Sorry it took me so long to post this review but it's been a long day. As I previously stated yesterday, one of my local Best Buy had just setup a new Pioneer 5060 right beside a Panasonic 50PX50u. I would like to thank the local departmental staff for allowing me to play with the settings on both panels as they normally don't allow customers access to them. Another good thing was that they were preparing to move plasmas around later near closing time and after some conversations with the manager I was invited back to view the displays in the RPTV area (low lighting) while they reconfigured the plasma shelves. Both plasmas were connected by monster component cables to the BB video loop. This best Buy sells Time Warner cable programming so they were able to switch between the Best Buy DVD video loop and Time Warner HD offerings. Here are the settings I used for both plasmas:
AV Selection: User
Pioneer 5060 ADV Settings:
Pure Cinema: Standard
Color Temp: Mid
Mpeg NR: Low
Picture Mode: Standard
Color Temp: Normal
Color Management: Off
Video NR: Off
Mpeg NR: Off
Black level: Light
Now on to the review.
Normal store lighting:
These two juggernauts were placed in a reviewer's store viewing preferred location, the last isle of Best Buy's flat panel displays where there are no overhead lights directly shinning on the panels.
When I first saw them, they were playing the standard Best Buy video loops. I immediately noticed that both were in torch mode with the Pioneer looking like pure garbage. I have never seen a Pioneer look so uglyjagged lines everywhere, color bleedingjust disgusting. On the other hand, the Panasonic looked more pleasing but, to a lesser extent, it showed some of the same jagged lines and color bleeding. Luckily there was a sales rep close by and he pulled out both remotes from the remote treasure chest on the bottom plasma display shelf.
After adjusting both displays to the settings listed above, I could once again see why there are so many faithful followers in both Pioneer and Panasonic camps. Both displays were amazing compared to the 50 Philips on the bottom shelf and the Samsung to the left of the Pioneer. However, keeping my attention only on the Pioneer vs the Panny, viewing a Cnet clip and a Chicken Little movie trailer resulted in Pioneer's colors looking fresher and crisper while the Panasonic's looked like a red shirt after its first wash kinda washed out. Not the really dull washed out, but the you know this red shirt is not new anymore washed out.
The clips continued and some Discover HD underwater clips began to show. Once again I was just awed by the Pioneer's rendering of the clips as I stood 5 feet away. Extremely rich colors with a very 3D look to them. One Best Buy customer who happened to walked by immediately stopped and said Wow. It looks like a real aquarium. The clip started to show some blue glowing jellyfish with a black background and I instantly saw a difference in black level. The Pioneer definitely had deeper blacks compared to the Panasonic. The blacks almost reached the glossy black of the Pioneer's bezel. As far as producing deep blacking in bright ambient light, the Pioneer wins here (must be that pure color filter).
More wildlife clips continued and my eyes were just glued to the Pioneer. Everything looked like I could reach and grab it where the Panasonic had a look to it that I just could not place my finger on at that time. More and more customers passed by and commented on how beautiful the Pioneer looked.
After a while I started to remember Rich Harkness review and wondered why he reported so much noise in the picture. At 5 feet, the Pioneer clearly was superior to the Panasonic. Then I got within 1 foot of both screens and I finally saw what Rich was saying. There appeared to be more noise in the Pioneer picture than the Panasonic. A WB TV show clip was showing and the time and I definitely could see more noise (looked like mosquito noise) around the characters on the Pioneer. The Panasonic really shinned on this clip with the smoothness it presented.
As a Tim Burton's Corpse Bride movie clip started to play I saw something..the Panasonic..its smoothness was flawed. Standing 1 foot away from the panels, I noticed the Panasonic was smoothing out the picture detail that the Pioneer showed flawlessly. On close-ups of the characters clothing I could clearly make out the black chenille fabric like details on the Pioneer while the Panasonic looked plain black. Trying to increase the sharpness on the Panasonic helped but it also introduced video noise.
I asked one of the sales reps to switch to the Time Warner feed and show the Georgia/Tennessee game. Once again I saw the same thing.the Panasonic was smoothing picture detail. On one close-up shot of a Georgia player, I could see his jersey stitching on the Pioneer while they were completely void from the Panasonic's picture. Smoothing the picture is great but losing picture detail as a consequence is unacceptable to me.
As the game continued I also started to notice a slight green tinge to the goal posts on the Panasonic where the Pioneer showed pure yellow.
Again I was glued to the Pioneer's picture. Absolutely breathe-taking in the color rendition department. The turf had more true-to-life greens on the Pioneer.
I had seen enough. In bright ambient lighting, the Pioneer wins in my book. The Panasonic looked great but it just wasn't the Pioneer. The colors just did not excite my visual cortex like the Pioneer. I could really see myself having ADD with the Panasonic.it just could not hold my attention. Deep blacks were superior to the Pioneer in ambient lighting, but most here agree that low-level lighting conditions is where it counts..
Low Level (RPTV area) Lighting:
Around 8:45PM, I returned to the store to take another look at these 2 displays in movie time light settings. Although this was not a completely dark situation, the video staff placed the two panels with their screens facing the rear wall of the RPTV area and turned off all RPTVs.
First up more Best Buy video loop clips
A Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire clip started and both displays were excellent in the deep black territory. It was a draw. The Pioneer was not any brighter or darker than the Panasonic. However I saw slightly more detail in the dark areas of the Pioneer compared to the Panasonic. At the beginning of the clip there is the Warner Bros logo on a black wooden door that opens. I could detect the door outline faster on the Pioneer as it opened verses the Panasonic. Also the wood's texture was slightly more legible on the Pioneer.
The usual Safari West clip showing the Las Vegas strip reared its head and although both displays showed the same deep blacks, the Pioneer wins in my book due to the colors it can produce. I felt like I was there on the Pioneer verses viewing the Las Vegas strip from behind a extremely clean glass that the Panasonic presented. Both panels showed camera pans smoothly with Panasonic winning as its pans were slightly smoother. Again I noticed that the Panasonic was smoothing out picture details.
A little after 9:00PM, they turned the feed to a Time Warner offering of HBOHD. Alien vs Predator was showing and I was completely engulfed in the picture the Pioneer displayed. Explosions were rich with color. As the characters ran thru the maze of the temple, I could make out the stone wall textures. It was just beautiful. When the girl and predator made it back to the surface, the snow was pure white with a hint of blue on the Pioneer while the Panasonic had a slight red tinge to it. Both displayed the dark, snow falling sky equally.
To summarize my babbling, I was extremely impressed with the Pioneer 5060. Once properly calibrated, it showed all of the visual stimuli that Pioneer is famous for. On top of the extremely rich and accurate colors, Pioneer has included ablack phobic's acceptable rich deep blacks. Frame all of that in its gloss black bezel and it's just a work of art. Although I did see some of the additional noise in the Pioneer that Rich saw in his review, I can conclude that it is from the source. Yes Panasonic excels in producing a milk chocolate picture, but it inadvertently smoothes out fine detail. As I said before, that is unacceptable in my book. I prefer the less filtered but still taste great presentation of the Pioneer. I know others will think differently.
The Panasonic is also a great display but it just doesn't have enough for me to allow it to be one of my primary displays. It looked too much like a crt to me. I prefer that one technology not mimic another (if I wanted the crt look I would go buy a crt). If you like the somewhat flat, less 3D look that a crt gives you, then the Panasonic is for you. I prefer that my eyes be stimulated. It sure comes close but, the Panasonic just doesn't do it for me.