Panasonic V10 (TX-P65V10) Plasma TV Review

THX certification and Panasonic's NeoPDP know-how result in big screen fun.

by AVForums
TV Review

30

Highly Recommended
Panasonic V10 (TX-P65V10) Plasma TV Review
SRP: £4,200.00

Introduction

When we heard in February that Panasonic was finally introducing THX certification to some of their Plasma TVs in Europe, we were enthusiastic to see what effect THX's guidance would have on the picture quality potential of these screens. Panasonic's huge investment in Plasma technology (the highest quality display technology currently available) and the company's R&D efforts mean that they are well and truly capable of producing Plasma Display Panels with excellent black level, contrast, and motion resolution - a trio of achievements that no LCD, LED-assisted or not, can top. THX's quality checks and feedback added to these core strengths and brought greater levels of accuracy, and ultimately, quality, to select Panasonic Plasma displays.

Smaller displays in the V10 series have already been available for some time (I reviewed the 50" V10 some months ago), but now Panasonic have added a jumbo-sized 65" screen to the range. This, too, has the all-important THX mode, so I'm expecting good things. Let's dissect the TX-P65V10 and see what we can get it to do...

Styling

The 65" V10 series display has strong similarities to the smaller models in the range. Like these, the design is comprised of shiny black and silver, with a thin brushed silver "VIERA" strip at the top of the unit. Unlike the smaller versions, the "one sheet of glass" design is gone (presumably it would be too hard to implement on such a large TV), with the actual screen being very slightly recessed inwards.

Connectivity is great, with 4 HDMI inputs, a VGA PC input, S-Video and Composite side jacks, 2 SCART terminals, Component video inputs, a Digital/Analogue RF input (for "Freeview"), and unusually, an input for a satellite dish. This last feature is excellent, and means that you can plug in a dish and receive free-to-air satellite broadcasts. Panasonic's efforts to promote the "Freesat" branding are in full effect here, with the Freesat Electronic Programme Guide present in the menus. However, you're not limited to channels that have been cherry-picked by this BBC/ITV consortium: the TV's menus let you access "Other Sat.", where the sky is the limit (har har) to what you watch.

Menus/Setting Up

The 65" V10 carries on Panasonic's current tradition of menu design: everything is simplified to a huge extent. This extends to the picture control options, which are limited. This isn't a problem in itself, but usually, we need access to more advanced options to get the best quality picture out of a TV.

The top level adjustment, as always, is "Viewing Mode". This changes between different picture presets, and due to the lack of options, this also changes some "hidden controls" as well. For example, the different modes (Dynamic, Normal, Cinema and of course, THX) all have different Gamma curves, so even if you match the visible picture controls up across the different presets, they'll still look different. There's also no control over Greyscale/White Balance in this menu (it's tucked away in the hidden service menu, though), and no control at all over individual colours - just a solitary "Colour" control.

If we want to dial in the best possible picture, this is not a lot for us to work with. The saving grace, though, is likely to be the "THX" picture preset, which aims to come close to achieving accurate, lifelike, true-to-intentions video, without any user adjustment. We'll find out if this mode does the trick in the next section:

Test Results

Calibration: Before & After

After unpacking the TX-P65V10 and letting it warm up, I selected the "THX" picture mode and verified that all of the controls (at least the ones we have access to) were set optimally. It turns out that I could give the "Brightness" control an extra click to reveal a little bit more detail in dark areas, and that the "Sharpness" control was set visibly too high, creating some ringing around objects, and giving the picture a slightly "gritty" look. Notching it back by about 2 clicks removed this problem.

The image was already looking excellent, and was already lacking the "crayola colours" that a lot of TVs have before a full calibration. To use an obvious example, grass looked closer to real-life grass, not ultra-vibrant neon rainforest green. As impressive as this is, a requirement of any AVForums review is to assess a product after it's been configured to its absolute best, so I stopped admiring what I was seeing and got out the measuring equipment. Using test patterns, I recorded data for how the TV was already performing:

The first charts show that the Greyscale performance of this individual review sample was already excellent, when running in the THX mode. (Good greyscale performance means that the colour of grey is somewhat consistent across the entire image). When looking at the RGB Level Tracking chart, please pay attention to the scale: what look like huge discontinuities in the chart are, in reality, usually only deviations of around 5%. The Gamma RGB chart shows strange activity with Red, which will hopefully be ironed out after a full calibration.

Colour, too, measured brilliantly. The result here was actually ahead of the V10 model we reviewed earlier this year, the reason for which we'll have to leave to speculation. Colour Luminance (best described as the "amount" of each colour present) was reading a little too hot, but the saturation and hue of each colour were, in many cases, close to perfect.

Calibrated Results


Calibrating Greyscale on the current UK Panasonic displays is difficult. The UK models do not feature a Greyscale control option in the standard user menu; it's instead tucked away in the hidden engineer's screens. I ranted at great length about this in the review of the 50" version, but I won't repeat the rant here because Panasonic are more than aware of this feedback.

Just one problem with these controls being hidden in the service menu: these don't let you alter the Greyscale characteristics of the THX mode directly. Instead, you have to use the next-best thing, the "Cinema" mode, make a change, turn the TV off to re-enter user mode, and measure what effects this has had on the THX display mode. Needless to say, this is extremely tedious, but ultimately worth it to get the most out of the display. In the end, I managed to reduce any errors to essentially meaningless levels (again, please pay attention to the scale). This is an excellent result.

After making these adjustments, I did what I could to bring Colours closer in-line to standard. Because there's no full Colour Management System on this TV, all I had to work with was the single "Colour" control in the menu. Fortunately, the work done by THX combined with this control will be enough to satisfy almost all users. I reduced the "Colour" control by a few clicks, which had the desired effect of reducing the Luminance to (mostly) correct levels. Unfortunately, this did have a very small knock-on effect on colour Saturation (remember, it's a single, unified control), and also, some of the luminance levels got slightly worse. No worries, though - all of the colours, after this adjustment, had errors so small that only dedicated graphic designers and colourists would really notice. The final colour reproduction, thanks to the THX mode, is absolutely excellent - but it could be better if we were given full control.

Video Processing

Handling of SD material is above Panasonic's usual standard. Several past Panasonic displays have truncated high-frequency detail when fed with 480i or 576i standard-def interlaced input (resulting in quite blurry video), but the problem is gone now. These signals look at least as crisp as they do on most other displays, which is great.

Film mode detection is still non-existent, unfortunately. Film-derived content in an Interlaced signal (480i SD, 576i SD, or 1080i HD) will suffer from a slight loss of vertical resolution, and some flickering will be visible in very detailed areas when things move. This will go away if you use a capable off-board processor or AV receiver to convert these signals to 1080p before feeding them to the TV (this will bypass the TV's deinterlacing capabilities, or lack thereof), but this is inconvenient because it means that you'll need to buy a separate satellite/terrestrial TV receiver to feed into that box if you want those sources to benefit.

Diagonal interpolation for Video content is quite good. This means that the TV does a decent job of masking the vertical jagginess that's often visible during moving portions of the image on interlaced signals. Some line-flicker is still visible, though.

I also tested the TX-P65V10 to see if it was capable of reproducing the tiniest details in video images. Like a lot of Plasmas, the highest frequencies in the test patterns had a tiny bit of "tizzing" to them, but they were by no means obscured entirely. This wasn't a problem with actual content, though.

One other thing to note: if you have the "24p Smooth Film" or "Intelligent Frame Creation" options enabled, then the TV will downgrade colour resolution, to what looks like 4:2:2 sampling. This is not normally an issue because most consumer video content uses lower resolution colour components than this, anyway, but if you're using a computer or gaming system with the TV, you may notice that colours bleed outside their boundaries very slightly (because these sources assign a unique colour value to every single pixel in the image, rather than just every couple of pixels). Of course, with the THX mode enabled, both of these options are permanently off, anyway, which is one of many reasons to use this mode.

Gaming Performance

The good news doesn't stop coming when you play video games on this display. While playing games, I couldn't detect any delay at all. Measuring for lag resulted in values of around 15-20 milliseconds, which is likely to be below the threshold of being noticeable or irritating for all but the most hyper-sensitive gamers.

Energy Consumption

So, how much juice does a 65" PDP use, anyway? The following measurements were taken after calibration with a full black (0 IRE), grey (50 IRE), and full white (100 IRE) screen:
Normal calibrated THX mode: 84 watts, 308 watts, 642 watts
Eco Mode on under calibrated THX mode: 84 watts, 225 watts, 570 watts

Picture Quality

The image quality put out by a fully calibrated TX-P65V10 is stunning. In fact, even before a full calibration, in the THX Mode, the quality was still excellent, at least for a barely-touched picture preset. The final picture quality is the result of the work done by THX, the tune-up work done during the review process, and of course, the high quality Panasonic NeoPDP panel.

Panasonic's panels have several advantages compared to competing display technologies, and also compared to those of other Plasma manufacturers. They have the deepest blacks out of any currently manufactured Plasma display, and they are not far behind the discontinued Pioneer KURO displays. What's more, they produce a cleaner picture with less PWM noise, which probably won't be noticeable from most people's viewing distances, but is something that I appreciated while playing video games sitting close to the TV. Furthermore, they are incredibly resistant to temporary image retention, which many PDPs still suffer from (image retention is when a static part of the video image displays a shadow of itself on screen temporarily afterwards, which can be annoying). Lastly, they have a viewing angle and motion resolution which LCD can't come close to reaching, let alone beating. Moving images look crisp and in-focus, even when they're moving, and even when the TV is viewed off-centre.

Couple this with a lack of gimmicks to alter the picture, the excellent Greyscale accuracy and only slightly deviated Gamma, and the extremely accurate colour reproduction, and you have an image that is incredibly difficult to find fault with. In the context of films, it's also worth stating that 24fps content is displayed at a multiple of that frame rate, meaning that there is no judder in the picture if the display if your Blu-ray player is correctly configured.

It's also worth discussing the "600hz" system that Panasonic use to promote their displays. This marketing practice came from the LCD world, where motion compensated frame interpolation technology was developed in an attempt to address that technology's motion resolution issues. Plasma doesn't need these tricks to deliver sharp motion, but it makes sense for Panasonic's marketing department to play the numbers game. Panasonic's "600hz" is very different to LCD's "100hz" or "200hz" systems; the terminology is simply describing the way in which the panel is driven to create sharp pictures at all times. In effect, it's using big numbers to re-explain Plasma technology to people who might have been afraid of it before. Although this TV does have options to give the "sped-up motion" effect common to 100hz/200hz LCDs, they are strictly optional (and are indeed disabled in THX mode).

As with all of Panasonic's Plasma displays, it is true that fast movement can show posterisation (where areas that should be one consistent tone look slightly "ridged") and that green and yellow trails can be visible with motion, but I mention these for completeness only, as I find these display characteristics pale in significance to all of the other strengths.

There's little point in discussing scenes from Casino Royale or I-Robot or whatever the favoured demo disc this week is, because for the most part, I would just be describing the look of the film. What you feed into this display after calibration looks basically as it should. Blacks are deep, contrast is great, motion does not blur up. The mostly accurate Greyscale tracking means there are no obvious colour shifts, and the accurate colour reproduction means that flesh tones look like flesh tones rather than the purple-tinged colour that out-of-gamut displays often bring us. It sickens me to think that the masses are still passing up on displays like these in favour of much less satisfying LCD solutions, based on misinformation.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Very deep, satisfying black level thanks to NeoPDP panel
  • One of few displays with its own free-to-air satellite ("Freesat") tuner
  • THX mode results in very good Greyscale performance...
  • ...and very good Colour performance, for a preset mode
  • Greyscale and Colour have only tiny errors after calibration (in our individual sample)
  • Only a small amount of PWM (panel-generated) noise
  • 24p input handled without judder
  • Low (insignificant) input lag makes video games enjoyable
  • When correctly configured, the TV reproduces full 4:4:4 colour resolution, so games will display without colour bleed

The Bad

  • Panasonic's usual lack of calibration-friendliness: not a huge problem on this individual unit (post-calibration performance was excellent regardless), but perhaps an issue on others
  • Video processing could still be improved (cadence detection is non-existent for both SD and 1080i HD, which can create jaggies with Film or Film-like material)
  • A 65" PDP uses more power than a projector, which could create an even bigger picture

Panasonic V10 (TX-P65V10) Plasma TV Review

I'd have to have a seriously good reason to recommend any other similar display over a Panasonic 65" V10, but I don't think that there is one. Whilst the display still has small annoyances (such as lack of Film Mode processing for SD and 1080i HD signals), these can be worked around, and while it doesn't entirely outdo our current reference displays overall, it does have advantages of its own over them and really has no hugely significant downsides. I could personally live with one of these displays for everyday TV usage, and that isn't something I can say often.

The last 65" Plasma display I had sitting here for testing was Panasonic's Professional Plasma monitor, the TH-65VX100. In terms of black level and colour accuracy, this is superior, and it costs less than half the price. The TX-P65V10 is a well-built, well-performing display that can be professionally calibrated to give a near-perfect image. Highly recommended.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level

.
9

Screen Uniformity

.
9

Colour Accuracy

.
9

Greyscale Accuracy

.
9

Video Processing

.
.
.
7

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Smart Features

.
.
.
7

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Ease Of Use

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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