The Panasonic TC-P46G10 is the mid sized panel in Panasonic’s mid range G10 series. The TV hosts a range of features, most notably its Vieracast Internet connectivity and for videophiles its THX video certification.
The panel sports a slim piano black frame with a slight gray accent along its base. The TV comes with a rounded non-swiveling base which must be attached by the owner and there are fixings on the back that allow you to wall-mount the panel if you so chose. The frame is slimmer than the previous 800U series and I was able to fit the 46” model in a space many competing 42” models would fill, especially those with side-mounted speakers.
The supplied remote is attractive but not as well made as previous Panasonic models in my experience. It does have backlighting but this is limited to the volume and channel buttons.
The panel has good but not great connectivity. It features 3 HDMI inputs (to 1080p) and 2 high-def capable component inputs (to 1080i). There are also S-Video and composite video inputs with their accompanying stereo audio inputs, a VGA computer input and an SD card input for viewing photos and video clips etc. There are no front panel connections (all connections are on the back and side of the TV) and sadly no headphone socket.
Here’s a list of what I have connected to the set.
Pioneer BDP-51FD Blu-Ray Player (HDMI 1080p)
Pioneer DVD-520H DVD/Hard Disc Recorder (Component 480i)
Denon DVD 2910 (HDMI 1080i)
Motorola Verizon “FIOS” HDTV receiver (HDMI 1080i)
Notebook computer (VGA)
My previous TV was a superb Sony KV-34HS420 widescreen CRT monitor. I bought the Sony as a stop-gap purchase on my way to a plasma. I kept it longer than I’d planned because of its, quite frankly, stellar video performance but I’m a movie lover and that screen size just doesn’t give the immersive performance of true home theater. However good the visuals it still feels like you’re watching a film on TV.
My main reason for choosing this model over other plasma sets was its THX certification (I’ll come clean and say that a Pioneer Kuro would have been my first choice except that they start at size 50” and I just don’t have enough room in my house).
THX is supposedly a pre-calibrated setting designed to offer reference grade visuals with all the correct grayscale, color and gamma performance. In the past I’ve had to carry out major home calibration on all of my TVs (Sony included) to get that level of performance and the chance to replace that work with one touch of a button was too good to miss.
So, does it work?
-It helps to understand first that the THX setting is designed to work in a completely darkened room and may look too dim if there is any ambient light. This is no retina searing super-bright LCD screen.-
Well the answer is 80% yes and 20% no. The calibration works almost perfectly with the Pioneer Blu-Ray and DVD recorders. I did need to reset their black level controls downwards within the players’ menus to match the Sony‘s black level. I also had to adjust the tint control two steps towards red on the TV to avoid a greenish cast to the picture.
Once you make changes to settings in the THX menu they are common to all inputs and unfortunately the ones that worked great for the Pioneers did not work for the Denon. That player has a much higher luminance level than the other two and as a consequence the black levels were way too high resulting in washed out "gray" blacks and an overall insipid nasty picture. Changing the “Black level” setting in the THX menu from light to dark helped enormously but then the setting was too dark for the other players.
Fortunately the TV has a “custom” mode which can be set individually for each input. To my eyes it has near perfect color balance in the “warm 2” setting and the picture is brighter and more usable in a lit room. With a little tweaking I was able to get the custom setting with the Denon to look almost exactly the same as the THX mode with the other players which I confirmed by demoing a DVD disc of Spiderman on each player in turn.
Once I had all the input sources dialed in I sat back for some critical viewing tests.
The Panasonic does deliver an absolutely superb picture even without professional calibration. The picture quality is incredibly rich, detailed and filmic. Colors are pure and sharp, detail is exacting and there is a tremendous three dimensional quality to images.
Absolute black level is the only area where the Panasonic gives any ground to the Sony CRT. With that TV a “fade-to-black” scene in a darkened room gave no indication whatsoever that the TV was still on. On the Panasonic there is always a faint gray luminance from the screen which you wouldn’t notice in anything other than a pitch black environment. The “Panny” does give fantastic shadow detail and was 95% as impressive as the Sony in the torturous underground scene from James Bond: Quantum Of Solace.
Of course with a screen this size you do need to feed it a high quality signal to get the best from it. It loves Blu-Ray and HD FIOS broadcasts and quality up-scaled DVDs look great too but it clearly differentiates even a low bit-rate HD signal such as PBS’s Newsnight from a top quality feed like the CBS (national not local) Evening News. Some digital SD broadcasts look very poor and some aren’t so bad. I think it’s mostly down to screen size. If this were a 32” set everything would probably look amazing from a normal viewing distance. All the processing in the world can’t make a bad signal look good on a huge TV.
The TV boasts a 600hz sub-field drive which is supposed to improve motion. I can’t say if this works specifically well but to me motion on the panel looks as smooth as it did on my CRT TV which is to say it’s as good as it gets. There is a 1080p/24 frames per second option designed to look better on Blu-Ray film based material though I found it made images look very jerky indeed. I left my TV on 1080p/60 fps and it looked just fine to me.
Sound wise this has to be about the worst TV I’ve ever encountered. Even my little Sony 23” LCD sounds better than this. All you get is a nasty distorted mess. I would recommend connecting the TVs optical digital output to some form of stereo system at the very least. I would think it more likely that people considering such a purchase will route their source players’ outputs through a surround system as I have. Even so I don’t think that Panasonic should assume this to be the case and should at least try to make the audio listenable. I know they can do it. I recently bought a Panasonic 32” LCD for my mother and in context that sounded fine.
The TV can be connected to the internet via its Vieracast Ethernet connection. I haven’t tried this out as I have my laptop running through the TV’s VGA connection which somehow makes Vieracast’s limited content availability somewhat redundant. I did run a streamed feed of Star Trek the original series from Netflix "Watch Instantly" option over VGA from my laptop using a high quality FIOS connection and the picture was as good as broadcast digital TV. Sadly I don’t think you’d get the same standard with a lower bit broadband connection but that’s not the fault of the display.
You can also connect network enabled cameras to the set as the hub of a home security system. This may be useful to you but my house is so small I just look out the window!
The Panasonic G10 panels are indeed serious contenders in the world of “high-end”, consumer oriented displays. Some have complained that they are expensive but this is all relative. They are cheaper out of the starting gate than the 800U series they have replaced. Not only cheaper but better in many regards.
My overall impression is like having a massive CRT set with the added bonus of perfect geometry and convergence. You don’t get the ultra-brightness of an LCD TV but to my eyes this is as close as you are going to get to a film quality image without investing in a high quality projector and screen.
The Kuro may be better in some regards but if you don’t have the extra money or space for one I think you’re going to be extremely happy with this set.
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Amount Paid (US$): 1329.00