Ultimate plasma

Hallelujah! Panasonic has super-sized its high-end NeoPlasma display. Steve May basks before the glory of a 65in VT30

Size does matter. Both my wife and the Swedish au pair tell me this constantly, particularly when it comes to our home cinema.

The good news is that others agree. One unexpected side effect from the growing take-up of 3DTVs is that folks are migrating to larger screen sizes. This means a warm welcome should await Panasonic’s TX-P65VT30. This 65in iteration of its top-of-the-line NeoPlasma range is a glorious extravagance.

The sheer size obviously poses a challenge. It takes three people to get it out of the box and the 56kg weight means wall-mounting will require some serious planning. It’s a good thing then that the supplied pedestal is smart and substantial. Engorged as it is, the design works well, with the edge-to-edge glass fascia takes on the appearance of a French window.

Connectivity options are standard fare. Wi-fi isn’t built in, but Panasonic does include a USB wi-fi adaptor in the box.

Powerful pictures

A screen of this size is completely unforgiving when it comes to visual shortcomings in your sources, but feed it a Blu-ray and it shines. The VT30’s picture is both refined and nuanced. Quite aside from the massive amount of fine detail on offer, the screen has extraordinary dynamics with stygian black levels and searing peak whites.

At times I actually began to wonder if the panel, which sports the brand’s High Contrast Filter Pro, for improved luminous efficiency, looks too black and contrasty. But of course, there are plenty of parameter controls available to constrain it.

In truth, this is not a difficult set to calibrate; the Normal median is already good, just ease down the sharpness and tweak contrast to taste. It’s slightly inconvenient that none of the regular picture parameters have numerical counters; these only appear in the ISF modes.

Alternatively, you could just engage the THX 2D preset – it’s well-judged for movie watching.

Not only is the set’s regular HD image terrific, but the screen’s 3D performance is outstanding. Panasonic has cured traditional double imaging problems with faster phosphors and new Crosstalk Reduction circuitry. The result is a stereoscopic image that’s wonderfully convincing; the THX-certified 3D picture has tremendous depth.

Once you clip past 60 inches, 3D at home starts to make quite a lot of sense. The immersion experienced in the cinema is replicated by this massive screen. Tron:Legacy (BD) once again feels majestic and those sporadic full-frame sequences, which look kinda odd on a regular telly, suddenly get their old impact back.

Of course, this flagship TV offers other trimmings too. Its media streaming is excellent, with bullet-proof video file support (including MKV), as well as music with album art – when it comes to multimedia integration Panasonic is giving its rivals a lesson. The Viera Connect IPTV portal is well-stocked, too, and Skype functionality is offered.

Be warned that IPTV sources viewed on this scale do look pretty ropey. Panasonic’s YouTube client really suffers. It’s not that hot at the best of times, settling for SD rather than streaming 720 HD when it’s available. Let’s hope this limitation is addressed with a firmware update (hopefully to YouTube Lean Back) sooner rather than later.

Overall, though, this is a traffic stopper of a TV. The quality of Panasonic’s VT30 panel and the accompanying picture engine isn’t diminished by the size of the screen beast. Indeed, if anything it’s enhanced, with 3D a spectacular beneficiary. It’s almost like having your own personal IMAX.

HCC VERDICT

Highs: Dazzlingly detailed 2D hi-def, immersive and crosstalk-free 3D; excellent media streaming
Lows: 3D spex not the most comfortable; wi-fi isn’t integrated
Performance: 5/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 5/5

Specifications

Full HD: yes 1080p24 3D: yes Active Shutter
Tuner: yes, Freeview HD, Freesat HD Component: yes
HDMI: yes 4 x v1.4 Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Sound: 22W (2 x 6W + 1 x 10W sub)
Brightness (claimed): N/A Contrast ratio (claimed): 5m:1
Dimensions: 1,570(w) x 956(h) x 60(d) mm
Weight: 56kg
Features: Two Active Shutter glasses are bundled in the box; 600Hz Intelligent Frame Creation; 3 x USB for media playback (JPEG, MP3, AAC, WMA, AVI, AVCHD, MKV support);VIERA Connect Video Portal featuring YouTube, Daily Motion etc; Ethernet connection; VIERA Link CEC; ISFccc mode; THX certification for 2D/3D