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Informal Comparison: Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 & TC-P65VT60, Samsung PN60F8500, Pioneer PRO-141FD

post #1 of 205
Thread Starter 

A couple of days ago, I visited Tom Norton, senior video editor of Home Theater magazine, to take a side-by-side comparative look at three plasma TVs he had in for review—the Panasonic TC-P65ZT60, TC-P65VT60, and Samsung PN60F8500—sitting next to his 60" Pioneer PRO-141FD Kuro. Actually, he couldn't fit all four TVs next to each other in his flat-panel room, so we started by looking at the two Panasonics on either side of the Pioneer, after which we swapped out the ZT60 for the Samsung. All sets were fed the same signal from a Panasonic Blu-ray player through an Accell HDMI switcher/splitter. Of course, all sets were fully calibrated with a peak white level of around 35 foot-lamberts.

 

The first clip was one of the only really dark scenes from Avatar, when Jake is stranded in the jungle and must fight off the viperwolves before Neytiri saves him and then discovers he is chosen of Eywa. I was struck by how close the three images were—color, overall detail, contrast, and shadow detail were nearly indistinguishable.

 

Next up was a demo disc made by Pioneer to demonstrate the black-level performance of the Kuro. All three panels exhibited superb blacks, with the two Panasonics being slightly deeper—finally, the mighty Kuro has been surpassed, if only by a smidge. In the shots with human beings, the skin tones on the Kuro were a bit warmer—i.e., redder—than the Panasonics, which I actually preferred.

 

The Panasonics' black levels were confirmed in Oz The Great And Powerful during the transition from black-and-white 4:3 to full-color 2.40:1. In that transition, the 4:3 image has black bars on all four sides, and the right and left edges expand outward until the image is 2.40:1, leaving black letterbox bars above and below on the 16:9 screens. Those black bars literally disappeared into the darkened room on all three sets. The black-and-white shots looked ever so slightly sepia on the Pioneer, whereas the Panasonics were truly black and white. But when the image became full color—and it is riotous color in this movie—all differences vanished, except for the slightly warmer skin tones on the Pioneer.

 

Finally, we looked at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1; specifically, the mostly dark scene in which Harry, Hermione, and Ron assume fake identities to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic. Here again, all three sets performed exceptionally well, with the Panasonics beating the Pioneer in the black department by a whisker. Shadow detail was excellent on all three.

 

Then, we pulled the ZT60 our of the way and put the Samsung F8500 in its place, playing some of the same clips. Right away, it was apparent that the Samsung's black level was higher than the Panasonics' and the Pioneer's—not that it was objectionably high, mind you, but it was slightly higher than the others by direct side-by-side comparison. Tom said he had measured a black level of 0.0017 foot-lamberts on the F8500, while the Panasonics and Pioneer were in the 0.0012 neighborhood. Also, the blacks appeared to be a bit crushed on the Samsung during the Harry Potter clip, and skin tones were even a bit paler than they were on the Panasonics.

 

Of course, very few shoppers ever get to compare TVs in this way—fully calibrated in a totally dark room side by side—and taken separately, each of these flat panels is a superb performer that no one would be disappointed with. And the differences I saw were miniscule. But seeing them like this, I would choose the ZT60 or VT60, depending on my budget—the ZT60 is only $500 more than the VT60. They looked as close to identical as makes no difference, though Tom did discover an error in the color decoder of the VT60 that was not present in the ZT60. You can read all about that when Home Theater publishes Tom's review; meanwhile, you can read his review of the Samsung PN60F8500 here

post #2 of 205
Thanks for the write up!
post #3 of 205
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post

A couple of days ago, I visited Tom Norton, senior video editor of Home Theater magazine, to take a side-by-side comparative look at three plasma TVs he had in for review—the Panasonic TC-P65ZT60 and TC-P65VT60 and Samsung PN60F8500—sitting next to his 60" Pioneer PRO-141FD Kuro. Actually, he couldn't fit all four TVs next to each other in his flat-panel room, so we started by looking at the two Panasonics on either side of the Pioneer, after which we swapped out the ZT60 for the Samsung. All sets were fed the same signal from a Panasonic Blu-ray player through an Accell HDMI switcher/splitter. Of course, all sets were fully calibrated with a peak white level of around 35 foot-lamberts.

The first clip was one of the only really dark scenes from Avatar, when Jake is stranded in the jungle and must fight off the viperwolves before Neytiri saves him and then discovers he is chosen of Eywa. I was struck by how close the three images were—color, overall detail, contrast, and shadow detail were nearly indistinguishable.

Next up was a demo disc made by Pioneer to demonstrate the black-level performance of the Kuro. All three panels exhibited superb blacks, with the two Panasonics being slightly deeper—finally, the mighty Kuro has been surpassed, if only by a smidge. In the shots with human beings, the skin tones on the Kuro were a bit warmer—i.e., redder—than the Panasonics, which I actually preferred.

The Panasonics' black levels were confirmed in Oz The Great And Powerful during the transition from black-and-white 4:3 to full-color 2.40:1. In that transition, the 4:3 image has black bars on all four sides, and the right and left edges expand outward until the image is 2.40:1, leaving black letterbox bars above and below on the 16:9 screens. Those black bars literally disappeared into the darkened room on all three sets. The black-and-white shots looked ever so slightly sepia on the Pioneer, whereas the Panasonics were truly black and white. But when the image became full color—and it is riotous color in this movie—all differences vanished, except for the slightly warmer skin tones on the Pioneer.

Finally, we looked at Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1; specifically, the mostly dark scene in which Harry, Hermione, and Ron assume fake identities to infiltrate the Ministry of Magic. Here again, all three sets performed exceptionally well, with the Panasonics beating the Pioneer in the black department by a whisker. Shadow detail was excellent on all three.

Then, we pulled the ZT60 our of the way and put the Samsung F8500 in its place, playing some of the same clips. Right away, it was apparent that the Samsung's black level was higher than the Panasonics' and the Pioneer's—not that it was objectionably high, mind you, but it was slightly higher than the others by direct side-by-side comparison. Tom said he had measured a black level of 0.0017 foot-lamberts on the F8500, while the Panasonics and Pioneer were in the 0.0012 neighborhood. Also, the blacks appeared to be a bit crushed on the Samsung during the Harry Potter clip, and skin tones were even a bit paler than they were on the Panasonics.

Of course, very few shoppers ever get to compare TVs in this way—fully calibrated in a totally dark room side by side—and taken separately, each of these flat panels is a superb performer that no one would be disappointed with. But seeing them like this, I would choose the ZT60 or VT60, depending on my budget—the ZT60 is only $500 more than the VT60. They looked as close to identical as makes no difference, though Tom did discover an error in the color decoder of the VT60 that was not present in the ZT60. You can read all about that when Home Theater publishes Tom's review; meanwhile, you can read his review of the Samsung PN60F8500 here.

Nice write up and it gives further credence to how outstanding the 3 sets truly are despite all the healthy debate on this forum.
post #4 of 205
Thank you for the great write up Scott!
The ultra deep black levels and shadow detail is what sold me on the VT.
post #5 of 205
thx for the write up...I value Tom Norton's unbiased opinion more than any other in this related field. I also concur to his/your findings.
post #6 of 205
Now if you could somehow manage to directly compare the ST60 to the VT60 I think some heads would be turned.
post #7 of 205
Is the ST60 supposed to be better?
post #8 of 205
Really enjoy these quick comparisons Scott. Thank you! I love my 65 inch Panasonic VT30.

**** What I really want to know is when or if manufacturers will produce a 75 or 80 inch plasma panel.****

My 65 inch is too small for my movie room and I am trying to hold out for a reasonably priced 4k projector for the motorized screen.
post #9 of 205
I spent hours viewing select scenes of Blurays I bought into the Magnolias store. Comparing the VT, ZT and 8500. The Samsung does crush blacks in the Dark Room setting and the fine detail isn't as refined as the Panasonics and I felt the Panasonics handled motion better as well. The VT and ZT have an absolutely stunning picture in 2-D or 3-D. The Samsung advantage is daytime viewing due to the brightness of the set. The THX modes in the Panasonics are nothing short of superb leaving a full fledged calibration showing an extremely minimal difference. The ZT has decreased light output by about 5 ft. lamberts due to the studio master panel and so this is what gives the VT the edge and makes it the better value to include 3-D content which it does better as well due to the higher contrast level.

The 65in. VT60 at Magnolia for $2,700 delivers reference quality video only matched by the ZT at a very affordable price.
post #10 of 205
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by farsider3000 View Post

Really enjoy these quick comparisons Scott. Thank you! I love my 65 inch Panasonic VT30.

**** What I really want to know is when or if manufacturers will produce a 75 or 80 inch plasma panel.****

My 65 inch is too small for my movie room and I am trying to hold out for a reasonably priced 4k projector for the motorized screen.

Thanks! As for large plasmas, Panasonic makes the 85-inch TH-85PF12U, but its list price is $30,000; Amazon sells it for $18,000 (only three left in stock, so order yours now!). Otherwise, I don't know of any plasmas in the size range you want, and I doubt anyone is likely to make one, since they would appeal to a very small market.

post #11 of 205
The Home Theater Geeks podcast about the shootout between these sets seemed to give the samsung the slight advantage, but this puts the panasonic VT firmly at the top. Thanks for this review, very interested since the competition is so good these days between plasma sets.
post #12 of 205
It seems that the "pros" unanimously choose the Pannys, and I agree with every observation in this piece. Nothing makes images "pop" more than deep blacks, it's the key to the illusion of 3D, without needing 3D. Nice comparison.
post #13 of 205
Thanks for the great information! I truly love my Panasonic 65VT30 and said I wouldn't buy another TV until there is a nice 4k plasma out, but these new Panny's are calling my name!
post #14 of 205
I bought the ZT60, and do feel that it was worth the extra money over the VT60. But other people's mileage may vary. Thanks for the comparison!
post #15 of 205
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bukley View Post

The Home Theater Geeks podcast about the shootout between these sets seemed to give the samsung the slight advantage, but this puts the panasonic VT firmly at the top. Thanks for this review, very interested since the competition is so good these days between plasma sets.


Well, the consumers' vote at the shootout gave the Samsung a very slight advantage, but the pros' vote gave the edge to the Panasonics. In both cases, the margin was razor thin.

post #16 of 205
great write-up...can you (or anyone else) elaborate on the color decoding issue with the VT60...how big of a deal is it and can it be fixed?...so the 2013 flagship VT and ZT series plasmas best the Kuro's slightly in black level but is a virtual tie in all other areas?
post #17 of 205
Cool write up!
post #18 of 205
Great write up Scott. Will you have Tom on Home Theater Geeks to discuss this comparison? That would make a great show. JT
post #19 of 205
nice review, but where was this in may when I was buying, haha.

honest question though, and I ask only because this is the one aspect where the Samsung does dominate, but are displays calibrated to 35ftl because they SHOULD be no brighter than that, or because historically they CAN'T be brighter than that without sacrificing PQ.

I consider myself pretty picky(at least compared to the normal population if not the avs population) when it comes to blacks. so much so i'd been critical of the entire flatpanel phenomena and was outright angry at the population for allowing such a terrible picture just to have a thin tv. I am perfectly happy with the Samsung, not that the panny's and kuro couldn't be better, but from my own viewing it did seem as though it took very special(read, could never be produced in stores, even with darkened 'high end rooms') conditions for the vt60 to look as good as the Samsung, let alone better.

i'm just wondering if the black levels on the Samsung managed to be exactly the same as the panny's(which they aren't, but stay with me), if there would actually be any benefit to the samsungs brighter image to 'videophiles'. I know most will choose deeper blacks and shadow detail over brighter whites, but if you didn't have to choose. if you could have those bright whites along with the panny blacks, would that be considered better? or unnecessary?
post #20 of 205
a lot of people ( even with panny's) like their day mode to be higher than 35. I see varying numbers from as low as 40 to as high as 50. For nighttime (even with lights on) I've rarely seen anyone ask for higher than 35 and its usually much lower.
post #21 of 205
Quote:
Originally Posted by PRO-630HD View Post

I spent hours viewing select scenes of Blurays I bought into the Magnolias store. Comparing the VT, ZT and 8500. The Samsung does crush blacks in the Dark Room setting and the fine detail isn't as refined as the Panasonics and I felt the Panasonics handled motion better as well. The VT and ZT have an absolutely stunning picture in 2-D or 3-D. The Samsung advantage is daytime viewing due to the brightness of the set. The THX modes in the Panasonics are nothing short of superb leaving a full fledged calibration showing an extremely minimal difference. The ZT has decreased light output by about 5 ft. lamberts due to the studio master panel and so this is what gives the VT the edge and makes it the better value to include 3-D content which it does better as well due to the higher contrast level.

The 65in. VT60 at Magnolia for $2,700 delivers reference quality video only matched by the ZT at a very affordable price.
I can remember looking at a 50 inch Fujitsu in Magnolia running Discovery Theater and thinking it's only 5,000 dollars rolleyes.gif Sometimes when things get cheaper they do get better. And yes at the time i was pondering how to get 5,000 dollars. biggrin.gif
post #22 of 205
another question.

i'm fairly new to some of this stuff, as I've basically accepted that nothing was that good for a while. when you guys are saying the Samsung 'definitely crushes blacks', how can you tell? I only ask because when calibrating mine using the avs test patterns, I was able to set reference black levels at an acceptably dark 'black' while still clearly being able to see level '17' just above black. i'm assuming there's information between 16 and 17, I mean there's more than 219 shades of gradation, but how would you determine this? can it only be seen when doing side-by-side comparisons or is there a way to go into a store, look at a displays with your test pattern showing and 'know' whether or not it's crushing blacks.
post #23 of 205
If your test settings didn't crush, then your current settings aren't clipping the blacks. It sounds like in the article they focused on this because all of the televisions were calibrated 35 fl and noticed that the Samsung crushed the blacks a bit at this level. There are several factors that go into this, but your FL is probably higher than the calibrated set they used. The link to the review of your set seemed to be quite favorable.
post #24 of 205
One thing is for certain, the Audio on the VT is much much better than the ZT.
post #25 of 205
Who calibrated the three panels, or set them up more to the point ?. Colour better on the Panasonic's - don't think so.

It makes no sense whatsoever after reading and watching ( independent experts) opinions on black levels in recent months. Why the vt/zt would be "visibly" darker than the 141 of all panels. Shouldn't it have been the other way around tbh confused.gif not obviously darker in a huge way, but extremely subtly darker (the 141) if true to form.

Just does not make sense.

But i mean last year i lost count of magazine reviews etc etc that had the vt50 'blacker' than the 9G's rofl.

Perhaps there was a mix up with video black level settings on the Kuro.
Edited by Stu03 - 7/19/13 at 6:14am
post #26 of 205
Quote:
Originally Posted by fierce_gt View Post

nice review, but where was this in may when I was buying, haha.

honest question though, and I ask only because this is the one aspect where the Samsung does dominate, but are displays calibrated to 35ftl because they SHOULD be no brighter than that, or because historically they CAN'T be brighter than that without sacrificing PQ.

I consider myself pretty picky(at least compared to the normal population if not the avs population) when it comes to blacks. so much so i'd been critical of the entire flatpanel phenomena and was outright angry at the population for allowing such a terrible picture just to have a thin tv. I am perfectly happy with the Samsung, not that the panny's and kuro couldn't be better, but from my own viewing it did seem as though it took very special(read, could never be produced in stores, even with darkened 'high end rooms') conditions for the vt60 to look as good as the Samsung, let alone better.

i'm just wondering if the black levels on the Samsung managed to be exactly the same as the panny's(which they aren't, but stay with me), if there would actually be any benefit to the samsungs brighter image to 'videophiles'. I know most will choose deeper blacks and shadow detail over brighter whites, but if you didn't have to choose. if you could have those bright whites along with the panny blacks, would that be considered better? or unnecessary?

What you are talking about would result in higher contrast ratio's, which yes technically is a very good thing.

For videophiles that typically will be watching in a completely dark room, 35 FL has sort of become the standard for brightness. In those conditions anything much brighter will "burn your retinas" and cause eye strain. For most people that watch Tv in brighter room conditions the extra brightness that can be provided by a TV such as the 8500 can be beneficial.

So it really depends on the viewer and their preferences.
post #27 of 205
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Stu03 View Post

Who calibrated the three panels, or set them up more to the point ?. Colour better on the Panasonic's - don't think so.

It makes no sense whatsoever after reading and watching ( independent experts) opinions on black levels in recent months. Why the vt/zt would be "visibly" darker than the 141 of all panels. Shouldn't it have been the other way around tbh confused.gif not obviously darker in a huge way, but extremely subtly darker (the 141) if true to form.

Just does not make sense.

But i mean last year i lost count of magazine reviews etc etc that had the vt50 'blacker' than the 9G's rofl.

Perhaps there was a mix up with video black level settings on the Kuro.


Tom Norton set up and calibrated all of these panels, and he is among the best in the business; as independent and expert as they come.

post #28 of 205
Just a few comments on the comparison. By using only 35ftl you are limiting both the Kuro and the of course the 8500, which can both get brighter. Also, having a 151FD and a ZT60 side by side now I will say that the ZT is "visibly" darker, but the Kuro's have measured consistently darker than the ZT/VT's. I believe at the shootout the Panasonic's were .0013 vs .001 for the 151, 141,111 and .0005 for the 500m and 101 Kuro's. The reason the ZT is apparently darker is the filter, the same filter that limits it's brightness. So basically what I am saying is the ZT just does not have the same contrast ratio as the Kuro's and that can be a problem for some and for me if it does not have that same contrast ratio, then the ZT/VT's cannot be called better sets out right. They do are some things each set does better than the other, but I wouldn't say the ZT's PQ is better and definitely not it's overall contrast ratio
post #29 of 205
Sorry but you're stacking the deck to favor the Panasonics by limiting it to 35 ftl, coincidentally the max the ZT can do. The 8500 can go way over that & would really seperate itself in a normally lit room & even more in bright rooms. Why not mention this? Or say "for batcave viewing only I prefer this)? Then only comparing them in a very dark room you do it again. You follow it up by centering your review around the strength of 1 set, as if black level is the only real thing that matters. What you also fail to mention is the current issue w/ Panasonic pdp's doubling in black lvl based on the time the panel is on. So after x hours viewed, it would most likely lose in a comparison to the Sammy at the same hours viewed. I know as I have a panny & it doubled in black level after just a few months, then again in a couple years.

I like you, and I'm sorry to point these matters out but it needed brought up so consumers reading can make an accurate assessment. For pitch black viewing during its allotted time before upping its own black lvl, yes the panny has a very, very slight edge in black lvl and detail.

I also disagree w/ ur choice of wording calling the Sammy colors pale. The, imo, are just more accurate, where the pannys tend to push red/yellow/orange a bit for a warmer look. I like both ways but to use a negative connotation to describe more accurate & realistic traits is not wise imo.
post #30 of 205
wow, calling someone out, an extremely respected one at that, for being a cheat and stacking the deck? and then backing it up with falsehoods. That'll help a lot of people- it must be april fools day.
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