Pros: Excellent picture & sound, very handsome looking unit.
Cons: History of defective voltage regulators in Panasonic plasma sets.
I bought the Panasonic TH-58PZ700U on 6/3/07 from Circuit City for $4333 (after a 10% discount coupon). The 600U series was highly rated in Consumer Reports. I was originally going for a 50" model, but I had the space for a 58" above the fireplace in my new house and decided to go with the larger model instead, especially after seeing the beautiful picture on this model in the store, and the unit itself is very handsome. I researched and looked at Samsung, Toshiba, Hitachi, LG and Pioneer. I was originally going for the Pioneer PRO-1140HD until I saw this Panasonic 58" in the store.
Took delivery on 6/5/07 and the unit worked beautifully out of the box. I originally used component video cables from my digital cable box/DVR (Motorola DCT6416 III) and the picture was excellent, except for standard definition broadcast channels (more blurred/out of focus) due to size of pixels and poorer quality of transmission. Later I purchased the more expensive HDMI cable for audio and sound. HD channels were phenomenal - ESPN, HBO & even local broadcasters that had HD channels. I could see the pores on the skin of David Letterman - his show was absolutely outstanding looking in high definition. Watched "Saving Private Ryan" on HBOHD and it looked very good, but I did notice some "digital jumping" in some of the scenes where the shadows of the clouds were moving across the green landscape - instead of smoothly moving across, they seemed to jump from one position to the next. But it looked very good overall.
The audio on this unit is also amazing. It almost sounds as if there is a separate subwoofer somewhere in the room. It is very rich, almost as if I had my 5.1 surround system hooked up (without the rear channel speakers).
The unit worked fine the entire day of 6/6/07 - no problems.
I had the unit on most of the day of 6/7/07 and into the evening. Was watching the Scripps Spelling Bee on ESPNHD (exciting, right?) and then all of a sudden, the unit shut itself off. I thought I had accidentally pressed a button on the remote, but I was nowhere near the remote. I tried to turn the unit back on with the remote, but nothing, no response. I did notice that the red power light next to the power button on the unit itself was blinking at me, 7 times in a row, would stop, then start over again, 7 blinks in a row. Tried powering up with the power button on the unit itself but nothing happened. I held the power button on the unit, figuring this might act as some sort of reset like a Windows PC. The light stopped blinking, some relays clicked inside the unit, the cooling fans began to whirl and then . . . nothing, the fans stopped, the unit did not come on and the power light began blinking again, 7 times in a row. I unplugged the unit from the wall and even removed the HDMI cable from the cable box. Plugged the power back in and still nothing - won't power up. I left the unit unplugged overnight and tried it again the next morning - nothing, same scenario of power light blinking 7 times in a row.
I got on the internet to do some research to see if anyone else had a similar experience with this model or any other Panasonic model, and to see if I could find out what the power light blinking 7 times meant (some kind of service code possibly?) Boy, did I hit the jackpot. See the article on "The Next America" website: http://stafford.typepad.com/the_next_america/2004/02/panasonic_plasm.html
Apparently Panasonic has had a history of defects regarding the their plasma sets (and some tube sets) suddenly shutting themselves off and not being able to be turned back on again, all with the power light flashing afterwards. Some have happened right after purchasing the unit, others months down the line after the warranty is up. The common denominator of all these problems seems to be a voltage regulator defect from the factory.
I called Panasonic's "Plasma Concierge" service to report the problem. They told me they would have a technician call me back within 24 hours and out to my house to repair the unit within 48 hours. They said they were faxing the technician the documents he needed to help repair my set. They gave me his name and phone number (one state away) and I called him myself. I asked if he had seen this type of thing before and he said he had only repaired one other Panasonic plasma unit, and, if he remembered correctly, it had a blinking light syndrome as well. He called me back later to tell me that after receiving and reviewing the faxes from Panasonic, he would have to replace 3 boards inside the unit - SD, SC & SU.
No thanks. As much as I love this television - picture, sound, looks, size and features, I can't take the chance it's going to leave me stranded again - too much documented failure history for the same problem. I had a company scheduled to wire and mount this behemoth way up on the wall above my fireplace - am I glad this thing broke on the supplied pedestal before they got here to do that!
It's a shame you can't expect to get a high quality product when you spend such a large amount of money on a piece of "high-end" video gear, and an even bigger shame that Panasonic seems to, at least on the surface, not acknowledge nor correct the problem upfront on the assembly line and instead chooses to "fix" the problem after-market by their creation of the "Panasonic Plasma Concierge" service, which I'm sure isn't a coincidence.
Circuit City is refunding my money, the delivery charge, and even coming out to pick up the defective unit for free - thank you Circuit City! I'm going to purchase the 50" Pioneer PRO-1140HD plasma I was originally looking at and see how that experience goes.
P.S. Scratch the comment about buying the Pioneer PRO-1140HD - I didn't realize it wasn't 1080p. I'm going to try the 50" Samsung FP-T5084 1080p plasma instead.
After seeing this actually published, I feel I am obligated to change the "Durability" rating to the lowest rating possible. I based the original high durability opinion on the physical construction alone, which, overall, appears to be very sturdy. But, the fact that internal components failed after only 2 days and the fact there is a long, documented history of Panasonic plasmas failing because of the same voltage regulator problem has prompted my durability rating change.