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Panasonic TH-50PZ850U Plasma HDTV Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4 Stars
Value
4 Stars
Overall
4 Stars

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Panasonic-TH-50PZ850U.jpgThis 50-inch, 1080p HDTV hails from Panasonic's top-shelf 2008 line, the 850 Series (the line also includes 46-, 58-, and 65-inch models). This series' distinguishing feature over other Panasonic lines is the inclusion of Viera Cast Web technology; thanks to the inclusion of an Ethernet port, you can connect this TV to your modem or router and access Web video from YouTube, photos from Picasa Web Album, stock information from Bloomberg, and weather forecasts. The 850 Series does not offer the THX certification you get in the step-down 800 Series; however, in the areas of connectivity and appearance, the two lines are quite similar.

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The connection panel includes four HDMI, two component video, and one PC input, plus an RF input to access the internal ATSC, NTSC, and Clear-QAM tuners. The HDMI inputs accept both 1080p/60 and 1080p/24 signals, and one HDMI input is located on the front panel for easy access. Also on the front panel is an SD card slot through which you can view digital photos and MPEG2/AVCHD video. The SD card reader is compatible with the GalleryPlayer system that lets you download professional artwork and photographs to an SD card for display on the screen. Picture-in-picture functionality is not available. Obviously, the 850 Series adds an Ethernet port for Viera Cast; it also adds RS-232 for integration into an advanced control system.

The TH-50PZ850U offers a more extensive assortment of picture controls than any of Panasonic's step-down 2008 models. There are five picture modes (vivid, standard, game, custom, and studio reference) and three preset color-temperature options (cool, normal, and warm). You lose the THX picture mode found in the 800 Series, but you gain the studio reference mode found in last year's 750 Series. Panasonic claims that this mode is configured to offer color reproduction that's similar to the reference monitors in editing studios. You also gain the Pro menu that offers more advanced picture controls, including the ability to precisely adjust white balance, panel brightness, contour emphasis, and gamma. Video, block, and mosquito noise reduction are available, and the TH-50PZ850U adds a feature called Digital Cinema Color that lets you choose between two color spaces. New to this year's models is a 24p Direct In mode that lets you dictate whether to output 24p content at 60 Hz (which involves 3:2 pulldown) or 48 Hz (which involves 2:2 pulldown and produces less judder). There is no "smooth" mode that uses frame interpolation to render that super-smooth motion that some people love. This year, Panasonic has added features to prevent or counteract the effects of short-term image retention, including an image orbiter, a scrolling bar, and the option to use gray sidebars instead of black. The TH-50PZ850U offers five aspect-ratio options for HD and SD sources, and you can configure it to display a 1080i/1080p image with no overscan.

Read about the high points and the low points of the TH-50PZ850U on Page 2.
continue to page two
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