 content, the P60ZT65 delivered incredibly smooth movement and even on the torturous moving wedge tests on the Spears and Munsil disc were reproduced with little sign of moire or flicker. This year Panasonic have upgraded the 1080p Pixel Direct mode to the new 1080p Pure Direct which is compatible with a YUV 4:4:4 1080p 30bit signal. There have been reports of the 1080p Pure Direct mode causing chroma aberrations but when sending a 4:4:4 signal to the P60ZT65 using our pattern generator there was a slight improvement in colour reproduction, so we would still recommend turning it on when appropriate. The P60ZT65 was comfortably capable of hitting reference white and, even more impressively, was able to show 1% black simultaneously. This resulted in a truly impressive dynamic range that delivered an excellent contrast ratio that was free of any clipping, which was evidenced by the six concentric squares in the white, red and green patterns on the Spears and Munsil test disc.
The P60ZT65 includes the latest 3000Hz Focused Field Drive and overall the motion handling was quite superb. This was evidenced using the FPD Benchmark disc, where the full 1080 lines of resolution were clearly visible on the moving tests. The P60ZT65 comes with Intelligent Frame Creation, which is a frame interpolation feature that offers a choice of Off/Min/Mid/Max. The Min setting had little to no affect in testing, with the motion just appearing slightly clearer on the FPD Benchmark disc with no obvious artefacts being introduced. With the Mid and Max settings the impact was much more pronounced and whilst you could use IFC in conjunction with fast paced and video based sporting material, it should never be used with film based content. For exactly the same reasons you need to ensure that the 24p Smooth Film function is also turned off when watching 24p material. The reality is that with Blu-ray content encoded at 24p, the P60ZT65 didn't need any additional processing and the results looked spectacular.
We measured the input lag on the P60ZT65 at 63ms (Professional), 64ms (THX Cinema) and 65ms (EBU) without the Game mode engaged and with it on the numbers dropped to 42ms (Professional and THX Cinema) and 43ms (EBU). These numbers are comparable with measurements we have made on both the GT60 and VT65 and, encouragingly, they are lower than last year.
Interesting in 3D the input lag measure at 53ms with the Game mode off and on, which suggests that whatever processing is being bypassed in Game mode largely relates to the 2D picture. It seems the quad-core processing and Hexa Engine are being put to good use but there’s still a little room for improvement. Whilst a lag of 42ms might be a little high for the serious gamer, it is certainly good enough for most people and when gaming we were never really aware of any lag. If you’re a hard core gamer there are undoubtedly better and considerably cheaper options and it’s likely that anyone buying the P60ZT65 is primarily interested in picture quality rather than its gaming capabilities.
- Standby: 0W
- Out-of-the-Box – Normal Mode: 286W
- Calibrated – Professional Mode: 288W
- Calibrated - 3D Mode: 453W
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B Picture Quality 2DWell it’s been a great year so far when it comes to image quality, with Panasonic’s GT60 and VT65 both knocking it out of the park but the P60ZT65 trumps even them, delivering the best picture we’ve seen to date. When it came to actually watching content on the P60ZT65, everything came together in a perfect storm of picture quality. The Studio Master Panel lived up to all the hype with the kind of blacks we’ve only seen before on an OLED screen! Once you threw the incredibly accurate greyscale and colour gamut and the superb video processing into the mix, the results were nothing short of spectacular. We’ve found in the past that larger screen sizes can be very unforgiving so it’s a testament to how good the P60ZT65 is that even at 60 inches the picture quality was almost flawless. All the issues that seemed to have plagued Panasonic plasmas in the past would appear to have been banished and we had no issues with floating blacks, brightness pops or 50Hz content.
We were also pleased to see that even dynamic false contouring, often an issue with Panasonic plasmas, has almost been eliminated too. We did see it occasionally but only if we went looking for it and even then it wasn’t easy to find. Clearly the Hexa Processing Engine and the 3,000Hz FFD are dong their job and the motion handling was nothing short of sublime. The images were beautifully noise free and thanks to the 30,720 steps of gradation, the levels of detail were just staggering. Screen uniformity was also excellent with no apparent banding and no dirty screen effect to mar the beautiful pictures. Were the images produced by the P60ZT65 perfect? Well no but then nothing is but what issues there were, tended to be very minor and inherently limitations of the technology itself. There was some dither in the blacks when you looked up close but this couldn’t be seen from any sensible viewing distance. There was also very light and very occasional image retention and rare instances of line bleed, although not on the snooker which we thought looked incredible.
We loved the picture on the P60ZT65 so much that we tried to watch as much TV as humanly possible. We found that even standard definition content looked incredible on the P60ZT65, not just because of the excellent video processing but because the picture was so good that it simply made everything look better. We remain surprised out how good streaming content on Netflix looks and thanks to the P60ZT65 Fringe has never looked better, in fact we could almost think we were watching a Blu-ray. When we moved on to high-def TV broadcasts the results were just as spectacular and the recent episode of Doctor Who was a good example. The photography on the show has taken a huge leap forward in the last two seasons and this particular episode involved lots of dark corridors which the P60ZT65 rendered superbly. The blacks were subterranean and the shadow detail just sublime, but what really impressed was the dynamic range and contrast within the image. On top of that the flesh tones were spot on and every pixel brought out detail in people’s hair or the pores of their skin. Moving on to Blu-ray and naturally we were blown away, with a viewing of Django Unchained replicating Tarantino’s blood-stained Western carnage in every detail. When it comes to picture quality, Pixar’s Blu-rays are a high watermark and watching their latests collection of shorts was nothing short of jaw-dropping. The perfectly replicated CG animation revealed the P60ZT65‘s incredible levels of detail, colour reproduction and motion handling, all of which were nothing short of sublime. We know people are going to ask this so we’ll pre-empt the obvious question. Yes, we compared the P60ZT65 directly with our KURO and, yes the P60ZT65 is superior - so there you have it.
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B Picture Quality 3DAll the factors that make a great 2D image, apply equally as much to 3D images, so it should come as no surprise to discover the P60ZT65 delivered in spades here as well. Thanks to the brightness and plasma's inherent advantages, the P60ZT65 was able to address all three areas where 3D can struggle - brightness, motion and crosstalk. If a display can conquer all of them it can be capable of delivering a truly immersive 3D experience. First of all, thanks to the improved luminance, the P60ZT65 had no problems when it came to brightness, delivering 3D that had real impact, depth and plenty of punch. The neutral tint of the new glasses certainly helped here too, but ultimately if a display wants to deliver an impressive 3D performance it needs to be bright and whilst the P60ZT65 wasn’t quite as bright as the Samsung F8500, it had sufficient in the tank to deliver the goods. Thanks to plasma's excellent motion handling and the 3000Hz Focused Field Drive, the P60ZT65 also handled any motion issues with 3D superbly, there was no judder or any other artefacts to distract you. Finally, thanks to the faster response time of plasma there was no crosstalk either, just beautifully rendered 3D images.
There were other factors too that helped create an enjoyable 3D experience, starting with the glasses that were comfortably light and free of flicker and, thanks to the use of RF, synced easily and never lost the connection. The THX Cinema 3D setting was a reasonably accurate preset, although if you prefer, a professional calibrator will be able to get a genuinely accurate 3D image. All of these factors combined to create a hugely enjoyable, comfortable and enveloping 3D experience. We kicked things off with a current favourite Wreck-It Ralph which combines some imaginative animation with great 3D effects. The P60ZT65 handled the detailed animation, fast paced action and added depth with ease, resulting in a thoroughly enjoyable experience. After that we moved in to some live action 3D with a triple-bill of The Hobbit, Dredd and Silent Hill: Revelation. The P60ZT65 did a wonderful job of reproducing Peter Jackson’s beautifully layered shots in The Hobbit, whilst Dredd remains as enjoyable a 3D experience as we’ve ever had. We’re glad to see that Silent Hill director Michael J. Bassett wasn’t too high-brow to throw a few ‘in your face’ 3D effects into his movie and it was all the better for it. Ultimately the P60ZT65 ranks as one of the nest 3D TVs on the market, with detailed, immersive and depth filled images that really show the potential of the format - and you can’t do that on a KURO!
- Reference black levels
- Reference contrast ratio and dynamic range
- Lack of PWM noise and clean looking images
- Excellent out-of-the-box greyscale and colour gamut
- Reference greyscale and colour gamut after calibration
- Reference level 3D performance
- Comprehensive calibration controls
- Superb 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
- Very occasional dynamic false contouring
- Rare instances of line bleed and image retention
- Some dither noise in darker elements of the picture
- HDMI inputs are too close to the edge
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B (ZT65) Plasma TV Review
As you would expect for a flagship TV the P60ZT65 certainly looks the part, with a beautiful appearance that combines both the contemporary and the classic. The elegant glass fronted chassis is complimented by the black styling and silver trim, whilst the chrome and brushed metal stand finishes the design off nicely. The build quality is excellent and despite the large screen size, the entire chassis is only 3.5cm deep. At the rear are a decent set of connections with gold coated terminals, although like all of Panasonic's other plasmas this year, there are only three HDMI inputs and they're too close to the edge. In comparison, the KURO looks decidedly chunky and old-fashioned. The P60ZT65 comes with a very attractive high-end remote, along with a touch pad remote, two pairs of 3D glasses and a somewhat pointless Touchpen. In terms of features the P60ZT65 includes some that are unique to it such as the Studio Master Panel, the Ultimate Black filter, an EBU certified preset and a dimming power LED. There's also a custom boot-up screen and a special booklet with a golden owner's card and a unique serial number. The only feature missing is the built-in camera but if that's important to you there's always the option to buy one. In common with the VT65 the P60ZT65 also includes 3000Hz FFD and 30,720 steps of gradation, along with the new red phosphor which can deliver 98% of the DCI colour space.
The P60ZT65 uses the latest iteration of Panasonic’s menu system and, as always, it’s well laid out, intuitive and easy to navigate. There are a bewildering array of new picture controls, most of which are best left off, but the panel brightness feature is a welcome addition. There is also a new Custom mode as well as all the usual calibration controls, including a ten-point white balance and a full colour management system. The new My Home Screen smart platform is excellent, with loads of apps, a web browser, extensive media support and a superb remote app for iOS and Androis. The new Swipe & Share 2.0 is very effective and the Smart Calibration feature is an absolute boon for calibrators.
The out-of-the-box performance is excellent and thanks to the superb calibration controls the P60ZT65 was capable of a reference greyscale and colour gamut performance. The video processing was also excellent meaning that even standard definition content looked good and, as always, motion handling was sublime. The black levels were the best we have ever measured and when combined with the increased brightness, the dynamic range was simply stunning. The P60ZT65 delivered the best contrast ratio numbers we have ever seen and the levels of detail and gradation within the image were simply jaw dropping. All of which combined to deliver the best 2D and 3D performance we have experienced to date. There was almost nothing to fault the P60ZT65 on with the exception of some very occasional dynamic false contouring and rare instances of line bleed and image retention.
Panasonic promised us an enthusiast TV that was "beyond the reference" and with the P60ZT65 they have made good on that promise. Yes it's expensive but if you want an uncompromising level of performance there will always be a premium. All we can say is that the P60ZT65 has more than lived up to its billing and is, quite simply, the best plasma TV we have ever seen. Time to put those KUROs on eBay guys.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £3,999.00
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level10
3D Picture Quality10
Ease Of Use8
Value for Money8
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