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

Panasonic Plasma TV Guide - Part 3
2008 Line-up of Viera Plasma TV Sets

PZ800U THX-Certified HDTVs and PZ850U Flagship Series


We conclude this 2008 Panasonic Plasma TV roundup by looking at the differences between the Panasonic Viera premium plasma HDTVs and Panasonic flagship series.

Which of the two offers the best picture performance? What are the main differences in features and performance between the two? Discover more in this Panasonic plasma HDTV product guide.


Panasonic Viera Premium Line: PZ8OOU Plasma HDTVs

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.

Best overall TV picture to price deal

The PZ8OOU Panasonic Viera Series represents Panasonic premium line of 1080p HDTVs. It comprises four screen sizes, the 42-inch TH-42PZ800U, the 46-inch TH-46PZ800U, the 50-inch TH-50PZ800U, and the 58-inch TH-58PZ800U.

What makes the PZ800 stands out from the rest is that this series of 1080p Panasonic plasma TVs meets the THXTM Certified Display Specifications. This signifies the highest standards for quality and performance, thus ensuring that content is presented with the correct color and luminance levels. Obviously, this THX certification on the PZ800U Panasonic plasma TVs comes at a price - at least a couple of hundred dollars more than corresponding sets within the Z85U Panasonic line. But in return you are getting significantly improved overall picture performance compared with the less expensive Panasonic series.

Article continues after this advertisement.



Design: New with the PZ800 is the 'one sheet of glass' design concept which basically consists of a single big pane of glass that covers the whole set. This yields a rather more sophisticated look than a typical set. Like the PZ85U, PZ800U Panasonic plasma TV sets come with hidden downward firing speakers positioned just below the display and hidden from view by a sort of protruding lip; this 'lip' also houses (behind a flip-down door), the set front inputs and controls.

This is also the first series in the whole Panasonic 2008 Viera plasma lineup that introduces a swivel table stand. These sets still make use of the wedge-shaped stand but it provides that added swivel action - so much common with  HDTVs from Samsung.

Features: Like the PZ85U, the premium line comes with a static contrast ratio of 30,000:1. But as already indicated, the biggest step over the PZ85U series is the THX display certification.

There is also the addition of a fourth HDMI input and a larger number of supported shades of gray which in the case of the PZ800U HDTVs, reaches a total of 5120 against the 4096 different levels for the less expensive Panasonic plasma TV series.

You would not get the extensive line of picture controls found on premium line Samsung or LG plasma HDTVs; no gamma setting, and color temperature adjustment is just a three-preset setting. However, these Panasonic plasma TVs still incorporate enough advanced picture controls - including color management, black level control, a C.A.T.S. mode that changes the contrast on the fly, and two modes of noise reduction - to let the user tweak the picture for best performance. It is also significant that all picture modes - including the THX Movie Mode, are user adjustable, while the Custom mode is independent per input.

The Panasonic PZ800U also offers a complete range of aspect ratio controls for both HD and SD sources as well as a zero overscan feature called 'HD Size 2.' The latter lets you display every single pixel when viewing 1080i or 1080p content to avoid scaling of the image. This aspect ratio mode should be your primary choice with 1080i and 1080p content unless you notice interference along the extreme edges of the screen, which can occur with some HD sources.

As with most 2008 plasma TVs from various brands, this Viera line of Panasonic plasma TVs offers a complete set of burn-in management features - which the company calls 'image retention' - to help prevent any possible occurrence of burn-in. These are in effect the same anti-burn-in features found on all 2008 Panasonic plasma lineups. Admitted, with the latest improvements in plasma display technology, burn-in is not really an issue with proper use. At the same time, it is always reassuring to have some additional remedy at hand in case the need arise.

Interesting is that despite that as with the rest of Panasonic plasma TV series, the PZ800U line of HDTVs does not include a power saver mode, yet on first start-up, the user is asked to select whether you are in a store or home environment. Choosing the home environment engages the 'Standard' picture setting by default across all inputs; this saves more than 30% in electrical power over the more energy demanding Vivid mode.

Again, lacking is a picture-in-picture mode. Equally lacking is a USB, but then connectivity options are still among the most complete with four HDMI, computer input and memory card slot.

Performance wise, the Panasonic PZ800U is capable of producing a deep shade of black with excellent shadow detail. In their plasma TV review of the Panasonic 50-inch TH-50PZ800U, the Cnet editors say that while the black level of this Panasonic is not exactly on par with Pioneer KURO plasma HDTVs, yet the difference is almost negligible. Not only, they added that its color and uniformity is better than that of the Pioneer.

Image on PZ800U Panasonic plasma TVs is clean and relatively free from false contouring and noise, especially in THX mode. Cnet states that color accuracy is better than that of the Pioneer KURO PDP-5020FD and on par with that of the Samsung PN50A550. Additionally, during a side-by-side comparison, Cnet reports that the deep blacks of the 50-inch Panasonic under review yielded better saturated colors than those present on the Samsung PN50A550.

The Cnet review continues to point out that grayscale tends to shift towards red, but this slight inaccuracy is not enough to tarnish an otherwise excellent picture quality - something which renders the Panasonic TH-50PZ800U one of the best plasma TVs for overall picture performance. Furthermore, the TH-50PZ800U Panasonic plasma TV is one of the few plasma HDTV sets that can do a fine job even with good quality standard definition material.

In a separate plasma TV review of the same Panasonic TH-50PZ800U published by Sound & Vision Magazine, the editor states that, '...with the TH-50PZ800U, Panasonic continues its evolutionary progress toward making an ideal plasma TV. This set's THX picture mode delivers exceptionally natural-looking color without making you jump through lots of picture-adjustment hoops, and its deep shadows will make even fans of Pioneer's Kuro plasmas stand up and take notice.'

Since all four models in this series share the same specs sheet, one can expect similar overall superb picture performance from the other sets in the PZ800U line. Furthermore, the added pixel count of the 1080p native screen resolution would surely start to show up on the larger screen of the big brother in the PZ800 series, the 58-inch TH-58PZ800U.

If what you are after is a premium plasma HDTV, the PZ800U series of Panasonic plasma TV sets offers one of the best overall picture to price deal with a THX mode that delivers naturally looking images without having to go through load of picture adjustments. And admittedly, you get all this for significantly less than an equivalent premium Pioneer KURO plasma HDTV!

Summary specifications for the Viera PZ800U THX Display Certified Series of 1080p Premium Panasonic Plasma TVs:
Model 42" TH-42PZ800U 46" TH-46PZ800U 50" TH-50PZ800U 58" TH-58PZ800U
Design Matte black body with gloss black frame using Panasonic new 'one sheet of glass' design, 'wedge-type pedestal stand, and hidden down-firing speakers.
Swivel Angle ±150 ±100 ±100 N/A
Power (default)* 575W 630W 692W 734W
Native Resolution

1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)

Contrast Ratio Static: 30,000:1; Dynamic: 1,000,000:1
Shades of Gradation  5120 equivalent levels
Screen Coating New Anti-Reflecting Filter
Connectivity

Four HDMI 1.3 compliant inputs (1 front), 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: 31 W at 10% THD; 2 x down-firing slim speakers + Passive radiator, Woofer x 2
Surround Sound: Yes
Virtual Surround: Yes (BBE VIVA HD3D Sound)
Dimensions w/Stand
(H, W, D) in inches
28.9 x 42.4 x 12.9 31.6 x 46.5 x 15.2 33.3 x 49.9 x 15.2 56.9 x 37.4 x 16.2
Weight w/Stand 70.5 lbs 81.6 lbs 88.2 lbs 136.9
MSRP $1,500 $1,900 $2,200 $3,700
Best Selling Price at amazon $1,120 $1,440 $1,650 $3,100
Model 42" TH-42PZ800U 46" TH-46PZ800U 50" TH-50PZ800U 58" TH-58PZ800U

 

*

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 Flagship Series: PZ85OU 1080p Plasma HDTVs

More features for a higher price

The PZ85OU series is the most expensive within the 2008 Panasonic Viera line of 1080p plasma HDTVs.

It represents the company flagship plasma line. As with the Samsung flagship plasma A760 HDTV series, the PZ850U Panasonic plasma TV series most advertised feature is its sort of IPTV capability. Termed 'VieraCast, it is Panasonic way of delivering online content direct to your TV.

Panasonic Viera Biggest HDTV: The 65-inch TH-65PZ850U 1080p Plasma TV

65-inch TH-65PZ850U

The Biggest Viera HDTV in the 2008 Panasonic Plasma TV lineup

 

As already expressed in our introduction to the 2008 line of Panasonic Plasma TVs, the Viera PZ850U also includes the largest plasma HDTV within the new Panasonic lineup, the massive  65-inch TH-65PZ850U. Other models in the PZ850U series include the 46-inch TH-46PZ850U, the 50-inch TH-50PZ850U, and the 58-inch TH-58PZ850U.

Design: The PZ850 employs the same 'one sheet of glass' design concept adopted for the PZ800U series. The use of a single big pane of glass that covers the whole set, gives a rather more stylish look. Overall design is almost identical to the PZ800U - including the presence of the front controls and input jacks, wedge-styled base and the use of a swivel table stand for the two smaller models in the series.

The only real difference here is the color of the protruding lip present just below the display which in this case is glossy black instead of the dark gray used on the PZ800U Panasonic plasma TVs. As with the premium line and step-up series, this sort of lip also houses the PZ850U four hidden down-firing speakers.

Features: As stated above, the most advertised feature associated with the PZ850U is Panasonic VieraCast through which the viewer can access directly online content through an internet connection via the set Ethernet port. Unlike Samsung, Panasonic do not provide a wireless adaptor but Panasonic states that any third party adaptor will work with its HDTVs. Online services currently available include YouTube videos, Picasa photo sharing, Bloomberg news and stock information, local weather, and up-to-the-minute content from USA Today.

Whether VieraCast is worth having depends on your requirements. If you really want to access this online content direct on your TV without the need of a PC or laptop, then this VieraCast feature might be worth having - otherwise, a cheap laptop connected to your TV will serve you better.

Strange as it may seem, the flagship series does not come with the same THX display certification available on the less expensive PZ800U premium line of Panasonic plasma TV sets. For sure, THX display certification would have had its impact on the overall product price - making the already expensive PZ850U even more so.

However, in replacement to the THX mode, the PZ850U do offer both a wider color gamut - termed 'Digital Cinema Color', as well as a 'Studio Reference' mode and which according to Cnet, delivers the most accurate out-of-the-box picture.

There is also a 'Pro Setting' picture menu; this gives the viewer easy access to ISF professional calibration software to fine-tune a host of picture parameters like gamma and the set color temperature.

But that's about it with the flagship line; all remaining features are basically identical to those present on the PZ800U.

This means that picture-wise, you get the same 1080p native screen resolution for all models in the series, something which the two larger sets - the 58-inch and the 65-inch - would surely benefit from. Similarly, the PZ850U shares the same static and dynamic contrast ratio ratings of 30,000:1 and 1,000,000:1 respectively, as well as the same 5120 levels of supported shades of gray as you get with the PZ800U. The implications are that apart from the wider color gamut supported by the PZ850 in comparison to the HD standard thanks to its Digital Cinema Color (DCC) feature, yet with this DCC switched to off, the two series are expected to deliver the same level of picture quality.

As with the PZ800U, the flagship series of Panasonic plasma TVs includes advanced picture controls - including color management, black level control, a contrast adjustment on the fly mode, and two modes of noise reduction. It is also significant that all five picture modes are user adjustable, while the 'Custom' picture mode is independent per input.

Included is a 24p mode for direct compatibility with 1080p/24Hz cinema playback; this changes the refresh rate from 60Hz to 48Hz. However, Cnet claims that this produces too much of a flicker to be of any use.

The PZ850U also comes with a full range of aspect ratio controls - including a zero overscan feature to display every single pixel when viewing 1080i or 1080p content to avoid scaling of the image, and a complete set of burn-in management features.

As with all Panasonic plasma TV series for 2008, the PZ850U does not include a power saver mode, but as with the PZ800, PZ850 HDTVs will ask the user on first start-up to select either store or home environment. Choosing the latter engages the 'Standard' picture mode by default across all inputs; this saves around 30% in electrical power over the more energy demanding Vivid mode.

Again, lacking is a picture-in-picture mode which would surely have come in handy with the PZ850 four HDMI inputs and multiple analog connectivity options.

Performance wise, the Panasonic PZ850U is capable of superb picture performance - producing among the deepest blacks while still retaining excellent shadow detail.

Cnet complained of a slight color inaccuracy with respect to the HD standard but they further added that the PZ850U Panasonic plasma TV under review did still manage to produce better color 'than many high-end HDTV's on the market.' In this respect, the PZ800U - with its THX mode, did a bit better. However, whether the wider color gamut supported by the PZ850U Digital Cinema Color mode delivers better color, is more of a subjective issue.

Cnet further added that grayscale is extremely linear with just a slight reddish shift in mid-dark areas; otherwise, it remains neutral while colors near black stay spot-on.

Overall video processing of the PZ850U Panasonic plasma TV under review at Cnet also proved to the very good. Apart from the flicker issue with Panasonic 48Hz refresh rate option associated with the 24p mode, image on the PZ850U Panasonic plasma TV was clean and relatively free from false contouring and noise, even with the noise reduction switched off.

Since all four models in the PZ850U series share the same specs sheet, one can expect similar overall superb picture performance from the other three sets in this same series.

So the question remains ...is it worth investing in a PZ850U Panasonic Plasma 1080p HDTV?

Well, if what you are after is superb picture quality within anything up to 58-inch screen size, then the less expensive PZ800U line of Panasonic plasma TV sets would surely fit your purpose and easily save you a couple of hundred dollars - depending on the model. If you want a bigger screen, then the expensive 65-inch TH-65PZ850U is your only option.

Similarly, if you want to view online content direct on your TV without connecting your internet connection via a PC or a cheap laptop, then the IPTV capability of the PZ850U may be worth paying for.

Summary specifications for the Viera PZ850U Flagship Series of 1080p Panasonic Plasma TVs:
Model 46" TH-46PZ850U 50" TH-50PZ850U 58" TH-58PZ850U 65" TH-65PZ850U
Design Matte black body with gloss black frame using Panasonic new 'one sheet of glass' design, 'wedge-type pedestal stand, and hidden down-firing speakers.
Swivel Angle ±100 ±100 N/A N/A
Power (default)
[see Note 1]
638W 700W 742W 792W
Native Resolution

1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels)

Contrast Ratio Static: 30,000:1; Dynamic: 1,000,000:1
Shades of Gradation  5120 equivalent levels
Screen Coating New Anti-Reflecting Filter
Connectivity

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

VGA-style PC Input: Yes

USB: Not available

IPTV Support: Yes via Viera Cast

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: 31 W at 10% THD; 2 x down-firing slim speakers + Passive radiator, Woofer x 2
Surround Sound: Yes
Virtual Surround: Yes (BBE VIVA HD3D Sound)
Dimensions w/Stand
(H, W, D) in inches
31.6 x 46.5 x 15.2 33.3 x 49.9 x 15.2 37.4 x 56.9 x 16.2 39.1 x 63 x 4.3 [See Note 2]
Weight w/Stand 92.6 lbs 99.3 lbs 137.4 lbs 160.3 lbs
MSRP $2,500 $3,000 $4,000 $7,000
Best Selling Price at amazon $2,000 $2350 $3,800 $6,000
Model 46" TH-46PZ850U 50" TH-50PZ850U 58" TH-58PZ850U 65" TH-65PZ850U

 

Note 1:

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%.

Note 2:

Pedestal stand for the Panasonic 65-inch TH-65PZ850U is optional (model TY-ST65R4-WG0; dimensions and weight shown are those of the plasma display only without the optional stand.

The best-selling Panasonic plasma TV within the PZ800U and PZ850U series of Viera HDTVs is the Panasonic 50-inch TH-50PZ800U. In reality, the TH-50PZ800U is proving to be the top-selling 50-inch plasma within the full 2008 Panasonic plasma TV lineup - doing better in terms of sales than less expensive models from the PZ80U and PZ85U series.

The 58-inch TH-58PZ800U from within the same Panasonic plasma TV series is also proving to be among the most popular big screen HDTVs at amazon - not just within the plasma HDTV category, but among HDTVs in general. You see, though it is possible to get a top-quality rear projection HDTV - such as the highly rated 61-inch Samsung HL61A750 LED DLP TV - for half the price of the 58PZ800U, yet plasmas deliver deeper blacks and better screen uniformity.

And for many, the 'thin factor' associated with a plasma HDTV looks better than a box-style rear projection TV - not matter how slim that box is. In this respect, this THX-certified Panasonic plasma TV is among the best you can find if you are in search of a sizeable big screen TV within the 60-inch domain.

Within the flagship series, the two best selling Panasonic plasma TVs are the 50-inch TH-50PZ850U and the newly introduced screen size, the 46-inch TH-46PZ850U.

Note: All prices shown in this 2008 Panasonic Plasma HDTV Guide were correct at the time of this write-up. Prices of HDTVs change continuously; we therefore advise to check the respective amazon links for the latest price updates from the respective product retailers.



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