posted on Saturday, 5th October 2013 by Steve May
Panasonic proclaims the TX-P60ZT65 to be nothing less than the finest plasma TV it's ever made. It is, says the brand, a reference grade display created purely for enthusiasts, a veritable celebration of NeoPlasma technology. Reflecting that, availability is limited ("It's not an easy panel to manufacture," we were told) and every sample is individually numbered and certificated. In many ways, the screen harks back to the heady days of the Pioneer Kuro, which was then the default panel of choice for the custom installation industry and home cinephiles alike. Indeed, it's quite likely that there's some Pioneer DNA to be found in this set too.
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65: Build Quality and
There's no question that the TX-P60ZT65 is a supremely handsome beast. With a minimal glass and metal design, it looks very much a premium proposition. Measuring 1404(w) x 828(h) x 47(d) mm it's fashionably slim, yet tips the scales at a hefty 35.5kg sans stand.
While innovation goes cell deep, some advances are obvious to all. Panasonic has managed to eliminate the traditional air gap between the outer-glass and panel itself. This change to the production process has done away with plasma reflections, typically seen when the screen is viewed at an angle. The set retains contrast and colour when viewed off angle well.
Connections comprise three HDMIs, a trio of USBs, inputs for Scart and component/AV via adaptors, SD card slot, Ethernet LAN, digital audio output and CI slot. Wi-Fi is integrated. Two remote controls are supplied. The main IR doofer is a posh effort which reflects the built-quality of the screen itself. The second is a Bluetooth touch pad which you'll need to pair during installation. There's also an electronic pen bundled. The idea is that you can use this magical marker to leave messages, annotate jpegs or just scribble on the glass itself. Theoretically such use shouldn't damage the screen, although quite whether clients should be encouraged to indulge in such graffiti it is debatable.
The set is quick to navigate. A multi-core processor speeds everything along and makes good use of the TV's multiple tuners. There are two Freeview HD modules on board, as well as two Freesat HD satellite tuners. These greatly enhance the set's USB recording functionality. During installation, it's well worth connecting a small external USB drive (easily secreted within a wall-mount) to enable PVR functionality.
Other niceties include voice recognition. The microphone on the Bluetooth touch pad can be used to issue conversational commands for a variety of control and search functions, such as changing the channel or volume.
Online functionality is very good. Panasonic's My Home Screen user interface is uniquely intuitive. In addition to preset templates, home pages can be constructed which bring to the fore services and functionality that suits individual users, be it YouTube, BBC iPlayer or Netflix. Screen mirroring is also supported for mobile devices running Panasonic's app, which utilises Miracast.
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65: Performance
Clearly the ZT65 deserves its Reference branding. This Ultimate Black panel delivers a sensational Full HD image. Pictures are sharp without seeming overwrought, and colours vibrant yet naturalistic. The panel employs a new pure red phosphor, able to display 98 per cent of the DCI specification. Pixel direct colour processing is on hand for additional vibrancy.
The panel's dark level performance is fabulous. Even though blacks are deep, it has no problem retaining subtle shadow detail. The panel is capable of 30,720 steps of gradation, courtesy of a class-leading subfield driver. It's a thrill to see The Dark Knight finally uncrushed. Last year's fastest Panasonic plasma had a 2500Hz FFD (Focused Field Drive), this year it's 3000Hz FFD. In practice this means that the light emission period has been shortened; subfields are virtually packed into1/3000th of a second, compared to last year's 1/2500th of a second. With zero afterglow, images dpn't smear. The brand's proprietary IFC (Intelligent Frame Creation) image processing system can be used to remove judder and deliver a high-frame rate smoothness that even Peter Jackson would be envious of. IFC should be used with caution though, as it also imparts motion artefacts. In truth, the set has no issues with motion resolution; with IFC off it can still deliver a full 1080 lines of clarity when measured at 6.5ppf (pixels per frame).
There are a variety of presets and calibration controls available to the installer, including a REC 709 default colour space and a Custom setting that allows adjustment of panel luminance between Low, Mid and High. The Low setting would be our preferred setting as it doesn't introduce pixel noise in blacks. However pixel noise is only visible from close-up, so a higher panel luminance may be appropriate depending on viewing distance.
While you can dig deep when it comes to calibration, the THX preset is a quick and effective option when it comes to home theatre deployment. Unusually, there's also an EBU (European Broadcast Union) mode, which can be used to optimise luminance, black level, contrast, gama, colour and framerate to broadcast industry standards. However we don't recommend it. For most users, the results will simply seem too dark and dull.
Once networked, the TX-P60ZT65 offers good media playback functionality. Support from USB is excellent, with all key codecs and containers playable. Across our network though, the set dropped the ability to play MKVs. Active Shutter 3D performance is solid. There are some low levels of crosstalk evident, but for the most part these don't distract. Viewers who want to avail themselves of 3D content will find the screen, which has THX 3D certification, bright and involving.
Audio performance is obviously limited by the physical nature of the screen itself, so don't expect profound bass or volume. Amplification is rated at a modest 2x5W, bolstered by a 10W woofer. Of course, this screen will inevitably be used with a dedicated sound system, so it's of little concern.
Panasonic TX-P60ZT65: Verdict
The TX-P60ZT65 (also known as the TX-P60ZT60 in Europe) should be considered the last word in plasma TV performance. With an unapologetically cinematic delivery, this Reference grade screen delivers simply the best 1080p image we've ever seen. There is a caveat though. The set suffers from quite noticeable fan noise which kicks in as soon as the panel is powered up. In a smaller room environment it could well prove distracting. Installers can mitigate against this when it comes to the custom installation of the screen itself, utilising bespoke cabinetry. Provided this aspect of the panel is given due consideration, this complaint should not be an issue.
Ultimately, the TX-P60ZT65 is a technical triumph. Combine its PDP brilliance with superior design and an advanced connected feature set and you have a screen worthy of the most discerning home theatres.
Panasonic is distributed by AWE Europe. For more on AWE's brands and services, visit our partner page here
Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics
industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.