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

Panasonic Plasma TV Guide - Part 1
2008 Line-up of Viera Plasma TV Sets

Impressive picture performance, innovation, and affordability

The 2008 lineup of Panasonic Plasma HDTVs comprises 16 models spread over five series, covering screen sizes from 42-inch to 65-inch. Entry-level 720p and 1080p Panasonic plasma HDTVs are among the most affordable while the step-up and premium series are among the best in picture performance. Innovations are many, and all sets come with improved feature set over pervious lineups.

In this first part of our Panasonic plasma TV guide, we introduce you to the full Panasonic Viera 2008 plasma line. In the second and third part, we take detailed looks at each of these series - 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.

Introducing the 2008 Line of Panasonic Plasma TVs:
Affordability, innovation & superior performance

Panasonic is considered by many as a world leader in Plasma display technology - capable of delivering plasma TVs whose picture performance is among the best within their class.

Panasonic superiority in this respect has been recognized not only by consumers, but equally important by Pioneer, its major rival in plasma television sales. Pioneer had recently tasked Matsushita - which owns the Panasonic brand, to start manufacturing plasma display panels for use in Pioneer KURO line of plasma HDTVs. It is therefore no surprise that Panasonic plasma TVs are often the preferred choice among demanding consumers and videophiles looking for affordable, yet top performing HDTVs capable of delivering true blacks and accurate colors. There is a simple reason for this...

Affordability, innovation, and superior picture performance have always characterized Panasonic plasma HDTVs. The 2008 lineup is no exception; rather, it represents significant improvements over previous lineups when it comes to features, innovations, and performance. And in line with the present downward trend in HDTV pricing, the new improved Panasonic plasma HDTVs come with a more affordable price tag. In fact, Panasonic entry-level 42-inch plasma HDTVs - the 720p Panasonic Viera TH-42PX80U, and its 1080p equivalent, the Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80U, are at present the cheapest plasma HDTVs money can get you from a  top TV brand.

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The new 2008 lineup forms part of Panasonic Viera brand of HDTVs, which from this year covers both plasma and LCDs. As indicated earlier on, the 2008 Panasonic plasma lineup includes a total of 16 different models - covering screen sizes from 42-inch up to a massive 65-inch. Interesting is that as part of the innovation pack for 2008, Panasonic is introducing a new 46-inch model to all its 1080p series, including its flagship line. This 46-inch is a rather uncommon screen size among plasma HDTVs; it goes to prove Panasonic commitment towards helping customers find the right size for their needs. The whole lineup is spread over five distinct series - PZ850U, PZ800U, PZ85U, PZ80U, and PX80U.

All except the PX80U series are 1080p plasma HDTVs. In addition, all 2008 Panasonic Viera plasma HDTVs come with new display panels that make use of an improved antireflective screen, has a specified 100,000hrs life before fading to half brightness - that's an extra 40,000hrs over last year lineups, and that are also said to be resistant to shock.

Furthermore, all lineups come with improved native contrast ratio ratings over corresponding 2007 models, SD Memory card slots, a Game Mode, multiple HDMI connectors, increased luminosity for improved performance under brightly lit environments, and Viera Link. The latter allows multiple Panasonic Viera Link devices to be controlled by a single remote.

Top within the Panasonic line is the PZ850U series which represents Panasonic flagship range of plasma HDTVs. The Viera PZ850 also includes the largest plasma within the new Panasonic Viera lineup, the 65-inch 1080p Panasonic TH-65PZ850U. The flagship series is characterized by Panasonic VieraCast, Panasonic way of delivering online content direct to your TV, as well as Panasonic Pro Setting Menu which gives the viewer easy access to ISF professional calibration software.

Next down the line is the Viera PZ800U series of premium 1080p Panasonic plasma TVs and which includes the extremely popular and highly rated 50-inch Panasonic TH-50PZ800U. We say 'highly rated' because reviews of the Panasonic TH-50PZ800U appearing on Cnet Reviews and Sound and Vision Magazine websites confirm the superiority of the PZ800 Panasonic plasma TV when it comes to overall picture performance and color accuracy.

The PZ800U series is among the few HDTV series that meet the THX™ Certified Display specifications. Strangely enough, the Panasonic flagship series does not come with THX display certification - possibly to keep costs down - after all, THX certification would add its share to the final product price. THX certification signifies the highest standards for quality and performance - thus ensuring that content is presented with the correct color and luminance levels.

Overall, the PZ800U has just about everything as the more expensive flagship series - including the new one sheet of glass design concept, four HDMI connections, and a native contrast ratio of 30,000:1; the one thing missing on the PZ800 is the Panasonic VieraCast feature.

The remaining lineups - namely the PZ85U, the PZ80U, and the PX80U series are very similar in terms of supported features - rather we say that one would be hard pressed to tell them apart. At the same time, there are still a few significant differences.

To start with, the Panasonic PZ85U series of plasma HDTVs represents Panasonic step-up line and comes with an improved contrast ratio figure over the entry level models of 30,000:1; this basically matches that of the more expensive PZ800U and PZ850U Panasonic plasma TVs. In addition, the PZ85U adds a VGA-style PC input over the entry line, as well as make use of front hidden speakers.

Having a contrast ratio rating that is in line with that on the premium and flagship Panasonic plasma TV series means that one should expect the PZ85U to deliver similar black levels to the more expensive Panasonic lineups. It is true that you get a reduced feature set, but if you are after getting the best in overall picture performance for your budget, then the PZ85U offers the best price-performance deal.

The Panasonic Viera PZ80U series is Panasonic entry-level line of 1080p plasma HDTVs. It comes with a somewhat reduced contrast ratio rating of 20,000:1; still this represents a major improvement over 2007 models and is more than sufficient for excellent black level performance. It is true that the difference in contrast ratio rating between the PZ80U and the more expensive lineups is considerable but...

As we argued in our article 'The Contrast Ratio Game - Playing with Numbers!', the implication on the actual perceived contrast levels by the eye is much less than what manufactures wants to suggest by their big numbers. In other words, despite that the PZ80U is Panasonic 1080p entry-level series, yet it is still capable of delivering exceptional picture quality; this after all, is the most important deliverable for any HDTV. Equally important, if you are on a tight budget, the PZ80U gives you the possibility to jump onto the 1080p HDTV bandwagon with the least expense.

The last remaining series in the 2008 line of Panasonic Plasma TVs is the Viera PX80U. This is Panasonic basic entry-line of plasma HDTVs and is the only series that comes in 720p resolution; this lower pixel count should not make much of a difference at the screen sizes covered by the PX80U.

Despite representing Panasonic basic line of plasma HDTVs, the PX80U still boasts a 15,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio rating. You may think that this is too low, but Samsung premium plasma for 2007, the FP-T5084 we reviewed in November 2007 came with the same contrast ratio rating. This means that the PX80 should still be capable of delivering very good overall picture performance.

2008 Panasonic Plasma TV Lineup: A Detailed Look

As expressed earlier on in our introduction, top within the Panasonic plasma TV lineup for 2008 is the Viera PZ850U - which represents Panasonic flagship line, and ends with bare-bones entry-level series PZ80U and PX80U series; the PZ85U represents Panasonic step-up to the PZ80U, while the PZ800U series represents Panasonic premium line of HDTVs.

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

In the final part of our 2008 Panasonic plasma TV product guide, we discuss the premium and flagship plasma HDTV series to see if one is really better than the other.

The links below will take you straight to the respective section within our 2008 Panasonic Viera plasma HDTV product guide.

2008 Panasonic Plasma TV: Product Guide Index

Panasonic 720p PX80U Baseline Series

Panasonic PZ80U 1080p Entry Series

Panasonic PZ85U 1080p Step-up Series

Panasonic PZ800U 1080p Premium Line

Panasonic PZ850U 1080p Flagship Range

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