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Panasonic Viera TX-P54Z1 54in Plasma TV - Panasonic Viera TX-P54Z1
We're still by no means done with the P54Z1's fancy stuff yet, either. For instance, it also has what Panasonic likes to call 600Hz processing - though actually, using this name is rather debatable. For the screen doesn't actually refresh its output 600 times a second, but rather derives its 600 figure from the addition of extra 'sub-fields' of image data. Still, we've seen the system hugely reduce the judder problem commonly noted with plasma TVs before, so we're sure it will do the same again here.
Next on the seemingly endless list of intriguing features is Viera Cast: Panasonic's online service. I won't go into detail on this again here, as we've now covered it numerous times before. Suffice it to say that it's a well-presented system offering ring-fenced access to such key third-party content as YouTube, Picasa and Eurosport.
Other little bits and bobs of note include the facility to fine-tune the white balance when using the THX preset; a 24p Smooth Film processing mode that automatically kicks in when Blu-ray playback is detected (unless you're in THX mode); JPEG, AVCHD and DivX playback via a built-in SD card slot; and the frame-inserting IFC mode that replaces Smooth Film when you're watching normal TV sources.
With more and more LCD and LED TVs doing more and more exciting things in the past couple of months, I initially found myself startled to feel a touch disappointed with the P54Z1's picture performance. But thankfully, while there are certainly issues with the TV's picture you need to be aware of, it didn't take too long before I fell under the familiar Panasonic spell. At least while watching HD films…
The reasons for my initial disappointment with the P54Z1 are three-fold. First, there's a general lack of brightness vs LED and LCD TVs, at least when the image is calibrated to really movie-friendly levels. Second, some sources can look really quite soft. And finally, colours sometimes suffer with some seriously off-beat tones.
The brightness problem is, of course, not really a huge issue if you can manage to get your viewing environment looking pretty dark - though at the same time the lack of verve can deny some images the punch they might enjoy with a fine LCD or especially LED TV.
The softness, meanwhile, occurs when watching standard definition pictures, and, more troublingly, when playing HD console games. A bit of softness on a 54in screen when showing Freeview/Freesat standard definition programmes really is quite forgivable - in fact, some might even find it quite desirable given the way it can hide noise inherent in a source. But the curiously soft look I experienced while playing Resident Evil 5 on my Xbox 360 - even using the provided Game picture preset - is harder to explain, and harder to ignore.