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Now we’ve made one comparison with LCD we might as well make another, which is that moving objects on the 46PZ85 are noticeably clearer and less affected by blur than they are on all but the very highest level LCD sets. Even plasma’s customary tendency to judder during camera pans and rapid horizontal motion is processed almost completely away if you call in the Intelligent Frame Creation system.
Our HD sources also contain outstanding colour resolution, with natural skin tones, decently vivid saturations, and exceptional subtlety in terms of blends.
The 46PZ85 is also impressively at home with standard definition sources - provided they’re of a decent quality in the first place. The in-studio stuff on Sky News, for instance, looks really quite impressive versus many Full HD rivals, with minimal video noise, well-defined edges, satisfactory (though certainly not exemplary) levels of fine detail, and believable colour tones.
However, when the Sky News channel switches to a typical outdoor broadcast, with the attendant drop off in image quality, the 46PZ85’s pictures seem to break down more than I’m entirely comfortable with. Noise levels grow exponentially, the picture becomes quite soft, and colour tones tend to become much less natural.
Now that we’re in a negative frame of mind, just occasionally some dark scenes take on a very slight green pall. Also, the IFC system can cause a few glitches during fast-moving footage, and so might be worth deactivating when watching sport or action films. And with the picture calibrated to its best level for black levels, noise levels and colour tone, images are not as bright and aggressive as you’d expect to find with a TV using LCD rather than plasma technology.
But then, of course, no LCD we can think of gets close to the 46PZ85’s black levels, so really how much the image’s brightness matters to you boils down to a simple matter of personal taste.
We’ve been a bit disappointed with the sound quality of some previous Panasonic plasma generations, but the sonics from the 46PZ85 are actually very good. Not quite up there with the ‘Smart Sound’ speaker systems of Panasonic’s flagship PZ800 TVs, but certainly good enough to handle even the tough demands of an action movie soundtrack with reasonable authority, dynamism, clarity and enthusiasm.
The 46PZ85 is not perfect. It’s no great lover of low quality standard def, and its lack of brightness could be an issue if you’re using it in a very bright room. But if you don’t mind dimming your lights and are after a big-screen TV that eats DVD and HD movies for dinner, then this really is the great value set those EISA people reckon it is.