"Exceptional Plasma - best picture ever!"4.5 starson by ssuther1
Pros: Extremely well designed/built plasma was easy to get going - new features like internet TV, photo albums and stock info are solid. Panasonic scaler does amazing job - even the quality of YouTube videos are surprising, given their low bitrate.
Cons: Heavy - requires a solid wall mount. Remote has only a few lit keys. Currently lacks ability to add Canadian locations for internet weather info. Wish it had TV Guide Onscreen like the Sony sets.
Summary: Panasonic has done a remarkable job with the PZ850 plasma models. We purchased the 58 inch and since this was our 4th large 1080 TV, we knew what we were seeking.
Our first 1080 set was the original 45" Sharp 1080 LCD which is still going strong, and does remarkably well, even now in a brightly lit sunroom after 4 years. Our second 1080 was a very large DLP-based Toshiba projection set purchased roughly 3 years ago and more recently, our 3rd 1080 purchase was a Toshiba LCD (w/ Samsung panel).
We like the way the Toshiba DLP handles grey scale in dark scenes - visitors often commented on how the TV was able to bring out so much more detail in shadows than their sets... movies like Star Wars or Mission Impossible with darker scenes really came alive on the DLP. Toshiba's LCD also did a surprising job of shadows as well, something we noticed that many LG's and Sony's still can't handle. In fact, many of the latest Sony's we saw seemed to take all shadow areas and turn them to black - a nice black, but void of any picture detail. The older Sharp lacks such deep blacks, but also rendered shadow detail well when set up properly in a darkened room. It's a noisy set though, as is the DLP... fan noise is noticible in movies such as Phantom of the Opera. Also, the Sharp was no match for the DLP when it came to action and sports - motion blur makes it hard to follow the puck!
So when looking for the best display for our home theatre, we wanted a set that could: 1) truly render shadow detail, not crushing them to black; 2) operate very quietly; 3) clearly display motion; and 4) render natural tones smoothly while delivering a sharp picture.
Since we were placing this in a basement media room, we weren't concerned about reflections, so we could consider any plasma and the Samsung LCD's which also have glossy screens, in addition to traditional anti-glare LCD's from Toshiba, Sony, etc.
After viewing a large number of competitive products (including the new LED LCD's), we found the Panasonic PZ850's were top in every category and justified it's elevated price point (fully $1000+ more than the similar sized Samsung Plasma, for example). The settings enable you to refine the picture beyond what's possible with other displays but likewise, you can also accidentally soften it (by tunring on various unnecessary video NR modes) or distort the colors.
Our older son initially liked the Samsung plasma TVs in Best Buy better, since they were set up with more vibrant color - but after watching more carefully, we could see that the natural color of the Panasonic was not only easier on the eyes, but also brought out so much more in darker scenes. Many competitive sets were able to deliver good color, but strangly, when trying to adjust settings for BOTH good colour and shadow detail AND overall picture sharpness, a grainy texture would appear - it seemed that with many sets, one could only get two out of three... natural color, shadow detail, sharpness - not so with the Panasonic which could deliver all three.
Besides the fact that this plasma seems to run so cool (in comparison with friend's plasma), for us, the icing on the cake was the Internet capabilities of the PZ850 series. Its fun to watch a couple of YouTube videos when waiting for a network program to start, and the link with the stock market is also well executed. The ease with which you can watch your online photo albums in 1080p is another bonus and we're curious what else will be delivered to the PZ850's through this simple Web interface in the future - we'd vote for access to Internet Radio stations and an enhanced TV Guide function as we miss the TV Guide Onscreen found in our Toshiba and Sharp sets! (Note to Panasonic: We'd even pay something for the ability to get customised TV Guide listings, and almost bought the Sony for it's excellent TV Guide!)
Lastly, if you're not going to hook up a 7.1 channel audio system, definitely listen to this set. Our amplifier wasn't working when we first set up the PZ850 so we simply used its internal speakers - wow - although we can't even see them, they are the best TV speakers we've ever heard. With volume set up to about 65% of it's range, we could clearly hear the 3D sound effects filling our home theatre and still wonder how Panasonic managed to get such sound quality without apparent speakers! Obviously, not true 7.1 channel sound, but far better then what we would have thought possible.
A truly exceptional plasma, which with 100,000 hour expected life (according to Panasonic), we hope to enjoy for many years! Solidly recommended.