Panasonic may have given up on further plasma research, but on the basis of the P55VT65 it’s hard to see how much further the technology could have been taken anyway.
The TV’s contrast performance is simply sensational for a start, thanks predominantly to black levels that are in a different class to those of any other brand of ‘mainstream’ TV. And we’re not just talking about the richness and depth of the black colour the TV can produce here either; also hugely important is the way the Panasonic P55VT65 manages to retain almost infinite amounts of shadow detail during dark scenes, thanks to the way plasma illuminates each individual pixel individually.
It’s great to see, too, that these near-perfect black levels appear alongside more vibrant, punchier colours and whites than we’re accustomed to seeing from Panasonic’s premium plasma screens. There’s an unwanted side effect to this in the shape of green speckling noise in dark areas. But the impact of this can be reduced almost to nothing by not trying to drive the panel too brightly, and by not sitting too close to the screen.
Crucially the extra dynamism of the the P55VT65’s colours doesn’t come at the expense of any of the tonal subtlety and naturalism that’s long being high-end plasma’s trademark. On the contrary, the additional punch actually helps you appreciate more the gorgeous colour nuancing the P55VT65 is capable.
The P55VT65’s colours don’t retain quite so much finesse in 3D mode, meaning they sometimes suffer a little striping/banding. But as we’ll see, other benefits of the 3D performance compensate for this minor shortcoming.
The colour finesse and exceptional shadow detailing join forces, meanwhile, with an outstanding level of innate sharpness to deliver HD images with gorgeous clarity and precision. Contributing to this clarity, too, is the P55VT65’s near-immunity to motion blur - another key advantage plasma has over LCD.
The P55VT65’s pictures are revealed not to be the brightest around if you try watching them in a bright room environment, though the impressive filters in the screen do stop ambient light damaging contrast and black level response in the picture as used to happen with Panasonic plasma TVs.
Overall, while the Panasonic P55VT65 is still great to watch with ordinary TV programming, it’s really designed for movie fans who want to see pictures that look as close as possible to those you would find in a commercial cinema. And in that respect - especially with your lights down - the P55VT65 succeeds magnificently.