Panasonic has officially launched its “Beyond The Reference” ZT60 plasma for the UK and European markets this afternoon. In a bold move that is designed to lay a lingering ghost to rest, the Japanese manufacturer actually demoed the much-anticipated plasma TV side-by-side against a now-discontinued Pioneer Kuro KRP-600A which is widely considered by many video enthusiasts to be the best flat-screen television of all time (until now).
|Panasonic TX-P60ZT60 (ZT60) holds its own against Kuro challenge|
Obviously, we won’t know for sure how the new Panasonic plasma compares to the venerable and sorely missed Kuro, but the fact that the company is directly pitting the two head-to-head certainly demonstrates confidence in the product, to say the least.
In European markets, the Viera ZT60 series will only be available in one 60-inch screen size, that is the Panasonic TX-P60ZT60 (or TX-P60ZT60B in the United Kingdom). Unusually for Panasonic, the brand is directly addressing the enthusiast market with the ZT60. We learned today that the display will ship with a premium booklet which carries individualised serial number as well as signature of the project’s lead engineer. There will be also gold-plated “plaques” on the back, and prominent exclusive branding when the television is turned on.
What’s more, we noticed that the Pioneer Kuro model on exhibit was beginning to be affected by a red tint in the blacks (uneven across the screen surface), which some users have reported. Obviously, we can’t say for sure how the TX-P60ZT60 will hold up over the long term, but it’s reassuring to know that enthusiasts may finally have a viable replacement for their aging TVs.
The ZT60 was also joined by the Panasonic VT50 series, an HDTV we rated highly in terms of black-level performance (at least in some of its picture modes). Obviously we’ll need to wait for review units before we can put it to science, but the black level of the 60ZT60 looks considerably better than last year’s best Panasonic plasma series, and subjectively assessed, is on par with the last-gen Kuro KRP-600A.
The Panasonic ZT60 uses a refined manufacturing process dubbed “Air Gapless Technology” (AGL) which does away with the air gap inbetween the front glass and the plasma panel – the two are now bonded together. Although we had no complaints about internal reflections on the VT50, it’s another reminder that Panasonic is pulling out all the stops to deliver a premium product.
There’s also a new red phosphor which extends the colour gamut, although all Panasonic plasmas have managed to fully reproduce the Rec.709 HDTV gamut for the last few years, so this impressive engineering feat is not necessarily of much use to those of us interested in accuracy. 30,720 steps of gradation are also promised for silky smooth images free of tone jumps.
Pricing has yet to be set in stone, but is said to be around the £4000 mark. The Panasonic TX-P60ZT60B is set to hit UK shops in May.