Last Updated: June 25, 2013
2009 Panasonic Plasma HDTV Sets - Part 4
Panasonic Viera 1080p Plasma HDTVs
G10 and G15 Series of THX-Certified HDTVs
The G10 and G15 series of Panasonic Viera plasma HDTVs represent Panasonic most affordable 1080p HDTVs to come with THXTM Certified Display, originally featured on the Panasonic PZ800U series we reviewed last year.
The new G10 and G15 also come with a few other interesting features such as Panasonic new eco-friendly NeoPDP display, the much-touted 600Hz sub-field drive, and VieraCast - Panasonic's way of delivering IPTV interactivity content.
Surely, these are all nice-to-have features but nothing is perfect. For those ready to pay extra for a THX-certified-display HDTV, more important is how these new 1080p plasma HDTVs perform. More in this Panasonic Plasma TV review article.
Update - Feb. 5, 2010: According to a thread on the AVS Forum site, some Panasonic plasma HDTV owners have experienced a sudden unexplained lowering in the black level performance of their Panasonic plasma TVs. Click here for more information.
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 new 1080p THX display certified Panasonic plasma HDTVs: The G10 and G15 Series
The least expensive Panasonic HDTVs with a THX display certification for 2009...
Panasonic first introduced a THX certified display picture mode on its PZ800U 2008 series. Sound & Vision Magazine had stated then 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.'
What no one knew at the time of the TH-50PZ800U Panasonic plasma TV review is that Pioneer Kuro plasmas were soon to become extinct as Pioneer has since then decide to exit the HDTV market. It is therefore only natural that many are now looking at Panasonic as the new king in plasma display technology. Admittedly, the G10 and G15 Panasonic plasma HDTVs are not Panasonic higher-end plasmas - for that, you have to move to the significantly more expensive V10 and Z1 series. But still, following the success of the PZ800U, many are now expecting the G10 and G15 to follow up on the footsteps of their predecessor to deliver an even better overall picture performance.
Definitely, these 2009 Panasonic plasma HDTVs come with several new features that should help them deliver improved performance over 2008 models. Yet, whether these new Panasonic Viera plasma HDTVs will perform as expected is another issue. What is sure however is that at $1,230 for a 50-inch TC-P50G10 Panasonic plasma TV and $1,500 for a 54-inch TC-P54G10 Panasonic HDTV, Panasonic made big screen plasma HDTVs with THX display certification available to the mass HDTV market.
Main Differences between G10 and G15 Panasonic Plasma HDTVs
At this point, it is worth taking note of the main differences between these two series, because in reality G10 and G15 HDTVs are very much alike.
The G10 Panasonic plasma HDTV series comprises four screen sizes, the 42-inch TC-P42G10, the 46-inch TC-P46G10, and the 50-inch and 54-inch already referred to above.
Instead, the G15 Series comprises three models only, the 42-inch TC-P42G15, the 46-inch TC-P46G15, and the 50-inch TC-P50G15.
As stated, both series are very similar in that G10 and G15 Panasonic plasma HDTVs share the same set of technical features and specs list with the only difference between the two being a matter of design.
In fact, the real differentiating factor between G10 and G15 series from a 'specs perspective' is that G15 HDTVs have an ultra-slim profile that is just 2.4 inches thick when excluding the protruding portion at the bottom of the frame against the 4.2 inches of G10 plasma HDTVs.
We have to emphasis on the issue of 'specs perspective;' the fact that the specifications are the same does not necessarily imply that the almost 50% reduction in the G15 thickness is being brought about only through some alternative arrangement of the electronics inside G15 HDTVs.
While still not as thin as the inch-thick Z1 Panasonic plasma HDTV, G15 Panasonic plasma TVs would still look impressive from the side. This 2-inch thin design and the rather much subtler silver accent along the bottom of an otherwise all glossy black frame make G15 Panasonic Viera plasma HDTVs extremely stylish. They would surely make a bold statement within any room decor.
As expected, this extra stylish design comes at a price. Expect to pay an extra $100 for the ultra-slim G15 HDTVs, although with the latest reduced pricing, the difference may be even less. In fact, we have recently found the 50-inch TC-P50G15 Panasonic plasma HDTV selling at amazon for just $1,250 - $20 more than the corresponding G10 model, while the 42-inch TC-P42G15 model is selling for $930, $30 more than the corresponding 42-inch G10 model.
Editor's Note: We will mainly be focusing this discussion on the G10 Panasonic plasma HDTV series. However, as expressed earlier on, except for a different design, G10 and G15 HDTVs share the same specifications and supported features. This means that we also expect similar picture performance between the two Panasonic HDTV series.
The G10 Series of 1080p Panasonic plasma HDTVs
In this series of 2009 Panasonic plasma TV reviews, we got accustomed to Panasonic deep blacks. G10 HDTVs are no exception - with a deep shade of black that surpass that achieved by the less expensive Panasonic S1 series entry-level 1080p HDTVs. Expert reviews all agree that an exceptional deep shade of black is the new Panasonic plasmas' best attribute.
But apart from a deeper shade of black, Panasonic has also equipped the new G10 series with two main additional features over the more basic S1, with the most important being the addition of a THX picture mode. Despite being not as bright as one may like it to be, yet this Panasonic THX mode is responsible for the G10 overall excellent picture performance, making the G10 among the best overall HDTVs for picture performance, features and price.
As indicated earlier on, the other enhancement is VieraCast with its access to a limited range of internet services. Originally introduced on Panasonic 2008 flagship series, the PZ850U, VieraCast has now been upgraded to include Amazon Video-on-Demand with the added benefit that you can preview before you buy.
The G10 comes with a more refined styling over less expensive 2009 Panasonic plasma HDTV models. In particular, it comes with a thinner frame for a more compact design.
These Panasonic plasma HDTVs are characterized by an all glossy black finish with a sliver strip along the bottom of the frame that fades into black.
Like Samsung TOC design, this silvery accent is much of a like-it or hate-it feature. Fortunately, if it is not for you, you can always opt for a G15 model - which as stated above has a much subtler silvery accent at the bottom of the frame, this apart for its thin design.
As with other 2009 Panasonic plasma HDTVs, the bottom part of the frame houses the set down-firing speakers. For 2009 Panasonic is offering a single driver instead of the two-way tweeter and woofer speaker system adopted on corresponding 2008 models.
While down-firing speakers are essential to help designers achieve the set compact form factor, yet unfortunately these do not help deliver the best sound. Mind you, the set speakers still produce adequate sound but nothing that match these HDTVs picture quality.
Also, all set controls and inputs are positioned on the sides which make them completely hidden from front view.
Another major differentiator over cheaper models in the 2009 Panasonic plasma lineup is that these sets come with a circular glossy black stand - but that again does not swivel.
The G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs menu follows on the footsteps of the cheaper series and includes the same basic user menu and navigation structure. As already expressed in other 2009 Panasonic plasma TV reviews appearing on this site, the new 2009 menu includes a number of icons and a new Viera Tools that make it easier to select what you want. Overall it is easy to navigate even though there is no on-screen help as is the latest trend with other manufactures.
Directly associated with the menu is the set remote control which is different from that found on the less expensive series - though overall basic layout is the same. It also has a trio of hot keys positioned around the central cursor control, except that now, the keys are Viera Link, Viera tools, and VieraCast - which replaces the SD Card button found on the cheaper series.
Unlike the clicker on the less expensive series, the remote control that comes with the G10 series HDTVs come with illuminated buttons, this apart from the relatively large and differently shaped buttons that further help make for ease of identification in a dark environment.
As with the S1, G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs come with the new more eco-friendly G12 NeoPDP plasma display panel. As already detailed in part 1 of this series of 2009 Panasonic Plasma TV review articles, NeoPDP panels use some 40% less power than standard 1080p panels for the same brightness level.
These panels are built to last; they are rated as shock resistant and have a rated lifetime of 100,000hrs. They also employ a new anti-reflective coating that is capable of doing a very good job under bright lighting.
Like the S1 series, the display panel on G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs supports 6144 different shades of gradation, have a 40,000:1 static contrast ratio, and 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast rating.
As one may expect, these 1080p Panasonic plasma HDTVs come with an improved feature set over S1 series plasma TVs.
Top in the list is the THX picture mode; this is mainly responsible for the set excellent picture performance. Engaging the THX mode means the set picture performance will conform to a set of home video display standards issued by THX in 2008 for its certification. THX certification includes among others an in-depth analysis of display uniformity, contrast, luminance and color levels, and resolution, as well as a complete review of each display’s scaling, deinterlacing and overscan capabilities. THX do not use a grading curve - meaning that it is either a pass or fail.
In other words, from a THX certified display, one should expect the best picture. What THX does not say is by how closely the various parameters should be met for a display to pass the THX display certification. This explains why some HDTVs with a THX display certification may perform better than others in THX picture mode.
In the case of the G10 THX mode, Panasonic has succeeded to come as close to the HDTV color standard as one can get. But not only, it has also managed to implement a picture mode that expert reviews such as Cnet's D. Katzmaier and HDguru would tell you that this is the best 'one-step calibration' presently available on any HDTV.
The THX mode is one of a set of five picture modes available on G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs. With its 30 ft Lamberts, it is not as bright as some may like it to be but still providing more than adequate brightness for a dimly lit home theater room. 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, and a Game mode.
Unfortunately, the Standard mode is too dim for practical use except in a totally darkened environment. As stated, this is dim-by-design and is a trick most TV makers are using to ensure their HDTVs qualify for Energy Star 3.0 specifications.
The Game mode is accessible both through the set picture menu as well as direct via a Game button on the remote control. Panasonic says that this should help 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. However as already expressed elsewhere on this site, unlike other TV makers, the Panasonic game mode is just another picture mode. It does not eliminate any video processing to help minimize delays between the player and the action on the screen.
The next most important upgrade over the S1 is the addition of Panasonic VieraCast which lets you enjoy internet content straight on your TV screen via your internet connection through the set Ethernet port.
This IPTV feature has become rather popular with 2009 HDTVs. 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 as indicated earlier on, new for 2009, Amazon Video-on-demand. The latter is something that PZ850U owners can get as a free software upgrade.
Panasonic does not provide a wireless kit for its HDTVs as is the case with Samsung HDTVs, but Panasonic says that any third part adaptor will work just fine.
Viera Link is another Panasonic proprietary feature that uses the HDMI-CEC support to control other compatible devices. Unlike VieraCast, Viera Link is available on the less expensive Panasonic series with the difference that the Viera Link implementation on G10 Panasonic HDTVs includes the option to connect a network camera (with multi-screen support) to your TV for household monitoring.
The rest of the features found on G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs are basically the same as those found on the less expensive S1 series. These include a rather reduced set of user-picture controls in comparison to similar sets from other brands. However, all basic picture controls - Contrast, Brightness, Color, Tint, and Sharpness - are there.
Apart from the above, there are 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. There are also five aspect ratio or Format settings for SD and HD content - which include also a zoom mode that allows the user to adjust both the horizontal and vertical position of the displayed part of the image.
As for advanced features, these 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 which can be set to either on or off; a black level setting - light or dark - for use when viewing content carried over the HDMI inputs; a 48Hz refresh rate for 1080p/24 signals but which most customers would tell you that suffers from too much image flicker and is useless; and a 2:3 pull-down which works with both standard and high definition sources.
You would not get neither gamma adjustment nor color management support. Yet, these Panasonic plasma HDTVs include an on/off setting to activate 3D color management function - which use a three-dimensional color matrix to optimize hue, saturation, and brightness - and Panasonic Sub-Pixel control originally featured on 2008 Panasonic Viera HDTVs.
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.
The G10 also come with 600Hz sub-field drive for improved motion resolution supporting up to 1080 lines - which is the full supported motion resolution by the 1080p HD standard. This should help render sharper images when displaying fast action content. We have already discussed this 600Hz sub-field drive in the first part of this series of Panasonic Plasma TV reviews, and therefore we would not repeat the whole discussion here.
Panasonic also provides a full suite of anti-burn-in features or as the company calls it 'image retention' even though such an occurrence with today's plasma display panels under normal viewing is no longer an issue. 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 is more than adequate with two component video inputs, two composite video inputs, three HDMI ver. 1.3 (two on the rear panel and one on the side) complete with Deep Color (x.v.Color) support and CEC via Panasonic Viera Link, two composite video inputs, one S-video, a VGA-style PC input, an Ethernet port for network connectivity, a digital audio output and an analog stereo output.
Unfortunately, you would not get a USB port with the G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs. 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 HDTV. Unlike the less expensive series, the memory card slot on the G10 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.
Audio output is 20W total power over the two down-firing speakers; there is no virtual surround sound feature but these 1080p Panasonic plasma HDTVs will output surround sound over the set digital audio output connection.
Power saver modes: These Panasonic plasma HDTVs come with a few eco-friendly features like the eco/power saving option under the Viera link menu. There is also a standby power save setting to put all connected Viera link compatible devices in eco-standby mode when the TV is powered off. Similarly, the 'TV Auto Power Off' features when activated will turn the TV off in case there is no signal for more than 10 minutes, or in the absence of activity either through the remote control or set side panel for more than 3 hrs.
Summary of the main specifications for Viera G10/G15 1080p Panasonic Plasma HDTVs
|2009 Series||G10 Series||G15|
Glossy black body with a 'circular black stand; stand does not support swivel action; a silver accent differentiates the G10 from the G15 series.
|Power (default) for 50" HDTV sets||
G12 1080p HD NeoPDP
1920 x 1080 pixels
2M:1 dynamic; 40K:1 static
|Shades of Gradation||
New Anti-Reflecting Filter
Three HDMI 1.3 compliant inputs (1 side), with CEC support via Viera Link and x.v.Color compatible;
2 component video, composite video, S-video, digital and analog audio out, PC input,Not included: USB
|SD Memory Card||Included for playback of MPEG2/AVCHD and JPEG files using Viera Image Viewer|
|Other Main Features||
THX Display Certification
Viera Image Viewer
600Hz Sub-field Drive
|Anti-Burn In Support||Yes - pixel orbiter|
|Audio||Power: 10W x 2 channels at 10% THD; 2 down-firing speakers|
|Surround Sound: Yes via the digital audio output|
|Virtual Surround: No|
|Set Depth||4.2"||2.4" excluding lower protruding portion|
|MSRP||42-inch: $1,300||42-inch: $1,400|
|46-inch: $1,500||46-inch: $1,600|
|50-inch: $1,800||50-inch: $1,900|
|Best-Selling Price at amazon for 50" sets||$1,230||$1,250|
|Models in the series||
G10 Panasonic Plasma HDTVs - Performance Analysis
Note: G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs are turning out to be among the most popular plasma HDTVs with both customers and professional reviewers alike. We have therefore decided that for the purpose of this review, we confront our technical analysis with what expert reviewers are saying with respect to performance. We also see what customers are saying in online forums and in feedback posted on amazon and Best Buy. We believe that this approach should help us bring about a more comprehensive analysis of the G10 overall capabilities.
Picture Quality: Black Levels, Shadow Detail, and Color Accuracy
There is no doubt that the G10 is a great performer, and if there is an area in which these Panasonic plasma HDTVs excel, it is in picture quality. In THX mode, picture performance is excellent. It delivers extremely deep blacks that many professional reviewers describe as 'the blackest you can get' at this price bracket in the post-KURO era.
Directly related to the set deep blacks is shadow detail - which on the G10 is one of the best around even when handling shadow in predominantly dark content. Cnet defines the G10 shadow detail as 'excellent' while Home Theater magazine says that both black level and shadow detail are impressive. In big part, this is thanks to the Panasonic accurate gamma that remains stable across the full light range - in particular in THX mode. Cnet quotes a 2.25 value for the measured gamma as against the 2.2 standard reference.
In THX mode, primary colors accuracy is spot on to the HDTV standard. HDguru in its review states that... 'The TCP50G10 virtually nails the HDTV color standard (in the THX mode) with primary color points within .005 or less in the x and y axis of the Rec. 709 standard.' In simple terms, this means excellent accurate color performance. But then Cnet adds that when it comes to secondary colors, there is a slight inaccuracy with the colors of magenta and cyan - apart from a less accurate color decoding. The result is a white that is not exactly pure white. But...
These are inaccuracies which would emerge mainly under a test environment; it would be extremely hard to discern this slight color inaccuracy with normal program content. It may not be the perfect picture in terms of color accuracy but as the Cnet editor says, this slight inaccuracy is not enough to ruin an otherwise excellent picture - which thanks to the set deep blacks, comes with one of the best color saturations around.
As indicate earlier on in this Panasonic plasma TV review, maximum light output in THX mode yields some 30 foot-lambert; this may not be as bright as some would like it to be. There is no way in the THX picture mode to increase the light output further. Unfortunately, many users seem to have been disappointed with this rather 'dim' picture in THX mode. However, keep in mind that the THX mode is designed for an optimum viewing experience. This means that it assumes a darkened viewing environment - after all, if you really want to enjoy the best picture from an HDTV - irrespective of a THX mode or not - you need to significantly dim the lights in the room. In this respect, we think that the 30 foot-Lambert light output in THX mode on these G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs should be more than sufficient for comfortable viewing in say a dimly lit home theater room.
If you would like to enjoy a brighter picture, you can always use the Custom or Vivid mode, but colors would not be as accurate. In the Vivid mode, HDguru measured over 90 ft-Lambert with the contrast set to 100%. While this would be suitable for rooms with excessively high ambient light levels such as in a showroom environment, etc., yet this is too bright for comfortable normal viewing in the home. At the same time, we cannot but remark that these high brightness levels compares favorably with the maximum brightness levels achieved by LCDs. This makes the G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs suitable for use even in high ambient light environments - an area which up to now has been dominated by LCDs.
These high brightness levels are the result of the new NeoPDP display panels - which can output far higher light levels than standard plasma panels while still consuming less energy.
When it comes to G10 video processing, all expert reviews we came across agree that this is very good and clean, capable of correctly de-interlacing both 1080i video-based material and 1080i film-based content. The latter is a first for Panasonic; most HDTVs and including the less expensive Panasonic plasma HDTVs in this year lineup fail to de-interlace film-based content correctly. This is not much of an issue though if your HDTV source can be set to output content directly in 1080p.
G10 HDTVs come with a 24p direct-in with the option to set the refresh rate to 48Hz as opposed to the standard 60Hz to better match the cadence of film. However, as already expressed earlier on in this write-up, the 48Hz setting produces too much flicker - more noticeable in bright areas of the image - to be of any use.
Handling of standard definition material from a DVD source is not among the best things these G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs can do. They can resolve every line of the DVD format, but as is typical with Panasonic plasma HDTVs, there tends to be a lot of jaggies along the edges of diagonal lines.
Handling of PC content via one of the set HDMI inputs is very good - delivering the full 1920 x 1080 pixels without any overscan. Instead, when using the set VGA PC input, Cnet notes that the PC image tends to be somewhat softer. The reason being that the supported maximum resolution of the G10 VGA PC input is limited to 1366 x 768 pixels as against the full 1080p resolution supported via HDMI inputs.
Motion resolution performance is superb - with both Cnet and HDguru confirming that these HDTVs are capable of delivering the full 1080 lines supported by the HD standard. While this is truly excellent, yet as we have noted elsewhere on our site, this level of motion resolution can only be detected through the use of appropriate test patterns. You would not be able to discern the benefits of this higher motion resolution, say against the 600 lines typical supported by 120Hz LCD TVs when watching actual program content.
Finally, G10 noise reduction features can do a very good job in removing noise from low quality content. In particular, Cnet mentions that both Video NR and Mosquito NR are highly effective in cleaning up low quality shots without too much softening of the image.
The new AR coating on G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs is the same as that found on the rest of the 2009 lineup. It does a very good job in attenuating reflections off the screen under a bright light environment even though bright light shinning direct on the screen would still wash out the darker parts of the image. Overall however, both experts and customers agree that performance of the new AR coating is still very good.
Definitely, the new NeoPDP Panasonic plasma display delivers brighter images at significantly lower power consumption. Reported average power consumption for the 50-inch TC-P50G10 Panasonic plasma HDTV is 269W. Cnet quotes 168W in Standard default mode for the 46-inch G10 model; this increases to 281W after calibration for 40 ft-Lambert which is the standard brightness level adopted by Cnet in their test environment.
These figures imply a reduced 'power consumption gap' between plasma and LCDs. Yet LCDs still remain more energy efficient - in particular, the latest more expensive LED LCD TVs can do a better job here. In other words, despite the much touting by plasma TV makers about their new eco-friendly energy efficient display panels, LCDs still have the upper hand here.
Very deep blacks with excellent picture uniformity and very good shadow detail characterize the G10 picture. Except for an insignificant inaccuracy of the secondary colors, overall color accuracy is almost spot-on to the HD color standard. Off-angle viewing is excellent, while the significantly improved brightness levels, reduced power consumption, clean signal processing, superb motion resolution, and improved anti-reflective screen coating, all help establish G10 HDTVs among the very best HDTVs in a post-KURO era.
Furthermore, the THX mode on these G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs makes it possible for anyone to get the very best picture performance at practically the touch of a button.
The excellent overall picture quality of the new G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs represents a major improvement in terms of plasma TV performance over previous years. As HDguru stated in its review, improvement in performance brought about by the G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs is 'more than just incremental', and by far exceeds that of LCDs - even the latest 2009 LED LCD TVs. It is thus no surprise that LCDs seem always unable to catch up with plasma when it comes to picture quality.
G10 Panasonic plasma HDTVs - and we add their slightly more expensive but slimmer G15 brethren - represent the best bet for those looking for high performance HDTVs. Their relatively compact design ensures that G10 HDTVs fit where most others probably would not. And at a reduced online price that hovers between of $900 for the 42-inch TC-P42G10 and $1,500 for the 54-inch TC-P54G10, these Panasonic plasma HDTVs also represent a real value at the higher end-category.
Back to... Introduction: 2009 Panasonic Plasma HDTV Lineup
Note: All prices quoted in this 2009 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 and online offers.