Originally Posted by primetimeguy
At 12-14ft I would go with 70" for sure.
Yes, but seeing this:
"Most viewing will be movies at night (lights out)"
gets this back at least into the tough call category. I don't know if my Vizio 70 is better or worse than average, but there is no way it will give the INKY blacks of a good plasma like the Panasonic or better local dimming LCD. I don't know why, but even with the backlight, contrast and brightness set to zero, the screen is not black in a dark room unless powered off. I watched a letterboxed movie, Master and Commander, last night and it was obvious the bars around the image were not black. UPDATE:
Even though the screen is still lit at zero backlight, the backlight setting certainly does affect the light bleeding through the "black" areas of the screen, and watching movies in the dark with the backlight set to 15-30 virtually eliminates the "gray" black bars and improves the darkness of shaded areas. The TV still shows great detail in shadows and provides a theater-like image with the brightness and contrast settings left unchanged. So, daylight backlight setting of 50-75 and DARK room setting of 15-30. See images added at end of post from Avatar.
But here's the reason I'm still happy with the set and don't care much about the bars not being black. Within the image there is great detail in the "black" areas and no artifacts that I have seen on other sets. One of my very early plasma sets just had pools of gray where there should have been detail. With properly set contrast and brightness, the Vizio shows great dynamic range with no crushing of whites or blacks. The gray scale and color accuracy is very good. Motion handling, even with the smoothing feature disabled, is good. View angle is not bad, but of course the plasma would be FAR superior if viewing angle is important. Full screen (no black bars), the image is hard to fault. And in a bright room the Vizio does extremely well. Most 1080P plasmas fail under those conditions. They just do not have the light output of an LED like the Vizio or that the older 720P plasmas had.
The problem is this is all very individual and somewhat unpredictable. My previous Samsung UN46B8500 was regarded as the best LED of 2010, with black levels and image quality second only to the legendary Kuro plasma. Despite the noted flaws with the Vizio, I don't miss the Samsung. I had more trouble getting the old Samsung to not crush blacks and display a good gray scale. I would see a LOT of dithering in dark areas with the Samsung. I see none of that with the Vizio. The color engine has improved over the last few years. From a simple viewing standpoint, the image on the Vizio is stunning.
So, what are you going to do? The safe bet would be to get the Panasonic and probably be quite happy. An alternative would be to "try" the Vizio from somewhere like Costco that has a liberal return policy. I don't like the practice of buying and returning sets largely for "testing" purposes, but I don't see a way around that. You're never going to be able to evaluate dark room performance of a set in the usual retail setting.
The extra 10" size at 12-14 feet would be a very attractive feature, as primetimeguy noted. And without black bars, I doubt the Vizio image will disappoint you unless you get one of the unfortunately somewhat common defective units that suffers from significant flashlighting or those strange white dots that appear after some use.
I don't think I've helped you. It's still a tough call. My personal style is to take calculated chances, and that's what I did with the Vizio, and so far I don't regret that. Coming from that 42" Toshiba you have now with obviously very bad black levels, I think the Vizio will blow your mind not only in terms of size but image quality as well.UPDATE:
These are handheld phone screnshots in a dark room of a scene from Avatar that has great shadow detail. With a backlight of only 15 the shadow detail is still excellent (hard to distinguish from backlight of 50) while the backlight bleed through is considerably less which will darken black bars (not shown) and reduce murkiness in shadows.