Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A Review

The Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A is an excellent TV, but it’s a Plasma TV. Is that really a problem?
Plasma has had a fascinating history in the living room. It was the first flat screen type you could buy, and long defended by those who love Plasma for the clarity potential that only Plasma could bring.
There’s a problem with that statement, however, and it’s the simple fact that there’s really only one “name brand” Plasma manufacturer left pitching it as premium product — and Panasonic’s admitted that it’s throwing in the towel on Plasma development as of next month. There will still be Panasonic Plasma panels on store shelves for a few months after that, but Plasma as a TV technology is basically a walking corpse, only found in cheapest entry-level sets.
Against that backdrop, I’m testing Panasonic’s VIERA TH-P65VT60A. It’s a premium-priced Plasma TV. Would you be mad to buy one?

Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A: On the plus side

Plasma’s big selling point has always been the ability to deliver unparalleled contrast, and here the VIERA TH-P65VT60A didn’t disappoint, with crisp clear blacks and excellent colour reproduction for both film and video game material. It approached — but didn’t quite best — the contrast and picture that I’ve seen out of OLED TVs such as the LG 55EA9800 Curved OLED TV. Given the price disparity, that’s saying a lot about the quality of the Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A. Buy one, and you won’t be disappointed by the quality of the display for images up to Full HD quality.

Picture quality? Excellent. (It's even better when you switch it on)
Picture quality? Excellent.
(It’s even better when you switch it on)

Picture quality isn’t the VIERA TH-P65VT60A’s only calling card, however. It’s a Smart TV, and a 3D-capable TV as well, but you could almost take that as read for a TV at this kind of price point.
It also comes with an additional remote control that incorporates a touchpad and voice control. The integrated camera handles both Skype and facial recognition. Gimmicky? You bet, but the add-on features do (mostly) work. You can set up individual home screens with whatever smart TV apps suit you best — which in most cases is likely to be catchup TV, where Panasonic has deals in place with most of the established players in the local market except Foxtel, who remain a Samsung exclusive.

Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A: On the minus side

The VIERA TH-P65VT60A is very nice TV once you’ve got it set up, but it suffers a little from obtuse menu structures. Many features are present, but it’s not always apparent how you’re meant to get to them. Should I hit the “menu” button at the top left, or the “home” button just below? What’s the difference again with the “option” button? There’s a line between having lots of power at your command and actually being able to make seamless use of it.
It’s a minor quibble, but the Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A’s stand has a single fixed position. If you want to alter the angle of the TV left to right, you’ve got to shuffle the whole thing, rather than turning on a pivot.

Need to make an angular adjustment? You've got to shift the whole telly.
Need to make an angular adjustment? You’ve got to shift the whole telly.

Plasma can deliver great pictures, but at a heavy price. Specifically, Plasmas typically cost a bit more to keep running than a comparable LCD, and that’s going to be why the VIERA TH-P65VT60A only has a two and a half energy star rating. Buy one, and you’re likely to see an upshift in your power bills, although to be fair the same is going to be true of any screen that’s 65 inches in size.
The VIERA TH-P65VT60A is 3D-capable, but via active shutter glasses. I’ll admit personal bias here; active shutter glasses make me want to throw up after only a short period of viewing, where passive shutter glasses are bearable. I’m well aware that passive glasses require a drop in resolution, but that’s preferable in my view to glasses you’ve got to recharge just so they can make you discharge your lunch. Your opinion may vary.

Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A: Pricing

Panasonic suggests a recommended retail price of $4499 for the VIERA TH-P65VT60A. You’d be well advised to shop around, however; even just a cursory glance online finds plenty of retailers selling it for around $3,500. That’s quite a significant reduction against RRP, although it still does mark the VIERA TH-P65VT60A out as a higher-end, higher priced set.

Panasonic VIERA TH-P65VT60A: Fat Duck verdict

This is a genuinely hard TV to assess. There’s part of me that wants to point out that if Plasma’s a technology on the way out that in 5-10 years spares could be very interesting to get hold of, and that’s a warning bell. One I’m sure Panasonic probably wouldn’t want me to point out, but there it is. Not a bargain!
The flipside of that is that this particular TV delivered images as close as I’ve seen to the general excellence of the LG OLED for around a quarter of the price. I want to recommend it for that alone. Bargain!
Then again, Plasma TVs cost more to run, and this will be no exception. Not a bargain!
But Panasonic has put just about everything you might want in a Smart TV into the VIERA TH-P65VT60A, and several other gimmicks besides. Bargain!
Ultimately, I’ve got to put it this way. The VIERA TH-P65VT60A is probably going to be Panasonic’s last Plasma “Hero” TV in Australia.
It’s an excellent TV, and they’ve thrown the kitchen sink at it in terms of functions and features. Some of those features aren’t as essential as others, although they do stay out of the way if you’re not using them. It’s priced well below the absolute premium that you pay for UHDTV or OLED panels, but it’s still well above the price you could pay for a simpler set.
That’s the VIERA TH-P65VT60A’s problem, I think.
Nobody (or nobody sane) buys a new TV every year, or arguably even every five years. Five years from now, the OLED and UHDTVs of today won’t even command the price being asked for the VIERA TH-P65VT60A. As the last of a dying breed, the VIERA TH-P65VT60A is fine — but I’d suggest buying something simpler with your money if you absolutely must have a new TV right now and saving for a few years to get something that’ll last well beyond that as more 4K content becomes available.

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