Panasonic Viera TC-P65ZT60 Plasma TV First Impressions Review
Panasonic's ZT60 looks to set the standard for plasma TVs.
The ZT60 looks promising, but it has Shaq-sized shoes to fill.
We’re big fans of the Panasonic VT50. That plasma managed to snag our runner-up award for TV of the Year—and it might have taken home that most coveted of prizes had its smart platform been a little better. As good as the VT50 was (and is), we’re not here to talk about that. We’re at CES in Vegas, so we should talk about the VT50’s sequel, the VT60… but we’re not going to talk about that, either. Ladies and gents, let’s move down the alphabet and discuss Panasonic’s new rock star of a plasma TV: the ZT60.
This thing is pretty thin... are you sure this isn't an LED?
As for the display itself, a slight black border surrounds it, with a slim metallic bezel surrounding that. When viewed from the side, you might mistake this beauty for an LED (though definitely not an OLED). Manual TV controls are located on the right-side.
Smart TV Features
While it may not be the smartest, Viera Connect has clearly been studying.
During Panasonic's press conference, some of the company's executives introduced a few new smart features. Swipe & Share 2.0 enables consumers to use their smartphones and tablets to view pictures and videos on the TV. Panasonic also introduced the Touch Pen, which lets users digitally write on pictures that are displayed on the screen—a great idea for those that always wanted a telestrator. Happy birthday, football fans!
One awesome new feature that a Panasonic rep told us about is an updated remote app for your smartphone. In addition to controlling certain smart features—Panasonic already has an app for that—this new app will allow users to calibrate their TV or change menu settings, all from their phone. As someone who calibrates TVs for a living, I can't wait to try it out.
Panasonic made a big deal out of its "My Home Screen" feature, which offers the ability to customize Viera Connect, Panasonic's smart platform. Family members using this feature can customize their personal home screen and then access it via face recognition, courtesy of a built-in camera. Unfortunately, the ZT60 doesn't have a camera (although the VT60 does). We're not sure yet, but this feature might eventually become available for the ZT60.
You can't talk about a plasma TV and not bring up black levels.
As previously mentioned, we really liked the Panasonic VT50. Part of the reason we enjoyed its company so much was because of its deep, dark, downright scary black levels. A Panasonic rep brought us into a dimly-lit room with two TVs side-by-side: the ZT60 on the left and the VT50 on the right. It's the CES equivalent of a steel cage match, and Panasonic was pitting its 2012 and 2013 flagships against each other. It wasn't a fair fight.
Let us preface this by saying that Panasonic didn't tell us how each TV was calibrated: they could have used identical settings or totally different ones. Regardless, the ZT60 clearly had the better picture. The most striking example was a picture of red jewelry on a black background: the ZT60 offered much deeper blacks, which made the fiery reds really stand out.
Like a few other TVs at CES, the ZT60 is upgrading its color gamut. Traditionally, TVs and film use different color standards. By switching to the Digital Cinema Initiatives (DCI) standard used by film, the ZT60 will offer a wider spectrum of colors compared to traditional TVs: blues will look the same, but reds and greens have the potential to be much more vivid. This is something that we'll have to test for, but for the sake of an eyes-on preview, we can say that the ZT60 looked good.
As far as 3D goes, the ZT60 will come with two pairs of active 3D glasses, though we didn't actually get to see the third dimension on display at CES.
The ZT60 could be the last, best hope for plasma technology.
If the Panasonic ZT60 is just as good as the VT50, it will be a solid recommendation. If we find out it produces a better picture quality, well... start saving. Panasonic and Samsung are the last companies left championing plasma technology, which, despite being past its prime, can still produce a damn good picture. It doesn't hurt that Panasonic gave this display an attractive design as well.
The ZT60, and all of Panasonic's other 2013 TVs, should be released around April/May. Let's hope they don't go the way of Pioneer and leave us videophiles longing for the days of yore. Long live plasma!