First Review: $13,000 Plasma Will Blow Your Mind

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Available in 50 and 65 inches, the VX100 series from Panasonic is the pinnacle of plasma technology. When Pioneer pulled out of the plasma market, Panasonic took up the mantle and hired the team that created the award winning KURO plasma. Since then, we have been looking forward to seeing what Panasonic would bring to the table and whether they would be able to continue the excellence that made the KURO so popular. If the VX100 is anything to go by, they have not only learnt from the strengths of the KURO but surpassed them as well. The VX100 is nothing short of breathtaking.

The price tag for owning the 65inch model is around $13,000 so naturally this isn’t a panel that is within reach of the average consumer.  This is an extremely high end panel and has features that the consumer models won’t have for a generation or two.

Like some KURO models, it comes with ISF picture modes (Imaging Science Foundation) which can only be unlocked and calibrated by an authorised ISF technician.  Thankfully, since you just spent a huge wad of cash on a TV, Panasonic also include ISF calibration as part of the package.  Since every home has a different lighting situation during day and night, the ISF representative will come in and set up the TV so that the panel is outputting exact colours and looking the best it can look in your home.  The ISF modes are carefully calibrated using specialised equipment in a process that can take anywhere up to a few hours depending on how many devices you want to connect to the TV.  Each input device is given its own specific calibration so that no matter what you are watching, you are assured it will look the best it can. The difference between the regular modes and the ISF calibrated modes is quite significant. 

Once calibrated, we tested the TV with using Blu-ray films, regular DVDs and High Definition games. A small caveat should be imposed at this point though.  Since this is a massive 65inch model and my lounge room is fairly small, we had to sit much closer than you are meant to for a TV of this size. However, when testing we took that into account.

The native resolution of the panel is 1920×1080 so we first tested with 1080p content using a variety of Blu-ray films and the Spears and Munsil Blu-ray test disc.  The result was spectacular. This panel has 18bit image processing and is capable of contrast far beyond what we have seen in most commercial plasmas. Not only that, but when calibrating the unit, there are far more steps available in each setting.  Whereas regular plasmas might range from 20 to -20 this unit has almost 60 steps each way for many of its settings.  This means that the contrast, sharpness, brightness and colour can be made exact to broadcast standards.  When watching a Blu-ray film on the VX100 you are getting the closest reproduction of the directors original vision that can be achieved in the home.

 



When watching DVDs, the unit doesn’t fair quite as well as the sheer size of it starts to work against it.  It still looks great but the upscaling is a little more obvious than you would see in a smaller 1080p panel with noticeable artefacts on screen.  That being said, the colours and whatnot still look spot on, there just isn’t enough information on a 576p DVD disc to do the panel justice.

 When it comes to gaming, prepare to have your mind blown.  Playing games on a 65 inch plasma is every geeks wet dream. We played quite a few games on this beast of a TV and adored every minute of it.  Let’s face it, for most people a TV like this is way out of reach so just having the chance to play games on it was fantastic.  It handles motion beautifully without any judder and is capable of extremely accurate detail.

Despite all these glowing remarks about the VX100, it isn’t a perfect TV as it suffers slightly from a little phosphor lag.  Most people don’t notice phosphor lag though, but before you spend 13k on this one, make sure you watch some content on it just in case you are one of the unlucky ones as it may annoy you.  However, it isn’t a massive detractor from the overall quality of the unit as it is barely noticeable.  Only the imaging perfectionists will notice or care.

While it has outputs for speakers, the panel doesn’t come with any so you will need to have a speaker system in your home.  Considering most people that can afford a unit like this probably already has a home theatre system, this isn’t a problem at all.  It is hard to list the connection options that the panel has since they are fully customisable.  You can choose which connections you want as the rear plates are interchangeable however, it comes standard with four HDMI ports.  The other connections are up to you although out test unit had one Component and one Composite port.

 



The Panasonic VX100 is a dream TV.  It is not something most of us will ever get to experience, let alone be able to afford but for those will deep pockets, it is the best that plasma technology currently has to offer.  The fact that it includes the ISF service assures that you will get the best image quality that the panel is capable of and the 18bit processing can create better images than anything the plasma market currently has on offer.  We spoke to Panasonic and they told us that the advanced features seen in this panel, like 18bit, will eventually trickle down into their Vierra range over time but for now, they can only be found in the VX100.  If you have the cash to burn, you won’t be disappointed by this panel and if you can afford two of them, please buy me one too. I’ll be your best friend.

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