Author Topic: Home Cinema Choice test: Panasonic TH-50PZ700  (Read 2440 times)

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Offline Marcel_T.

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Home Cinema Choice test: Panasonic TH-50PZ700
« on: August 21, 2007, 14:44:35 »
All hail the King of Full HD

For those who argue that 1080p pictures are no better than 720p pictures, I say 'pah'! I may have once been on that side of the fence, but then I saw the TH-50PZ700.

Panasonic's new plasma flaunts images so sharp they'd impress Madame Guillotine. There's a purity and clarity about them that sets the panel apart from, even, its 1080p-wielding peers. Of course, it really depends on how close you sit to the screen, the quality of your eyesight and what content you're feasting upon.

At its optimum, though, no mere HD Ready panel can possibly compete.

Bold words indeed. More so considering this display also throws up a couple of niggles.

Advertisement  Black levels aren't spectacular. Also, in a side-by-side comparison with its predecessor, the 700 series screen was found to lack brightness and is not quite as dynamic (one of the problems of driving a denser pixel structure).

The screen comes with a bona fide cabinet stand that is a flat-packer's dream; a cornucopia of bits, screws and panels to while away an hour of your life with.

But it's worth the effort, as there's something quite completist about the matching aesthetics. Viera TVs have always scored well in terms of design, and it's mainly down to the thought that has gone into their overall impression.

However, for a kit-hoarder like myself, the shelves are far too wee. They're minimalist, to say the least. You'd have trouble fitting on an amp and a DVD player, let alone a Sky box, Xbox 360, Blu-ray player, so on and so forth.

Many will probably end up wall-mounting a screen this size anyway, so it's worth checking if you can get hold of the panel on its own - it may even significantly reduce the cost. Panasonic also produces a compatible desktop stand.

The range of connection options is far from small, though. As weird as it may be to grumble about a lack of HDMI sockets - when only 18 months ago we were more concerned over whether the Scarts were RGB-enabled - it's something I seem to be doing more and more these days as suitable kit becomes available.

Thankfully, there are three on offer here, which is the most that can really be expected in the Autumn of 2007. Admittedly, even that many is probably not enough. Plug in a Blu-ray player, HD DVD deck and upscaling DVD player/recorder and you've already run out of sockets for a PS3 or Xbox 360 Elite.

However, if you've got that much equipment, I'm sure adding an HDMI switching box would be like water off a duck's back (as long as you're not hoping to pile it all on the 50PZ700's cabinet stand!).

None of the HDMI jacks are v1.3; they're v1.2A instead. There is a version of this set available in America with fully-specced digital inputs, the 50PZ750U, but no announcement has yet been made to bring it over here. I wouldn't hold your breath, either.

The HDMI sockets can carry VIERA Link (Panasonic's implementation of the CEC system that can control all of your compatible kit from one remote), but they haven't the bandwidth for the extended XVYCC Deep Colour standard or uncompressed 5.1 audio.

The latter, of course, doesn't actually matter as the set only has stereo speakers, and while Deep Colour would have been nice to support, the colours on this panel are pretty, bloody brilliant already...

Bold and beautiful
It depends on the source material, but the colourscape displayed by this Panasonic, regardless of its relative weakness with true blacks, is amazing.

In 'Dynamic' mode they're somewhat overcooked, but I'm impressed by the 50PZ700's 'Auto' and 'Cinema' presets. They both, with different outcomes, improve the spectrum dramatically, and I can see a lot of owners opting for these rather than specific calibration. Naturally, it depends on the room's lighting conditions, but I was pleased with them in both darkness and office-style ambience.

That's with both HD content and upscaled DVDs. Standard-definition broadcasts, through the internal digital tuner, don't fare quite so well as we've seen on previous 768-resolution screens from the brand.

The new glass seems more intolerant of low-bitrate DVB broadcasts.

While clean, artefact-free streams are displayed beautifully on the PZ700, the same can't be said of the heavily-compressed video used with Freeview. You can choose whether to have P-NR (Picture Noise Reduction) or the 3D-Comb functions on or off, but they don't perform the same smoothing and intelligent artefact removal of which some LCD panels are capable.

It's a very minor quibble though, as this is a set to wow your friends with first and foremost. And with that in mind, its Full HD performance, as previously stated, is simply divine. While watching Fantastic Four on

Blu-ray, I fell into the movie, swam around, and forgot that I was testing the screen. The picture grabbed me and wouldn't let go. There's no 1080p24 compatibility, so you can't view HD material in its purest form, but personally I just don't care; I consider the added benefit miniscopic.

The Panasonic's pseudo surround speakers help plunge you into the film, with a booming, smart soundscape, but they perform well only up to a certain volume. Any higher, and they crackle and pop like an old smoker's chest. Of course, I'm talking 'annoy the neighbours' volumes, so with regular viewing everything should be just dandy.

This is an excellent TV. It's a serious rival to Pioneer's Gen 8 panels, offering a stronger feature-spread and high-res imaging, albeit with weaker black performance. It more than makes up for any SD shortcomings with a mastery over 1080p.

Of course, it may only hold the mantle for a short while, but it's currently the undisputed king of Full HD.

Awe-inspiring 1080p pictures
HD card reader

Blacks aren't as deep as rivals
No 1080p/24 mode

Its non-1080p native resolution shouldn't put you off - this is a very good TV indeed
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