Published On: October 27, 2008

Panasonic TH-50PZ850U Plasma HDTV Reviewed

Published On: October 27, 2008
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Panasonic TH-50PZ850U Plasma HDTV Reviewed

This series includes Viera Cast Web technology which allows you to connect your TV to a modem or router and access Web video from You Tube, stock information from Bloomberg, weather forecasts and photos via Picasa Web Album. It offers a more extensive assortment of picture controls than any of Panasonic's step-down 2008 models...

Panasonic TH-50PZ850U Plasma HDTV Reviewed

  • Adrienne Maxwell is the former Managing Editor of, Home Theater Magazine, and Adrienne has also written for Wirecutter, Home Entertainment Magazine,,, and other top specialty audio/video publications. She is an ISF Level II-certified video calibrator who specializes in reviews of flat-panel HDTVs, front video projectors, video screens, video servers, and video source devices, both disc- and streaming-based.

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.

Additional Resources
• Read more plasma HDTV reviews from
• Explore Blu-ray player options in out Blu-ray Player Review section.

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.
Panasonic-TH-50PZ850U.jpgThe TH-50PZ850U has a swiveling base and hidden speakers along the
bottom panel. The audio setup menu includes bass, treble, and balance
controls, as well as BBE ViVA HD3D sound processing. The AI sound
feature is designed to equalize the volume level across all channels
and inputs, while the audio leveler deals specifically with reducing
level variations for content displayed through the external inputs.

High Points

The TH-50PZ850U produces an attractive picture, with excellent black
level, black detail, color, and overall detail. The Digital Cinema
Color feature produces a wider color palette that, while not
technically accurate by most measurement standards, is very engaging.
• The Viera Cast interface is more intuitive and attractive than we've seen from other Web-enabled TVs.

The connection options are thorough, and the SD card slot is a nice
perk. On this model, you can view video stored on SD cards.

Low Points
• The new 48Hz mode reduces judder, but it adds noticeable flicker that some people will find even more distracting.
• This TV isn't as good at upconverting SD content as the best panels we've seen, although it is solid in this respect.
• Viera Cast's functionality is limited at this point, but Panasonic does plan to add more features.

Plasma TVs generally aren't as bright as LCDs and therefore aren't the
best choice for a really bright room with lots of potential light

The TH-50PZ850U is an
excellent HDTV. Its performance rivals that of the highest-end panels
on the market, but it comes in at a slightly lower price point. The
Viera Cast Web feature isn't terribly exciting right now but has great

Additional Resources
• Read more plasma HDTV reviews from
• Explore Blu-ray player options in out Blu-ray Player Review section.

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