Review Date: September 16, 2009
 Last Updated: June 25, 2013

Part 2: The V10 Panasonic Plasma TV
Samsung Series 8 versus Panasonic V10

Best Plasma TVs for 2009


The V10 Series of Panasonic plasma TVs  represent Panasonic high-end line of plasma HDTVs for the videophile - hence the 'V' signature. It comes with a very similar feature set to that of Samsung Series 8. And both the 50-inch and the 58-inch V10 HDTVs are selling a just about the same price as that of corresponding B860 Samsung plasma TVs.

Furthermore, inasmuch as the B860 represents the best Samsung plasma TV series for 2009, the V10 represents the best plasma TVs - apart from the Z1 which we did not review - within the full 2009 Panasonic TV line-up.

In this second part of our Samsung vs. Panasonic discussion, we take a detailed look at the V10 - analyzing its features and related performance implications.


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.

2009 Best Plasma TVs The Panasonic V10 - an introduction

The Panasonic V10 Series for North America comprises four screen sizes, the 50-inch TC-P50V10 ($1,820), the 54-inch TC-P54V10 ($2,600), the 58-inch TC-P58V10 ($2,700), and the 65-inch TC-P65V10 ($3,650).

Worth taking note that  Panasonic has another massive 65-inch - the TC-P65S1 ($2,400). But S1 Panasonic plasma TVs represent Panasonic entry-level 1080p line and thus lack quite a few of the enhancements found on the more expensive V10 models - the most significant being the THX picture mode and Panasonic VieraCast IPTV suite.

Together with Samsung Series 8, the V10 Series of Panasonic plasma TVs constitute an extremely appealing option for those looking for the best plasma TV that the latest 2009 HDTV lineups have to offer.

As indicated in our introduction, Panasonic defines the V10 as the 'videophile' series - mainly because of its enhanced performance related features that deliver improved picture quality over the less expensive Panasonic series. The V10 Panasonic plasma TV series comes with a very similar feature set to that of the Samsung Series 8. The main difference between the two being the presence of a THX picture mode - which as expected represents the best out-of-the-box setting for V10 Panasonic plasma TVs.

But for some strange reason, the THX mode as implemented on Panasonic G10 sets delivers better picture quality than the V10 THX mode. However, thanks to the V10 Custom picture mode and its Pro Setting menu, it is still possible to achieve better picture performance on V10 Panasonic plasma TVs than that possible on the popular G10.

V10 Series represents an upgrade over G10 Panasonic plasma TVs. The most important improvements include a slimmer package, better video processing of 1080p/24 sources using a higher 96Hz refresh rate - sort of similar to Samsung Cinema Smooth, and a fourth HDMI input.

Other less significant enhancements include Digital Cinema Color (DCC) which is intended to emulate the enhanced color gamut of the Digital Cinema Initiative (DCI). Enhanced color gamut is possible thanks to the xvYCC part of the HDMI ver. 1.3 standard. But as of today, no Blu-ray disc has been released using this new HDTV standard and instead use an HDTV version with a restricted gamut called Rec. 709. In other words, engaging Panasonic V10 DCC would simply map the Rec. 709 to the set wider gamut but in doing so, you would not enjoy the true wider color spectrum as the film studio intended it to be.

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Design

As expected, the V10 comes with a more refined styling over less expensive 2009 Panasonic plasma TV models. The real differentiator is the one-sheet-of-glass design that extends from edge to edge covering the set slightly wider bezel for an extremely attractive appearance.

However, this single-sheet styling is adopted by Panasonic only on its 50-inch and 54-inch models; the larger models in the series take the more traditional visually separated bezel-screen look.

This is not the only design difference between the smaller and larger sets in the series. Unlike the larger sets in the series, the circular stand on the 50-inch includes swivel action - a much appreciated extra bonus that is missing on the rest of the 2009 Panasonic plasma TV lineup.

Panasonic V10 Single-sheet design

 

Panasonic V10 series single-sheet of glass design

V10 Panasonic plasma TVs sport a rather subtle silver accent along the display bottom part of the frame that arcs slightly upward in the middle. And like Samsung Series 8, these Panasonic HDTVs come in a slimmer package. They are not as slim but Panasonic still managed to reduce the panel thickness to around 2.1 inches when excluding the lower protruding portion on the rear panel. Overall panel thickness stands at 3.3 inches - almost an inch thinner than corresponding G10 HDTVs.

All set controls and inputs are positioned on the right side of the screen which make them completely hidden from the front.

Like G10 sets, V10 Panasonic  plasma TVs come with Panasonic new AR coating; this is extremely effective in attenuating glare and reflections in brightly lit environments. It is capable of attenuating reflections off the screen much better than Samsung FilterBrightTM anti-glare technology but then it is not as capable in preserving the black levels under bright lighting.

User menu and remote: V10 Panasonic plasma TVs menu follows on the footsteps of the less expensive series and includes the same basic user menu and navigation structure. The new 2009 menu includes a number of icons and a new Viera Tools section that makes it easier to select what you want. Overall it is easy to navigate even though there is no on-screen help as is the case with Samsung's equivalents.

Directly associated with the menu is the set remote control which is basically the same as that provided with G10/G15 sets. V10 Panasonic TV remotes have the same trio of hot keys positioned around the central cursor control labeled Viera Link, a green VIERACAST button, and VIERATOOLS to access TV functions like THX mode and Digital Cinema Color.

The remote control that comes with the V10 series HDTVs is a partially backlit remote and comes with illuminated buttons for volume and channel section only. However, the relatively large and differently shaped buttons still help make for ease of button identification even in a dark environment.

Main Features

Panasonic adds a number of performance related features to V10 plasma TVs with the most relevant being 96Hz refresh rate for improved processing of 24p film-based content, and Digital Cinema Color (DCC). Panasonic DCC aims to match DCI requirements already referred to earlier on in this write-up for a wider color gamut.

However, what is of real value is the 96Hz processing as so far, none of the present Blu-ray disc content have been recorded using the new wider gamut HD standard. Instead, the 96Hz refresh rate supported by V10 Panasonic plasma TVs makes it possible for the TV to maintain the correct cadence of film-based content when fed by a 1080p/24 source from say a Blu-ray player.

With 96 Hz refresh rate, each frame of 24 frame/sec film-based content is repeated four times before displaying the next frame. Instead, with 60Hz HDTVs, a 2:3 pulldown processing will have to kick in to be able to display the 24 frames per second of movie content over a 60Hz refresh rate. In simple terms, 2:3 pulldown works by repeating the first frame in film based content twice, second frame three times, third frame twice, etc. We say 2:3 despite the more common 3:2 reference because according to SMPTE standards, the first frame in film-based content should be associated with the first and second fields of one video frame, and is therefore scanned twice, not three times.

This 2:3 process leads to an extra 'dirty' frame every fifth frame. However, this uneven repetition of consecutive frames leads to what is known as film judder. This is the resultant visual artifact leading to a jerky movement when 24p film is transferred to 60Hz video. Judder is most noticeable in scenes that incorporate slow camera pans or scenes shot with a handheld camera.

LCDs normally use 120Hz or 240Hz to display 24p movie content properly without kicking in pulldown processing. But most LCDs use a system called motion compensation/motion estimation (MC/ME) that makes motion smoother by creating synthesized frames between the actual film frames. The resultant extra smoothness often makes film-based content more video-like; this is more of a like-it to hate-it effect since these systems do not preserve the natural cadence of film.

Instead, the 96Hz refresh rate as implemented by both Samsung and Panasonic on their plasma TVs for cinematic playback of 24p content do properly maintain the cadence of film when using a 1080p/24 source.

Worth taking note that the higher 120Hz/240Hz refresh rate as adopted by LCD TV makers is not only necessary for the proper displaying of 24p content as explained above, but equally important, to reduce motion blur - something which plasma TV are less susceptible to.

Other features are basically the same as those found on G10 Panasonic plasma TVs and include the new more eco-friendly G12 NeoPDP Panasonic plasma display panel. Like the Samsung E-panel, NeoPDP displays use 40% less power than standard 1080p panels for the same brightness level. The new panel also supports a 40,000:1 static contrast ratio, 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast rating, and the latest 600Hz sub-field drive technology. But apart from an improved motion resolution supporting the full 1080 lines of the 1080p HD standard (for the Panasonic V10), you can just ignore 600Hz technology altogether.

Instead, the THX picture mode is the most important picture related feature available on V10 Panasonic plasma TVs. It is one of the best out-of-the-box one-step calibration. Once engaged, the V10 THX mode  is responsible for the set excellent overall picture performance - ranging from relatively accurate color, superb shadow detail, deep blacks, and an accurate 2.2 gamma that remains stable across the full range of light output.

The latter represents the most important improvement on the V10 Panasonic plasma TV series. Gamma represents the light balance from full light to zero light and needs to remain stable across the full light range for correct picture presentation. In other words, the set accurate gamma ensures correct light balance and equally important, also ensures proper shadow detail.

But nothing is perfect. While the THX mode on Panasonic V10 HDTVs offer an easy way to enjoy a great picture, the THX mode on the less expensive G10/G15 Panasonic plasma TVs does a little bit better with picture quality. Besides, like the THX mode on the G10, the V10 THX mode comes with a slightly dim-by-design picture setting which may be too dim for some to view under normal lighting.

The THX mode on the V10 is one of a set of six picture modes. Other picture modes include Vivid - the brightest mode of all, Standard - dim-by-design to qualify for Energy Star 3.0, a Custom picture mode that allows separate settings independent per input, Game mode, and a Studio Ref. mode.

The Custom mode is possibly the best option for the videophile looking for the best picture that these Panasonic plasma TVs can deliver, thanks to the various advanced picture settings available under the Pro Setting menu.

Unfortunately, as with most TVs today, the Standard mode on these Panasonic plasma TVs is too dim for practical use except in a totally darkened environment. This is dim-by-design and is a trick most TV makers are using to ensure their HDTVs qualify for Energy Star 3.0.

The Game mode is accessible both through the set picture menu and direct via a Game button on the remote control. Panasonic says that the Game picture mode helps deliver quicker image response while also producing darker images more clearly. Selecting the games mode will also automatically select that input which has been labeled 'Game' in the input naming menu.

Panasonic VieraCast is Samsung's Medi@2.0 equivalent and lets you enjoy internet content straight on your TV screen via your internet connection through the set Ethernet port. Panasonic VieraCast offers access to online services like YouTube videos, Picasa photo sharing, Bloomberg news and stock information, local weather, up-to-the-minute content from USA Today, and new for 2009, Amazon Video-on-demand.

Viera Link is another Panasonic proprietary feature that uses the HDMI-CEC support to control other compatible devices. It is similar to Samsung's Anynet - except that the Panasonic versions on G10 and V10 HDTVs includes the option to connect a network camera (with multi-screen support) to your TV for household monitoring.

The set of user-adjustable picture controls on V10 Panasonic plasma TVs - while still not up to that of the Samsung B860, is the best within the full Panasonic HDTV lineup. Apart from the usual basic picture controls - Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, and Sharpness, there are also five color temperature presets - Normal, Warm 1, Warm 2, Cool 1 and Cool 2. The Warm 2 setting is the one closest to the D65 standard.

Five aspect ratio or Format settings are available for SD and HD content. These include a zoom mode that allows the user to adjust both the horizontal and vertical position of the displayed part of the image, and a zero overscan Full mode when selecting HD Size 2 for correct 1:1 pixel mapping.

Advanced features include a C.A.T.S. function, or contrast automatic tracking system function that senses ambient light and optimizes the contrast by adjusting the brightness and gradation on the fly to better match the ambient light level. Video and MPEG noise reduction settings can be set to either on or off. You can also adjust the black level setting - light or dark - when viewing content carried over the HDMI inputs - with light giving the best setting without crushing deep shadow detail.

Like the G10/G15, V10 includes a 48Hz refresh rate - apart from the 96Hz already referred to above for 1080p/24 signals and 2:3 pulldown.  However, the 48Hz setting suffers from too much image flicker; many would tell you that it is useless. Use the 96Hz setting instead, it works fine. The included 2:3 pull-down works well with both standard and high definition sources.

Additional advanced picture controls are available in the Custom picture mode thanks to the V10 Pro Setting menu. These include additional white balance settings for red and blue; a black adjustment to adjust the dark shades of the image in gradation; a four-position gamma setting; a three-setting panel brightness adjustment; an On/Off setting for Contour emphasis of the image; and an Automatic Gain Control (AGC) that increases the brightness of dark signals automatically.

Conveniences

There is not much to shout about here. These Panasonic plasma TVs - despite being among the most expensive within the Panasonic 2009 lineup - still lacks at least a few basic conveniences. You would not get picture-in-picture function as instead is the case with Samsung Series 8 TVs, or at least a frame freeze function as found on the significantly less expensive LG PS80 premium plasma TVs.

Even Panasonic power-saving options - are among the most basic you can expect to get on a TV of this kind. The set power ECO menu allows automatic turn-off functions only like a standby power save setting to put all connected Viera link devices in eco-standby mode when the TV is powered off. Or the set 'TV Auto Power Off' features which when activated will turn the TV off in case say there is no signal for more than 10 minutes. But there is no specific power save mode that affects the TV power consumption when the TV is turned on.

And despite Panasonic much touting about these sets lower power consumption, like corresponding 1080p plasmas with its category, the V10 is still one of the most energy hungry HDTVs. Average power consumption stands at around 250W when its default dim Standard picture mode is properly calibrated for average room lighting.

On the other hand, Panasonic do provide a full suite of anti-burn-in features or as the company calls it 'image retention'. These include a pixel orbiter that moves the entire image gradually around the screen, and 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 sweeps a white bar across a black screen to help erase the retained image.

Connectivity

Connectivity is excellent overall and better than that on the Samsung B860 when it comes to analog video.

Apart from the four HDMI inputs (3 rear + 1 on left side) complete with Deep Color (x.v.Color) support and CEC via Panasonic Viera Link, there is also a full set of analog video inputs.

These include two component video inputs, two composite video inputs (1 rear + 1 side), one S-video, and a VGA-style PC input on the side panel supporting a maximum of 1366 x 768 pixel resolution.

There is also an Ethernet port for network connectivity, digital audio and analog stereo outputs, and an RS232 port for external TV control such as through the use of a PC or Crestron type remote control systems.

But unlike Samsung Series 8 HDTVs, V10 Panasonic plasma TVs do not come with a USB port. Instead, you get an SD memory card slot which works with the Viera Image viewer to view still and motion images on your Panasonic plasma TV. Like the G10 and G15 series, the memory card slot on the V10 can also take SDHC Cards up to 16Gb and the miniSD card (by using the appropriate card adaptor.) Supported files include MPEG2/AVCHD for movies and JPEG for still images.

One note worth mentioning here is that the Panasonic V10 version for North America does not include DLNA support. At the same time, the incorporated DLNA on the European version has a number of deficiencies and apart from a rather sluggish user interface - it does not support DivX HD, MPEG 4, mkv and even mp3 files. In this respect, the DLNA on Samsung TVs is much better.

Panasonic do not provide a wireless adaptor for its plasma HDTVs nor you can use a cheap USB wireless dongle as in the case of the Samsung due to the lack of a USB port on V10 Panasonic sets. But Panasonic says that any third party adaptor/wireless bridge connected to the set Ethernet port will do.

Audio

As with most of today's flat panel TVs, V10 Panasonic plasma TVs come with down-firing oval speakers along the bottom of the frame - delivering 10W per channel.

Panasonic do provide BBE ViVA HD 3D surround sound processing technology for a more immersive 3D sound effects over the set stereo speakers while still maintaining dialogue clarity - thus leading to a more realistic sound-stage.

Unlike Samsung Series 8 TVs, Panasonic do not include a built-in sub-woofer but as in the case of the Samsung, though sound quality is adequate even at moderate volumes, it is nowhere near high fidelity. If you want to enjoy the best picture/sound experience, teaming your TV with a proper surround sound setup is necessary.


It is true that in comparison with Samsung Series 8, V10 Panasonic plasma TVs do not offer the same level of enhanced features and conveniences. Yet Panasonic high-end series still offers extensive user-adjustable picture quality related settings to help you get a picture that only the very best plasma TVs can ever deliver.

This issue here is... how does the V10 Panasonic plasma TV stands against the extremely compelling Series 8 Samsung plasma TV option?

We try to help answer this question by confronting the two for the '2009 Best Plasma TV' title in the final part of our discussion.





Reference Material / Further reading

Cnet Reviews: Review of the Samsung PN50B650 by D. Katzmaier, dated June 12; this is one of the very few expert reviews available on Samsung Series 6 plasma TVs.

Samsung website for the latest technical specs and product manuals covering Samsung Series 6 plasma TVs.









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