Dry your eyes, plasma junkies. The untimely demise of Pioneer’s Kuro line doesn’t mean you’ll have to forgo those deliciously deep blacks and theater-perfect colors for long. In fact, even as the last of the Pioneer Kuro Elites make their way into a few lucky U.S. homes, a new lineup of HDTV sets are already poised to seize the plasma king’s vacant throne.
Panasonic’s G10 series is the most worthy heir apparent we’ve had the pleasure of ogling. Our 42-inch model not only blew our eyeballs away with stunning color accuracy (and made us doubt our conviction that plasma is about to die the same lonely death as HD-DVD), but it comes with a price tag that makes its former competitor snivel in the corner with shame.
Key to this plasma’s visual appeal is its integrated THX mode. In addition to blessing various audio components, the home-theater ninjas at THX began bestowing plasma and LCD certification a few years back. Each set is subjected to approximately 400 individual tests, ranging from evaluations in signal processing to luminosity. Basically, the idea behind G10’s THX mode is to recreate the precise color gamut filmmakers use during the in-studio post-production process. And while it may not be the same as paying a professional with $10,000 worth of equipment to correct your HDTV’s horrendous default torch mode, it’s the closest thing to one-click color nirvana you’ll get these days.
The end result of all that THXing is a plasma that crushed nearly every benchmark we threw at it, producing perfect scores on both the standard-definition and HD 3:2 pulldown tests. Our unit also aced our noise-reduction and 1080i de-interlacing tests, and combed out jaggies like a pro.
As if that weren’t enough, the G10’s ability to upconvert standard-definition content impressed us. Granted, SD sources weren’t quite as sharp as their HD counterparts, but with nary an artifact to be found, it was hard to complain.
To sweeten the pot even more, all of Panasonic’s G10s now come with the company’s internet media player, VieraCast. With a quick push of a button, you’ll be able to pull up a series of web widgets including stocks, weather and YouTube videos. None of those will blow your mind, but it’s nice to have access to your Picasa and Flickr accounts from your TV. At the time of testing, we didn’t have access to the Amazon video-on-demand service (which now includes HD content), but it’s currently scheduled to debut in May with a free software upgrade.
So in short, yes, it’s sad to see Pioneer exit the plasma business. But after spending a few weeks with the G10, it’s clear we can officially stop mourning.
The king is dead. Long live the king!