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The HDTV Podcast
This review is featured in the latest podcast from The HT Guys

We just reviewed the Panasonic TH-50PX75U, which comes with a street price of $2100 (buy now) a few shows ago. We loved the TV, but it's still a 720p model. We got a ton of email asking why we were living in the past, why we would have anything to do with a 720p plasma when the new 1080p model, the TH-50PZ700U, is already available. To be perfectly honest, we didn't have much luck getting our hands on one of the 1080p sets, so we went ahead with the 720p. Add on the fact that we still really like the 720p set, and our minds were made up. But not to turn a deaf ear to our loyal listeners, we tried our best to find a way to review the 1080p model. By the way, the extra pixels add up to a street price of $2900 (buy now).

As luck would have it, the wonderful people at Magnolia Audio Video in our local Best Buy in Mission Viejo had the TV and were willing to help us out. They were great; allowing us to come by a little before they opened and play with the TV for a while. They hooked up aBlu -ray player for us, let us turn on some of the other sets to do side by side comparisons, even let us go a little nuts for a while, tweaking settings and playing our own discs. It was an "in store" review, but was a close to an "on site" review as we could have had. They really went out of their way to make us feel at home. If you haven't been to a Magnolia in your area, you should really check it out. It's a great, non-threatening place to demo home theater gear.

Let's start with the best of the best. Using a 1080p Blu-ray source, the TV look absolutely flawless - perhaps the best 1080p display we've seen. The colors were amazing, the detail was phenomenal and the blacks were the blackest (is that a word?) we've seen on a digital display. We watched a couple 1080p movies and they all looked great. The TV didn't work with 1080p/24, so we had to have theBlu-ray player, a Sony BDP-S1, do the conversion to 1080p/60. Moving down the list to HD content, the set did well. Not exceptional, but not bad. It looked good on 1080i and 720p, but actually didn't look any better with those two formats than the 720p model we reviewed a couple weeks ago. For HD material it performed exactly like you would expect. It doesn't make the 720p or 1080i look any better, and it probably doesn't need to.

Stepping down again to bad HD content - overly compressed 720p running on Magnolia's loop - the 1080p started to show all those extra pixels. Blowing that bad content up just didn't work out well. The 720p TV seemed to handle it much better. There was more noise, more shimmering, more macro-blocking - essentially more of everything you don't want - on the 1080p set. Moving on down the ladder to your standard 480i DVD content, the set did surprisingly well. After watching the bad HD stuff, we didn't have high hopes for the DVDs, but they looked just as good on the 1080p set as they did on any other TV we looked at. We liked watching DVDs on it.

As far as the specs go, the plasma is, of course, 1920x1080 resolution, or 1080p. It has a 5000:1 contrast ratio, built-in ATSC, QAM and NTSC tuners and 2 HDMI inputs, each of which supports 1080p/60 and Panasonic's EZ Sync control protocol. It has a sleek black bezel with stereo speakers included. The stereo speakers sound nice, but you really don't want to use them for movie watching. Just like any other TV, they miss all the highs, lows and subtle details of a soundtrack. But for news or sit-coms, they'd probably do just fine. The remote is functional and the menus are very easy to use.

We were very pleased with the 60U's performance and likewise we are pleased with the 75U. The TV does a great job with bright HD content. Colors are accurate and skins tones look natural. We found that dark scenes were not a problem for this TV and it we were able to make out detail even with the most demanding material. LCDs are making great strides with black but it is still difficult to beat a plasma. The television produced very black blacks. So far this sounds pretty much like the review of the 60U TV. Well we did have two issues with the picture performance of the 60U that were addressed with this TV.

Overall we believe the TH-50PZ700U is excellent for watching movies, or any content with very high quality compression, so maybe we should say movies and Discovery HD Theater (buy now). But if you watch a lot of overly compressed HD content, or a lot of standard definition shows, our advice would be to save a thousand dollars or so and get a 720p model (buy now). You might be missing some of the wow factor with 1080p content, but will enjoy the other stuff a lot more.

Posted by The HT Guys, May 30, 2007 8:52 AM

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About The HT Guys

The HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.

Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.

ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.

Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.