Rounding off the image’s talents is the screen’s highly impressive motion handling. If you’re watching a Blu-ray, the P46Z1’s 24p Smooth Film mode becomes active, and this really does do a terrific job of eradicating the judder from the picture that’s such a feature of Panasonic’s entry-level plasmas. Instead motion looks silky smooth without becoming unnatural – and processing glitches such as flickering edges are impressively rare.
It would have been nice, perhaps, if Panasonic had provided some way for you to adjust the ‘heaviness’ of the motion processing, to eradicate the artefacts completely. But overall I found myself more than happy to leave the processing permanently active. Mind you, even if you decide you don’t like the processing, you can rest assured that the TV’s native judder levels aren’t at all bad anyway.
With non-24p sources, the 24p Smooth Film mode turns into Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation system, where again you only get options to switch it on or off rather than adjusting its power. But actually I detected even less processing side effects from this than I did with the 24p system, so the need to deactivate it or reduce its power is even less pressing.
One final comment concerns the TV’s THX picture preset, which really does deliver a pretty superbly calibrated image for films – so long, at least, as your viewing room is reasonably dark. Having such a carefully created film preset preinstalled on the TV really is a boon for people not particularly confident about calibrating a screen themselves (though I probably wouldn’t use it with PAL TV sources).
If you really pushed me to find any flaws in the P46Z1B’s picture make up beyond the occasional processing glitches already mentioned, I might say that the occasional standard definition skin tone looks a touch plasticky and even slightly orange. But such moments are rare, and generally lost in the ocean of good stuff that’s going on.
I’m duty-bound to report that my test screen irritatingly kept going into a reduced brightness ‘no activity’ mode while I was watching films or TV if I didn’t touch the remote control, and I couldn’t find an option in the onscreen menus to stop this happening. However, this apparent glitch only occurred if I switched to an HDMI input direct from using the VieraCast system, and could be rectified by simply switching the TV off and on again.
Anyway, however hard I look for trouble, the bottom line is that the P46Z1 is a truly sensational picture performer, delivering – especially with HD – KURO-beating picture quality of a standard Panasonic has only previously been able to produce on its megabucks professional or custom installation screens. And it does this, let’s not forget, via a completely wireless and utterly stable connectivity system.
Even the P46Z1B’s sound is excellent, with those side-mounted speakers producing a soundstage width and dynamic range way beyond anything you usually hear from a built-in speaker system, while also leaving dialogue sounding accurately locked to the correct parts of the picture.
The P46Z1 is a truly stunning television, combining cutting edge design and technology with professional-grade AV standards. To see one in action is to desperately want to own one.
The sad thing, of course, is that no matter how desperately we might want to own one, precious few of us will actually get the chance on account of its truly grimace-inducing £5,400 price. In fact, no matter how much I love this TV – and I really do love it – I just can’t quite justify the price in today’s ultra-competitive TV market.
Still, this is a statement TV from Panasonic aimed at people who want to make a statement. And from my experience, those sort of people nearly always have money to burn.