HDTV

Panasonic TH-50PZ77U 50" 1080p Plasma HDTV

ARTICLE INDEX

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Introduction

Even though the Christmas season is now over, it might be just the time to be looking at buying a Flat-Panel Display (FPD). A couple of years ago, they were so expensive that most consumers could only dream, but with the price drops over the last year, and most stores are probably still well stocked with TVs (they hate having too much inventory), shoppers will get lots of attention from the sales people right now. Heck, I think my co-writer Brian Florian finally updated his display after years of shopping, so it must be the right time to buy. There are a lot of decisions to make on which set to purchase, and the Panasonic reviewed here is certainly one to consider.

Panasonic PZ77U Series

The PZ77U series from Panasonic is a 1080p plasma display available in a 42” and 50” sizes.  The 42” is simply the smaller version of the same display so everything here should apply to it as well.  The PX77U is the sister model to the very popular Panasonic 700u series which was released last year.  Whether the PZ77u is a lower end or higher end model is hard to know as Panasonic has reduced the price while enhancing several other part of the display, such as increasing the contrast ratio, but leaving out some other features like an additional HDMI port and better screen coatings.  The price of the PZ77u could be cheap or expensive depending on whom you believe Panasonic’s competition is.  If you were to place the Panasonic display against the budget displays from companies like Vizio, it would seem fairly expensive.  However, if we were to compare the Panasonic against competitors such as Pioneer it might appear as a bargain.  Regardless, the 50” reviewed here isn’t cheap at an MSRP of $2,799 and a street price of around $1,900, but you do get more for your money than say a budget 50” as we will see later.

Usability

The PZ77U has all of the inputs one would need on the rear panel, including an ATSC tuner, two HDMI, two component, two S-Video and two composite.  On the side it has a composite and S-Video input.  The side input, which is hidden behind a panel, has an SD card slot, allowing you to view photos from your digital camera.  There are also matching analog audio inputs for all the video inputs (although only one for HDMI) and a digital and analog audio output.

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Specifications

  • Native Resolution: 1080p
  • Anti-glare screen
  • 1080p digital processing
  • Digital Re-mastering
  • c3 Image Enhanced
  • HDMI with EZ Sync® (2 inputs)
  • Side A/V input
  • Photo Viewer (SDHC)
  • Simulated Surround Sound
  • Dimensions: 29.7" H x 52.1" W x 3.92" D
  • Weight: 94.8 Pounds
  • MSRP: $2,799 USA
  • Panasonic

Input formats cover all the main standards, including 480i, 480p, 720p, 1080i and 1080p.  I was hoping, although I didn't see it in the documentation, that a 24fps (frame per second) mode would be available for the 1080p mode.  No such luck.

The menu system for the Panasonic is well laid out, although somewhat limiting.  All the basic Brightness, Contrast (called Picture in the menu system), Tint, Color, Sharpness, etc. settings are present, but there is a clear lack of any setting to adjust any of the individual colors.  When we get around to creating a Benchmark for displays, this will be a big requirement on our list, so the Panasonic takes a hit on that one.

Setting are unique per input, and the four preset calibrations can all be modified, allowing the user to build a daytime, night time and two other memory settings.  Or if you are using a switcher or a receiver to feed all your video signals to a single input on the display you could build different calibration settings for multiple devices.

The SD card reader has it own button to select it from the remote and allows the user to navigate the photos on the card, view them, play a slide show, and rotate them.

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As with almost all 16:9 displays, there are several aspect ratio settings on the Panasonic.  Most of the time you will simply leave the unit in Full (which is the native 16:9 mode),  H-Fill (stretches everything out), Just (which stretches the sides of the image a lot and leaves the center close to the right aspect ratio), 4:3 (leaves bar on the side, with adjustable levels of darkness) and Zoom (which take a 16:9 image in a 4:3 signal and fills the screen).

Images: Standard definition signal off Bell ExpressVu shown in each of the five aspect ratio modes.