This 50-inch, 1080p HDTV is part of Panasonic's 800 Series, the only series in Panasonic's large plasma lineup to earn THX certification for its video quality (the 800 Series also includes 42- and 46-inch models). Obviously, THX certification places the 800 Series near the top of Panasonic's 2008 lineup, just below the 850 Series, and lands it in a slightly higher price bracket. 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. 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.
The setup menu isn't as extensive as you'll find with the highest-end plasmas, but it includes the essentials, starting with five picture modes (vivid, standard, game, custom, and THX). The THX mode creates the image that THX has deemed to be the most accurate; however, if you'd like to use the THX mode as a base and make further adjustments, you can (some other THX-certified TVs lock in the THX mode parameters, so you can't make any changes). There are three preset color-temperature options (cool, normal, and warm), but sadly no direct access to white-balance controls to fine-tune the color temperature; the menu also lacks gamma control and advanced color management.
You do get light/dark black-level choices, video and MPEG noise reduction, and basic color management. 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-50PZ800U 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 low points of the TH-50PZ800U on Page 2.