The whole set measures 56.3 by 39.3 by 18.9 inches (WHD) and weighs 81.6 pounds--a bit larger, by comparison, than the Samsung HL-S6187W. To get it up to eye level, you'll have to mount it on some sort of stand, such as the company's TY-61LC65C.
Panasonic's remote and menu system are below average compared to other 1080p big-screens on the market. The silver clicker lacks backlighting--par for the course these days, even on expensive sets--and its similarly sized and shaped keys are crowded and difficult to locate by feel. Many keys are placed in inconvenient locations; Mute, for example, is nowhere near the volume control. The multilayered menu system makes the myriad controls more difficult to locate than they should be. Inexperienced users will have to spend some time with the cryptic manual to get a handle on the set's capabilities. Like many top-of-the-line rear-projection HDTVs, the Panasonic PT-61DLX76's chief feature is its high native resolution of 1080p: 1,920x1,080 pixels. That should be enough to display every detail of the highest-resolution HDTV sources, namely 1080i and 1080p, although with lower-resolution sources, the image will not look any sharper. All sources, including HDTV, DVD, and standard-def, are converted to fit the available pixels.
The Panasonic PT-61DLX76 has the same 1080p DLP chip found in sets from Samsung, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba, for example, which uses wobulation, a technology that effectively doubles the horizontal resolution. The DLP chip itself only has 960x1,080 physical pixels, as opposed to 1080p LCoS displays that have all 1,920x1,080 discrete pixels (more info on DLP and wobulation).
Otherwise, the PT-61DLX76 has a full-fledged feature set. It includes both an ATSC tuner and a CableCard slot, so it can receive over-the-air high-def and cable without an external box or a receiver. To make up for the loss of the cable company's EPG, Panasonic included TV Guide onscreen, which grabs program information from your local cable feed. While we've experienced issues with TV Guide in the past, later iterations such as the one found on Panasonic's DMR-EH75V have performed well, although we found it limited and somewhat awkward compared to our cable company's EPG. We didn't test CableCard or TV Guide on the PT-61DLX76.
Conveniences include a split-screen version of picture in-picture, allowing you to watch two sources at once. The traditional inset arrangement, with a smaller picture overlaying a full-screen picture, is unavailable on the PT-61DLX76, but you can watch one small and one large image side by side. It's also worth noting that you can't split the screen with PC or HDMI sources. You can choose from four aspect ratios for both standard-def and high-def sources with the exception of 1080p sources, which cause the set to lock into wide-screen mode.
The Panasonic PT-61DLX76 can save different settings in each of its three adjustable picture presets--Standard, Vivid, and Cinema (the most accurate of the three)--but it lacks true independent input memories and the same input types share the same settings. If you change the brightness control on Cinema for HDMI 1, for example, the same change applies to HDMI 2. Component-video 1 and 2 behave in the same way, as do the three other A/V inputs. Also, if you do take the time to carefully adjust the set, you'll probably want to write your numbers down somewhere, since it's way too easy to accidentally reset the modes to their factory defaults.
Aside from the standard picture controls such as brightness, contrast, and the three color-temperature presets, the PT-61DLX76 offers scads of other picture-affecting options. Color Management supposedly enhances green and blue, but it just made yellow greener on the non-HDMI inputs so we left it turned off. Two noise-reduction modes are available, which did a mediocre job of cleaning up low-quality sources (see Performance for more). There's an option to turn off the 3D-Y/C filter, but we recommend that you leave it on. You can choose either an HD or an SD color matrix with 480p sources; use SD for progressive-scan DVD and HD for standard-def 480p digital television, such as Fox Wide-screen. The black-level control should be set to light for most sources to maintain shadow detail, although analog TV and composite video sources should be set to dark--if you can remember. There's also a control labeled 3D I/P that engages 2:3 pull-down detection when left on.
Want more? Dynamic iris engages an iris that increases contrast, but we preferred to leave it off for critical viewing, since it changed the picture on the fly. You get three choices for gamma; we chose Normal for a dark environment since it gave the most CRT-like, gradual rise out of black. We left the black extension control set to zero; settings higher than 7 crushed detail in shadows after we'd set brightness properly. Finally, a trio of RGB controls allowed us to improve the default color temperature slightly, although they were nowhere near as effective as a service menu level calibration.
The back panel of the Panasonic PT-61DLX76 incorporates all of the connectivity we expect from a high-end HDTV, starting with a pair of HDMI inputs that can handle 1080p sources (the more-common 1080p frame rate of 1080p/60fps is supported, but the HDMI inputs couldn't handle less-common 1080p/24 sources). There are also two component-video inputs; two A/V inputs with composite and S-Video; an analog audio output; an optical digital audio output, so the ATSC tuner can pass surround soundtracks; and a single RF input for antenna or cable. We'd prefer to see two, so you could connect both an antenna and cable, but it's not a huge issue. There's a VGA-style PC input as well, but unfortunately, it accepts only resolutions as high as 1,280x768--many other 1080p TVs can handle the full PC resolution of 1,920x1,080. While the Panasonic PT-61DLX76 does a good job resolving all of the detail of high-resolution sources, its lighter blacks and less accurate color--at least compared to other 1080p displays we've tested--make its overall performance just average for the category.