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Panasonic ZT60 plasma TVs make you pay dearly for state-of-the-art blacks and contrast

Consumer Reports News: May 20, 2013 11:08 AM

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We recently wrote about Panasonic's new ZT60 plasma TVs (TC-P60ZT60 and TC-P65ZT60), which will be the company's flagship televisions for 2013. We knew a lot about the TVs—the 60- and 65-inch screen sizes, the new customizable home screen, the Swipe & Share 2.0 features that lets you send content back and forth between the TV and a mobile device—but we didn't know how much they'd cost.

Now we do. The 60-inch set will sell for $3,500 (about $500 more than the comparatively sized VT60-series set), and the 65-inch version will cost $4,100. Also, through the end of July these TVs will be available only at some 400 Magnolia locations that are located inside Best Buy stores, so you'll have to buy one there if you're interested.

See how well plasma TVs stack up against the best LED LCD models in our TV buying guide and Ratings.

One reason people are excited about these TVs is that they're expected to be among the best TVs you can purchase this year. We haven't yet tested these sets in our labs, but I did have a chance to check them out recently during a Panasonic press event, where one was set up next to a now-discontinued Pioneer Kuro plasma TV known for its deep blacks. Based on my brief evaluation, the ZT60 compared favorably, with deep rich blacks and the ability to reveal shadow details. I thought it also had less video noise and better motion performance than the Kuro, but the Kuro hadn't been calibrated. All in all, an impressive performance.

Like the VT60 sets, the ZT60-series models are full-featured smart TVs with all the company's bells and whistles, including a new customizable home page, Swipe and Share 2.0 (which lets you flick content back and forth from the TV to a mobile device using a finger swipe), and voice interaction. The ZT60 sets have a different "Studio Master Panel" and new panel-driving circuitry than the VT60-series sets.

We look forward to getting a ZT60 set into our TV lab for thorough testing. We now have Samsung's own "super plasma" TV—in its F8500 plasma series—so it will be interesting to see how these sets compare. And it's somewhat ironic that plasma TV performance keeps improving even as plasma's overall share of the TV market continues to decline.

James K. Willcox

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