What is the Panasonic TX-P60ZT65B?
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 Design
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 2D
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 3D
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
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.
Contrast/Dynamic Range/Black Level
3D Picture Quality
Ease Of Use
Value for Money
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