Review Date: October 11, 2008
 Last Updated: June 25, 2013

Panasonic Plasma TV Guide - Part 2
2008 Line-up of Viera Plasma TV Sets

Entry-level Series PX80U, PZ80U, and Step-up line PZ85U


In this second part of this 2008 Panasonic Plasma TV roundup, we look at the basic differences between Panasonic Viera entry-level 720p and 1080p series as well as the 1080p set-up line - discussing both features and performance to help you see where each of these series fit best.


Panasonic VIERA TC-P55ST60 55-Inch 1080p 3D Plasma HDTV Panasonic VIERA 55-inch TC-P55ST60
...first HDTV to ever gain a 5-Star rating
in a Cnet review!

If the ST50 from 2012 did prove to be the HDTV to deliver the best value for your money, this new 2013 TV from Panasonic is even better - delivering a picture you would generally expect from a more expensive flagship model. Though its 3D picture is not among the best, the ST60 is capable of amazing picture quality at a price that is well within reach of the average budget.

Panasonic Baseline Series: PX80U 720p Plasma HDTVs

Cheapest plasma HDTVs from a top-brand

The Panasonic Viera PX80U Series of plasma HDTVs represents the only 720p series of Panasonic Plasma TVs for 2008. It comprises just two models, the 42-inch TH-42PX80U and the 50-inch TH-50PX80U.

Despite being entry-level plasmas, these Panasonic Viera HDTVs still represent an interesting inexpensive option for any home entertainment application. In fact, with a price tag that hovers between $800 for the 42-inch and $1050 for the 50-inch, the PX80U Panasonic plasma TVs are among the cheapest from a top brand within their respective category.

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Design: The PX80U takes a rather conservative look with its mix of matte black body and glossy black frame. However, Panasonic has managed to come up with a few subtle but effective design innovations. These include a slight upward curve at the base of the screen and the wedge-shaped pedestal stand. These help make an otherwise ordinary black flat-panel clone stand out from the rest. In particular, the wedge-shaped pedestal stand seems to be Panasonic design trade mark for all its 2008 Viera HDTVs.

Features: Overall, PX80U Panasonic plasma TVs are characterized by a screen resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, a static contrast ratio of 15,000:1, and a dynamic contrast rating of 1,000,000:1. Do not be mislead by the lower resolution; the human eye would not be able to perceive any significant difference in the level of picture detail at the screen sizes involved with respect to a 1080p screen.

As one may expect, Panasonic 720p entry-level HDTVs come with a rather reduced feature set. You would not get picture-in-picture, not even a USB port... But you would still get the most important features.

The PX80U enjoy the latest generation (G11) HD plasma display. The new display panel is more robust, has a greatly extended display lifetime of 100,000hrs before fading to half brightness, makes use of an improved antireflective coating, and is built to resist shock.

Connectivity is among the most comprehensive for a cheap plasma TV, with 3 HDMI ver. 1.3 complete with Deep Color (x.v.Color) support and CEC via Panasonic Viera Link; the latter allows multiple Viera Link devices to be controlled by a single remote. There is no dedicated VGA-type PC input and according to a review published on Cnet, these Panasonic plasma TVs are not much of use as computer monitors when connected via one of the HDMI inputs due to what appears to be excessive overscan for a computer driven application. However, you would get a memory card slot as standard to view JPG files on your big screen HDTV.

Video features include video noise reduction,  3D color management functions (which use a three-dimensional color matrix to optimize hue, saturation, and brightness), and Panasonic Sub-Pixel control.

 Effects of Panasonic 'Sub-Pixel' Control

- Sub-Pixel Control -

The latter is said to help improve picture clarity by eliminating jagged or blurred diagonal lines through contour correction at the dot level, i.e. by processing the red, green, and blue color sub-pixels separate rather than together, for a clear, more natural-looking image.

Picture controls are rather basic. If you are used to HDTV sets from Samsung or LG, you may find yourself a bit restricted with the available set of picture adjustments on these Panasonic plasma TVs. But you still get all the necessary controls, including four adjustable picture presets plus an additional custom preset that is independent per input, three color temperature presets, and five aspect ratio settings.

Audio output is 20W total power over the set two speakers; there is no virtual surround sound but the PX80U will still output surround sound over the set digital audio out.

Panasonic seems extremely mindful about avoidance of burn-in, or as the company calls it, 'image retention'. You get a full menu that deals with burn-in in a similar manner to what you get with more expensive plasma HDTVs. There's a pixel orbiter that moves the entire image gradually around the screen, along with an option to set the 4:3 mode to include gray instead of black bars on either side of the picture.  Gray has less chance of causing image retention. In the remote chance of a retained image, there is also a scrolling bar feature that slides across the screen to help erase the retained image.

A final feature worth mentioning here is a 'game' mode which is supposed to provide a quicker response time for improved accuracy during video games by minimizing the time delay between the controller and the image on the TV screen. Selecting the game button on the remote will also automatically select that input which has been labeled 'Game' in the input naming menu. This feature is available on all 2008 Panasonic plasma TV lineups.

Performance wise, PX80U Panasonic plasma TVs are capable of very deep black levels and good shadow detail that is above average for entry-level HDTVs. According to both Cnet Reviews and various customer feedback appearing online, the great black-level performance of the Panasonic PX80U makes these HDTV sets really standout among the entry-level competition.

At the same time, Cnet complains of a slight color inaccuracy with an evident red push and a slightly off primary color of green. Similarly, the noise reduction feature on PX80 Panasonic plasma TVs is rather ineffective.

Video processing is good to average, capable of correctly de-interlacing 1080i video-based content but as with most HDTVs, unable to correctly de-interlace 1080i film-based content - not much of an issue if your HDTV source can be set to output content in 1080p. Handling of standard definition material from a DVD source yields relatively sharp images - better than more expensive sets - resolving every line of the DVD format.

The PX80U new anti-reflective screen can do a good job in attenuating glare in bright light conditions. Equally important, despite that PX80 HDTVs lack an energy saver mode, these Panasonic plasma TVs are relatively energy efficient for their size once calibrated. And even when left with the default settings, PX80 plasma TVs would still consume some 40% less electricity than their 1080p entry-level equivalents within the same Panasonic plasma TV lineup.

Overall, the PX80U series of Panasonic Plasma TVs represent a great inexpensive HDTV option for those buyers looking for the best performance to price deal.

The table below summarizes the main specifications for PX80U 720p Panasonic Plasma TVs:
Model 42-inch TH-42PX80U 50-inch TH-50PX80U
Design Matte black body with gloss black frame and 'wedge-type pedestal stand; stand does not support swivel action.
Power (default)* 385W 497W
Native Resolution 720p (1024 x 768 pixels) 720p (1366 x 768 pixels)
Contrast Ratio Static: 15,000:1; Dynamic: 1,000,000:1
Shades of Gradation 4096 levels
Screen Coating New Anti-Reflecting Filter
Connectivity Three HDMI 1.3 compliant inputs (1 front), with CEC support via Viera Link and x.v.Color compatible
VGA-style PC Input: Not available
USB: Not available
SD Memory Card Yes
Games Mode Yes
Anti-Burn In Support Yes
Tuner ATSC/Clear QAM (Cable TV) Tuner
Picture-in-Picture No
Audio Power: 10W x 2 channels at 10% THD; 2 speakers
Surround Sound: Yes
Virtual Surround: No
Dimensions w/Stand
(H x W x D) in inches
28.6 x 40.2  x 15.2 33.1 x 47.6 x 15.2
Weight w/Stand 61.8 lbs 82.7 lbs
Model 42-inch TH-42PX80U 50-inch TH-50PX80U

 

*

The power consumption figures are those reported by the manufacture and represent the maximum operational consumption under default picture settings and maximum brightness; proper set calibration may easily reduce these values to close to 50%.

Panasonic Entry-level 1080p Series: PZ80U HDTVs

Cheapest way to jump onto the 1080p bandwagon

The PZ80U series of Panasonic plasma TV sets represents Panasonic entry-line to 1080p plasma HDTVs. It also  introduces the new Panasonic 46-inch screen size - a rather uncommon size for a plasma TV, and which is available under all 1080p Panasonic Viera plasma series.

In total, the PZ80U comprises three models, the new 46-inch TH-46PZ80U already referred to above, as well as a   42-inch (TH-42PZ80U) and  a 50-inch (TH-50PZ80U) model.

Panasonic cheapest 1080p plasma HDTV - the 42-inch TH-42PZ80U

Panasonic $1,000 1080p HDTV:
The 42-inch TH-42PZ80U

These Panasonic plasma TVs are priced to compete with similar size 1080p LCD HDTVs. In fact, with a price tag that ranges from around $1000 for the 42-inch, $1350 for the 46-inch, and $1550 for the 50-inch, these Panasonic Viera PZ80U entry-level 1080p plasma HDTVs are among the most affordable within their category. Not only, at these price levels, they probably represent the cheapest 1080p plasma HDTV option from a top brand among entry-level HDTVs at the respective screen sizes.

The PZ80U shares almost the same design and feature set as the PX80 baseline series, and except for the 1080p native screen resolution and a somewhat improved static contrast ratio rating of 20,000:1, all other features remain unchanged.

The improved contrast ratio rating of PZ80U Panasonic plasma TVs should lead to just minimal improvement in black level performance over the baseline series in that the PX80 already comes with a high enough rating that is capable of delivering very deep levels of black. Furthermore, as already expressed earlier on, at anything smaller and including 50-inch screens, it would be difficult for the eye to perceive the added detail afforded by a 1080p pixel count. In reality, the only major benefit of 1080p native resolution at the screen sizes involved here relates only to possible video artifacts that may arise when rescaling 1080i or 1080p content over the lower resolution of a 720p screen. Since most high definition content is available either in 1080i or 1080p rather than 720p, then having a screen with 1080p native resolution would basically eliminate the need to rescale most of the HD content available today.

This also implies that PZ80U Panasonic plasma TVs should mainly appeal to those who have very specific requirements in particular with respect to the higher resolution - e.g. computer or gaming applications at close viewing as well as to those who want a relatively cheap 1080p HDTV.

The table below summarizes the main specifications for PZ80U 1080p Series of Panasonic Plasma TVs:
Model 42" TH-42PZ80U 46" TH-46PZ80U 50" TH-50PZ80U
Design Matte black body with gloss black frame and 'wedge-type pedestal stand; stand does not support swivel action.
Power (default)* 530W 628W 690W
Native Resolution 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)
Contrast Ratio Static: 20,000:1; Dynamic: 1,000,000:1
Shades of Gradation 4096 levels
Screen Coating New Anti-Reflecting Filter
Connectivity

Three HDMI 1.3 compliant inputs (1 front), with CEC support via Viera Link and x.v.Color compatible;

VGA-style PC Input: Not available

USB: Not available

SD Memory Card Yes
Games Mode Yes
Anti-Burn In Support Yes
Tuner

ATSC/Clear QAM (Cable TV) Tuner

Picture-in-Picture No
Audio Power: 10W x 2 channels at 10% THD; 2 speakers
Surround Sound: Yes
Virtual Surround: No
Dimensions w/Stand
(H x W x D) in inches
28.6 x 41.3 x 12.9 31.5 x 45.6 x 15.2 33.2 x 49.0 x 15.2
Weight w/Stand 70.6 lbs 81.6 lbs 82.2 lbs
Model 42" TH-42PZ80U 46" TH-46PZ80U 50" TH-50PZ80U

 

*

The power consumption figures are those reported by the manufacture and represent the maximum operational consumption under default picture settings and maximum brightness; proper set calibration may easily reduce these values to close to 50%.

Panasonic Step-Up 1080p Series: PZ85U Plasma HDTVs

Panasonic new 46-inch 1080p plasma HDTV, the TH-46PZ85U

The new 46-inch size Plasma HDTV
Panasonic TH-46PZ85U

A slightly improved feature set for a slightly higher price

The PZ85U Viera step-up series of Panasonic plasma TV sets comprises three models, the 42-inch TH-42PZ85U, the newly introduced screen size - the 46-inch TH-46PZ85U, and the big brother in the series, the 50-inch TH-50PZ85U.

In terms of feature set, the Panasonic PZ85U continues to build upon the PX80U and PZ80U lineups in that PX85U Panasonic plasma TVs come with an almost identical feature set - to the extent that it is difficult to tell them apart. However...

Design - while still continuing with the use of a wedge-type pedestal stand, overall black finish, and a frame that curves slightly upwards at the base of the screen, yet with the PZ85U, Panasonic introduces the concept of down-firing speakers hidden in a sort of 'lip' that protrudes nicely from under the bottom frame.

The step-up series also delivers a few significant improvements over Panasonic PZ80U entry-line 1080p plasma HDTVs, with the most important being an improved on-screen contrast ratio of 30,000:1. This brings the expected black level performance of the PZ85U in line with that of the more expensive PZ800U premium series and PZ850U flagship models.

In their review of the 46-inch 46PZ85U, Cnet stated that this Panasonic plasma TV 'exhibited the deepest shade of black' they have ever seen from any Panasonic plasma, deeper than most other HDTVs - apart from the costly Pioneer. And even when compared with the Pioneer, the difference is slight and only visible in a side-by-side comparison.

The PZ85U superb black level performance helps render better the realism of dark scenes while making colors look richer and more saturated. It also makes up for the set slightly inaccurate color by maintaining the desired color punch when shifting the color saturation slider down a bit to reduce the otherwise evident red-push.

The remaining improvement is a dedicated VGA-style PC-input which is set to support a maximum resolution of 1360 x 768 pixels. To get full 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution for PC generated content, you will have to switch to one of the HDMI inputs. Unlike the PX80U and PZ80U Viera Panasonic plasma TVs which cannot really be used as PC monitors due to their visible overscan, connecting a PC via one of the PZ85U HDMI inputs will resolve every single pixel even at 1080p resolution. This is possible thanks to its 0% overscan feature when handling 1080i and 1080p content.

Other than this, the PZ85U shares an almost identical set of features to that of the less expensive Panasonic plasma TV series - including the same full set of anti-burn-in support features as found on the rest of the 2008 Panasonic lineup. Cnet in their review have also complained of almost the same deficiencies as the PX80U models - a rather limited set of picture controls, a not so accurate color when compared with other models from Samsung and Pioneer, failing to deinterlace 1080i film-based content - a rather common issue with similar 1080p HDTVs, and average video noise reduction  performance.

And as with the baseline and entry-level series, PZ85U Panasonic plasma TVs lack an energy-saver mode as well as picture-in-picture, though it does include an interesting 'Surf Mode' control which can be set to restrict the TV's tuning options such as 'digital only', 'analog only' and 'all.'

At a price tag that is some $200 more than the entry-level 1080p PZ80U series, the PZ85U series - with its exceptional black level performance - represents a great option for home theater applications.

Summary specifications for the Viera PZ85U Series of Panasonic Plasma HDTVs:
Model 42" TH-42PZ85U 46" TH-46PZ85U 50" TH-50PZ85U
Design Matte black body with gloss black frame and 'wedge-type pedestal stand, and hidden down-firing speakers; stand does not support swivel action.
Power (default)* 573W 628W 690W
Native Resolution

1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)

Contrast Ratio Static: 30,000:1; Dynamic: 1,000,000:1
Shades of Gradation  12-bit (4096 levels)
Screen Coating New Anti-Reflecting Filter
Connectivity Three HDMI 1.3 compliant inputs (1 side), with CEC support via Viera Link and x.v.Color compatible

VGA-style PC Input: Yes

USB: Not available

SD Memory Card Yes
Games Mode Yes
Anti-Burn In Support Yes
Tuner

ATSC/Clear QAM (Cable TV) Tuner

Picture-in-Picture No
Audio Power: 10W x 2 channels at 10% THD; 2 down-firing speakers
Surround Sound: Yes
Virtual Surround: No
Dimensions w/Stand
(H x W x D) in inches
28.3 x 41.9 x 12.9 31.0 x 46 x 15.2 32.8 x 49.4 x 15.2
Weight w/Stand 70.5 lbs 81.6 lbs 88.2 lbs
Model 42" TH-42PZ85U 46" TH-46PZ85U 50" TH-50PZ85U

 

*

The power consumption figures are those reported by the manufacture and represent the maximum operational consumption under default picture settings and maximum brightness; proper set calibration may easily reduce these values to close to 50%.

Best Panasonic Plasma TVs

Top-selling Panasonic plasma TVs within the PX80U, PZ80U, and PZ85U series of Viera HDTVs include both PX80U sets - the 42-inch TH-42PX80U and the 50-inch TH-50PX80U  - which despite being 720p HDTVs, are among the most plasma HDTVs in demand at amazon thanks to their inexpensive price tag.

Similarly, the PZ85U series is proving to be a complete success. The 42" TH-42PZ85U is a top-selling HDTV, while the 50" TH-50PZ85U and the 46" TH-46PZ85U are also proving to be great sellers. The latest reduced pricing available online means that there is just a marginal difference of less than $100 between corresponding models within the PZ85U and the PZ80U. This is rendering the PZ85U series more of the obvious choice for those looking for a great yet affordable 1080p HDTV for home theater applications.

Among the PZ80U, the best selling Panasonic plasma TV is the 42" TH-42PZ80U, which will give you the possibility to jump onto the 1080p HDTV bandwagon for just $1,000.



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