Despite the fact that Pioneer has exited the HDTV business, we still consider its Elite Kuro plasma TVs, such as the PRO-111FD, the best-performing televisions we've ever tested. Now Panasonic has released a new lineup of so-called Premiere plasmas that takes direct aim at the Kuros. While they deliver a superb picture, they still fall a bit short of the mark.
We reviewed the 65-inch member of the series, model TH-65VX100U ($9,995 list), and there's a 50-inch version coming in late February, model TH-50VX100U ($4,995 list). Aside from their high price tags, these displays must overcome the fact that Panasonic announced a slew of new plasmas at CES that use the company's next-generation NEO PDP panels, which consume less power and deliver even deeper black levels, according to the company. Before somebody asks, no, the Premiere series does not use the new panels.
Still, there's a lot to like about these expensive displays. Picture quality is excellent, with deep black levels and superb shadow detail, although color accuracy (along with black level) didn't match the Kuro. The Premiere plasmas have the same build quality we lauded on Panasonic's standard professional monitors, like the TH-50PF11UK. They also share some of the same "professional" characteristics, such as the necessity to purchase a separate stand and speakers if you need them, and relatively sparse input selection.