The metaphorical ink had not even dried on my review of Panasonic's TC-P60ST60 when a sample of the higher-end TC-P60VT60 arrived on my doorstep. I'm not complaining, mind you; in fact, I'm thrilled to be able to directly compare these two plasma TVs and give you a clear idea of what you get when you move up to the VT60, which has a $2,999.99 MSRP that is almost double that of the ST60.
In generations past, the VT Series resided at the very top of Panasonic's plasma line and offered the best of the best that the company had to offer in both performance and features. Last year's VT50 was heralded by many (myself included) as one of the best performers ever. With that in mind, anticipation for this year's VT60 should have been high, but the arrival of the VT Series was a bit overshadowed by Panasonic's introduction of a new top-shelf line, the ZT Series. We'll be looking at the ZT model soon enough; in the meantime, though, I can tell you that there's still a lot to get excited about in the VT60. This THX-certified 1080p plasma uses Panasonic's Infinite Black Ultra panel; it offers 30,720 shades of gradation, employs 3000 Focused Field Drive technology to improve motion resolution, and includes two ISFccc calibration modes. The TC-P60VT60 is an active 3DTV, and the package includes two pairs of active-shutter RF glasses. Other features include the VIERA Connect Web platform, built-in WiFi, DLNA/USB media playback, an integrated camera, the TouchPad remote with voice recognition, and compatibility with the VIERA Remote2 control app for iOS and Android devices.
Setup & Features
The TC-P60VT60 includes all of the core features and picture adjustments found in the ST60 so, rather than go through the complete rundown again, I suggest you read that review first and then come back here to learn where the VT60 differs. The first difference is that the VT60 has a slightly more stylish design that includes a single pane of glass with no raised bezel (although there's still about an inch of black space around the screen, so it doesn't have that bezel-free look where the picture almost extends to the edge of the frame). Closer inspection of the VT60's front face reveals another noteworthy difference: the VT60's two tiny speaker panels run down the front sides of the TV, instead of underneath, as is the case with the ST60. This would prove beneficial in the sound quality department, allowing for a fuller, more natural-sounding and more focused audio presentation. The VT60 also includes a brushed silver stand with a V-shaped bracket that holds the screen higher off the table. The bottom of the TV sits about four inches off the table, instead of two inches with the ST60; this may seem inconsequential, but it could prove very helpful for anyone who plans to mate the TV with a soundbar. The taller bracket could lift the TV's IR port above the soundbar's height so it will be easier to send commands from the remote. (I just finished reviewing two soundbars with the ST60, so perhaps I'm overly sensitive to the frustration of having the TV's IR port blocked.) The 60-inch TC-P60VT60 weighs 80.5 pounds (without the stand) and measures 56.2 inches wide by 23.7 inches high by two inches deep.
The TC-P60VT60 has three HDMI inputs and lacks a PC input, just like the ST60. Last year's VT50 added a fourth HDMI input and a PC input, both of which should be included on a TV at this price point. You do get three USB ports instead of two; however, given that the VT60 has a built-in camera and built-in WiFi/Bluetooth, the extra USB port seems less important. I would rather have the extra HDMI port. The back panel also lacks an RS-232 or IR port for connection to an advanced control system.
Whereas the ST60 comes with a basic, non-backlit IR remote, the VT60 includes both a standard IR remote (with backlighting) and the smaller, Bluetooth-based Touchpad Controller that combines a round touchpad with nine hard buttons, including power, volume, channel, return, home, and more. One of those buttons has a microphone icon on it; that's where voice recognition comes into play. Press the mic button and talk into the remote to launch commands like mute, volume up/down, on/off, search, launch Web browser, etc. I prefer this method of voice recognition, as opposed to integrating the microphone into the TV itself; you don't have to yell across the room to launch commands. (I'll discuss performance in a moment.) The TV's built-in Bluetooth also allows for the addition of a wireless keyboard or wireless headphones, options you don't get with the ST60.
Panasonic added a lot more picture controls to the ST Series this year, but the VT Series still has a few more. Because this is a THX-certified display, you get THX Cinema and THX Bright Room picture modes for 2D content, as well as a THX Cinema mode for 3D viewing. Within the THX modes, you can make basic adjustments to color temperature, brightness, contrast, color, etc.; however, you can't access the Pro menu to perform an advanced calibration of white balance, gamma, and color. The Pro menu includes controls for two- and 10-point white balance, color management of all six color points (the ST60 only allows adjustment of red, green, and blue), six gamma presets and 10-point gamma adjustment, multiple color space, and the ability to adjust panel brightness, among other options. The Pro menu is available in the Cinema and Custom picture modes, and you can enable two ISFccc modes that also include these adjustments. That's a total of four picture modes that can be fully and independently calibrated per input. The VT60 also adds a 1080p Pure Direct mode that enables support of a 4:4:4 video signal with 1080p HDMI. In the 3D realm, beyond adding the THX Cinema 3D picture mode, the TC-P60VT60 has the exact same complement of setup options, including the new 3D Refresh Rate that lets you choose between 96Hz, 100Hz and 120Hz for 24p 3D content.
Regarding Web-based services, the VT60 adds all the same upgrades that I discussed with the ST60, such as the new Home menu, the redesigned VIERA Connect interface, the new VIERA Remote2 control app and support for the optional Electronic Touchpen (the TY-TP10U, $79), which allows you to virtually draw on the screen. The VT60 upgrades to a dual-core processor that allows for faster performance than the ST60, and the VT60 Web browser adds Flash support. The VT60's integrated camera allows for seamless video conferencing via Skype, as well as the ability to sign in to your own customized Home screen via facial recognition. The camera can be pushed down behind the screen when it's not in use, and it will automatically pop up when you launch a program like Skype that needs to use it.
The TC-P60VT60 includes a pixel orbiter (set to auto by default) that ever-so-slightly shifts the image to prevent a static picture from being left on the screen for an extended time. This is designed to prevent short-term image retention, and I did not see any blatant problems in this area with the VT60.
Click over to page 2 for the Performance, the Competition and Comparison, the Downside and the Conclusion . . .