It was easy to see from the moment I turned it on that this Panasonic was a winner. The picture's combination of deep, beautiful blacks, highly natural color, and a kind of velvety, film-like smoothness was addictive. I cruised my cable channels to look for familiar objects with which to subjectively check the set's color, and quickly found them on an episode of Holmes on Homes, one of my favorite HGTV HD home-improvement shows. The white pine framing of a house under construction and the wood boards used for its roofing looked dead-on accurate, as did the yellow of the crew's DeWalt power tools and the blue sky and green trees in the background. Skin tones looked natural, too, though at first I thought the set was exaggerating reds when I saw Holmes's ultra-rosy complexion. It wasn't until he stood among his coworkers and I saw how the set was delineating subtle differences in their complexions that I realized the fair-skinned carpenter had simply spent too much time on the roof and was genuinely sunburned.
Later, the Panny's awesome color and crisp detail was evident in an Arizona Cardinals-Minnesota Vikings football game. The deep purple on the Viking helmets is always a good test - they lean blue on some TVs, especially on long shots, but not here. The white of the Viking visitor jerseys and the Cardinal helmets were rendered with appropriate neutrality, and the dark red Cardinal uniforms looked nice and rich under the bright stadium lights, but without any hint of oversaturation. When a fieldlevel reporter came on to say her piece, I caught all the highlights in her blond hair, the pasty texture of her makeup, and the wrinkles in her dry lips.
Watching the Blu-ray Disc of the recent (and excellent) Star Trek reboot gave me a great taste of the Panasonic's superb black reproduction. In one scene, the dark, gloomy interior of the cargo bay on a Romulan ship showed how well the set could draw details out of shadows. Despite the almost smoky mood lighting, I could easily make out the hieroglyphic-like markings on the dark ceiling behind a pair of warriors as they prepare a weapon launcher to destroy Spock's home planet, Vulcan. A few minutes later, the full-screen view of Vulcan imploding into a black hole offered up an impressive show of contrast, from the deep inky black of space, punctuated by pinlights representing stars, to the bright highlight that ringed the planet's edge on the sun-lit side. Deep black in this scene and others like it looked about as dark as the set's surrounding bezel, and so did the black letterbox bars in the image.
Every so often, a TV comes in for review that I hate giving back, and this Panasonic, like the 65-incher I tested earlier, was one of those wish-I-could-keepers. After looking at LCD TVs for much of the year and noting their much-improved black levels, I found that reviewing the TC-P58V10 brought home a truth for me: Plasma technology still delivers the more engaging and natural-looking image. At around $2,700 retail, this model comes up against some stiff high-end LCD competition (albeit at the smaller 52-inch size), and it doesn't represent the amazing bargain that Panasonic's V Series does in the higher-volume 42- to 50-inch sizes. But you'll have to work hard to find any HDTV that can beat its level of image quality at the same price. This one comes highly recommended.
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