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As usual with Panasonic's top-flight sets, it's not just the 65PZ800's pictures that have plenty of high-spec feature support. The TV's audio comes courtesy of Panasonic's Smart Sound Speaker system, which uses separated tweeters and woofers to produce what I hope will be a cleaner, wider, more dynamic soundstage. There's also SRS TruSurround XT processing to deliver a pseudo surround sound effect from just the TV's onboard speakers.
It was as I kicked off my tests of the 65PZ800 with the sort of HD material such a huge, high-spec screen deserves - the Blu-ray of No Country For Old Men - that the strained black I was moaning about earlier started to slip from my mind. For as soon as I clapped eyes on the shots in the desert where Moss finds the large group of dead bodies, I was well and truly lost in a pain-free home cinema wonderland.
The 65PZ800's picture really does seem to be firing on absolutely all cylinders. Fine detail levels, for instance, are extraordinary. We've always maintained that the impact of HD pictures expands in direct proportion with the size of screen you're watching. Yet even knowing this scarcely prepared me for the way the 65PZ800 picks out details right down to the individual pixel level - even during scenes with lots of motion - with a clarity and accuracy that's truly mesmerising.
What's more, this extraordinary clarity does not come accompanied by grain or overstressed edges as we sometimes find with very detailed plasma pictures. In fact, the 65PZ800's HD pictures are notable for their purity and freedom from any kind of overt noise, at least if you're sat a sensible distance from the screen.
We make this viewing distance observation because if you stick your head up close to the screen you can see subtle pixel ‘buzzing', particularly in dark areas. But the 65PZ800 keeps this common plasma issue so well reined in that you're hardly ever troubled by it under sensible viewing conditions.
The next aspect of the 65PZ800's pictures to impress is their black level response. Panasonic plasmas have long excelled in this area, easily staying ahead of the rest of the flat TV pack until those naughty Pioneer kids came along with their fancy KURO technology. But the profundity and naturalism of the 65PZ800's black levels goes way beyond anything Panasonic has achieved before on such a huge screen.
There's practically no greyness in dark scenes at all unless it's there in the source, for instance. Also shadow detailing is outstanding, giving dark scenes a terrific sense of scale; and there's practically zero of that vague green toning that characterised plasma technology for so long. It was while dedicating myself to logging and exploring every element of the 65PZ800's black level prowess that I got embroiled in the Gears of War 2 session I mentioned at the start of the review… It's a tough job, but somebody etc etc.
Mentioning the absence of any underlying green during dark scenes back there brings me neatly into an examination of the 65PZ800's colours. And again the news is very good indeed.
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