What Hooked Us:
- Error-free 24p playback.
- Impressive motion clarity in 50 Hz mode.
- Movie-like picture.
- Very high peak contrast.
Why We Grumbled:
- Blurry 576i picture via HDMI.
- Not well-suited to daylight viewing.
- Standard playback of DVD movies evokes occasional line flicker.
- High power consumption.
The Final Verdict:
Typical of plasma flat-panel TVs, Panasonic’s TH-50 PZ 80 E shows its strengths best in dark surroundings, where it gives a natural picture representation from all viewing angles and a structured reproduction of dark picture details. On the flip side, the Panasonic looks rather feeble during the day and therefore earns only a limited recommendation. The video signal processing also degrades our rating for the set.
Panasonic’s relatively cheap plasma (about 2,200 GBP) delivers a solid showing, especially in darkened rooms. As so often happens, the market price is significantly below the RRP, so a rummaging around the Internet may be worthwhile.
Panasonic adds a swivel stand to its TH-50 PZ 80 E, a level 2.5 Teletext decoder and a hybrid tuner for DVB-T and analog TV.
Another bonus: An SD memory card reader, enabling a sumptuous photo display. The optional 50 Hertz mode substantially sharpens on-screen motion.
Connections-wise, the TH-50 PZ 80 E has three HDMI inputs, two Scart sockets, and a composite video connection. There is also a VGA input, an S-Video connection, and a headphone socket.
The extremely user-friendly menu allows settings adjustments without hunting through menu options. The remote control features direct buttons for all-important functions such as Picture Format, Channel List, and Input Selection.
Another plus point: Channel changing happens quickly at 1.2 to 1.5 seconds for DVB-T. We wished, however, for the “Back” button to switch to the last viewed channel or video input.
TV and DVD Picture Quality
The Panasonic’s integrated tuner delivers its best results if you select the “Cinema” viewing mode, the “Warm” color temperature, and turn off the noise filter. A clean and detailed picture, in accurate color, results for both analog and DVB-T reception. Overscan can be turned off for DVB-T reception, which increases the subjective impression of sharpness, and as there is more of the picture to see, it also renders less obvious the block artifacts that aretypical of DVB-T.
For satellite receivers with a Scart output, the Panasonic comes highly recommended, since the set teases above-average fine detail out of RGB signals with only slight crops of the picture. For an image as true to the original as possible, you should also activate the 50 Hertz mode and turn off the 3D comb filter. While this introduces flicker – and does make the image around 15 percent darker – even the fastest movements will be displayed in the highest clarity and with no smear effects.
Since the picture has a strong analog look about it, the Panasonic evokes the feel of a good tube TV. Typical plasma artifacts such as ghost edges during movement – or stepping introduced to smooth color gradients – are only lightly detectable. Also, while fast shots at the goal in a soccer game do lend a slight color fringe to the rear of the ball, similar behavior happens in tube TVs, which remain unbeaten for motion clarity.
In any case, the TH-50 PZ 80 E’s well-structured picture falls short of its true worth unless in perfectly blacked-out environments: The TV simply does not have the brightness of an LCD, and ambient light visibly brightens up picture’s darker areas. Sadly, the 50-incher does manifest some weaknesses in terms of video signal processing. Standard playback of feature movies on DVD via Scart or HDMI-576i suffers from line flicker and reduced fine-detail reproduction. In addition, the generally blurred HDMI picture from 576i signals results in one significant criticism.
HDTV Picture Quality
When in a darkened room, the TH-50 PZ 80 E’s treats viewers’ eyes to an organic picture and a nice impression of depth. LCD flat-panel TVs can never quite compete with this kind of image, due to their dependence on viewing angle and their limited peak contrast. Thanks to a decent factory setup color is reproduced well from the word go, and grayscales remain largely free from coloration (color temperature 6,200 Kelvin). Saturated colors such as the ocean in the fourth chapter of “Casino Royale” intensify a tad more than on a color-neutral monitor.
This flat-panel display shows slight weaknesses when processing HDTV signals. 1080i playback during “Casino Royale” reveals some flicker on the decorative stripes of the seaplane in the ocean scene. Thankfully though, the all-important playback in original movie format (24p) took off trouble-free. Here, the picture appears in full detail without pulldown judder. Meanwhile, we should note, the 50 Hertz mode generally appeals only to enthusiasts. 24p signals are then actually displayed at 48 Hz – exactly as in the movie theater – with some large area flicker, but with simultaneous higher motion clarity.
Computer Operation and Sound Quality
When connected to a PC via HDMI, the Panasonic gives an essentially accurate picture. Certain test pictures containing one-pixel sized checkerboard patterns did cause some slight interference and flicker effects.
Sound playback ranks higher, with acceptable-sounding speakers for both speech and music. Discoloration in the mid-range, however, demonstrates they are far from Hi-Fi level.
Settings for the best home-theatre performance*
Viewing Mode: Cinema
Picture Overscan: Off
Brightness: 15.2 cm
Color: 16.6 cm
Sharpness: 9.5 cm
Color Temperature: Warm
Color Management: Off
Video NR: Off
* applied to realistic playback from HDTV/Blu-ray material through the HDMI interface in a darkened environment. Manufacturing and HDMI playback device deviations may necessitate slight adjustments. The centimeter (cm) setting refers to the length of the bar that appears in the menu.
- S-Video : 2
- Input Video Formats : 576i/p, 720p, 1080i/p
Dimensions & Weight Details
- Dimensions & Weight Details : Panel with stand – 124.4 cm x 38.7 cm x 84.4 cm x 43 kg
Digital TV Tuner
- Digital TV Tuner : analog, DVB-T