If the common wisdom is that LCD is killing plasma, well, someone forgot to tell Panasonic, who has substantially increased their plasma presence (and plans to continue to do so with yet another new next-gen plasma panel factory slated to go online next year). Offering multiple tiers of plasma models, their G10 series, which features models in 42”, 50” and 54” sizes, as well as the 46” model (the TX-P46G10) under review here, might be the ones that hit that magic sweet spot between features and performance, and price. All are full 1080p sets, and all are both THX certified and Energy Star qualified, and include Internet movie streaming via Amazon’s Video On Demand subscription service. Recent price trimming includes a $100 drop on the 42” set, and $200 cuts on the 50” and 54” sets, putting the 54” set at a suggested retail of under $2,000 – a fraction of what well-performing 50” 720p plasma sets went for just a few years ago (and without the expanded feature set of today’s lineup).
Consider this HDTV if: you’d like a plasma flat panel that provides excellent picture quality that exceeds that of just about any LCD flat panel equivalent. The 50” set at $1,600 and the 54” set at under $2K are superb values by any measure. Viewing angle is yet another advantage that plasma enjoys over LCD, and the G10 features anti-glare screen coating for better contrast under high ambient light conditions.
Look elsewhere if:you need a super-bright picture, as that’s the one key advantage that LCD holds over plasma. For most users however, the Panasonic’s picture will probably be bright enough.
Ratings (relative to comparably-priced plasma HDTVs):
THX certification is what sets the G10 series apart from other popularly-priced plasma models, and the THX mode puts the set into essentially studio monitor-grade condition, which provides exemplary colorimetry (accurate color tone rendition) as well as optimum gamma to eliminate white clip and black crush.
Panasonic’s Viera Cast internet via LAN connectivity provides access to online services such as YouTube videos, Bloomberg’s financial news service, Google’s Picassa web photo album viewer, as well as a weather widget. Streaming movies and TV shows from Amazon’s Video On Demand service eliminate trips to the local video store or mailbox to rent or buy SD and HD shows.
Compared to other sets in its class, the Panasonic only comes up a bit short in the HDMI department, with three inputs as opposed to the usual four. But there are two HD-compatible component inputs, so the set offers a total of five HD inputs, which should be enough for most users. Unlike many sets which only offer component and composite inputs, the G10 is equipped with an S-video input, which will be of interest to those with legacy S-video sources such as S-VHS VCRs and/or camcorders and the like. There are two composite inputs, but one of them is shared with the S-video input, so it’s an either-or choice there.
Since Panasonic is one of the three co-developers of the SD flash card standard, it’s no surprise that the G10 comes equipped with an SD card reader slot. But that’s in lieu of a USB port, which will be of concern to those who’d like to hook up their portable media player or other device that’s USB-equipped. There’s an RGB PC input to round out the connectivity package. Some of the connections are on a side-mounted input panel for hookup convenience, including one of the HDMI inputs and the SD card slot.