Panasonic TH-46PZ800U 46-Inch Plasma HDTVThe Panasonic TH-46PZ800U plasma HDTV offers stellar audio and middle-of-the-pack video in an attractive chassis.
Panasonic's stylish TH-46PZ800U nicely balances image quality and features. Unfortunately, its price($2200 as of November 4, 2008) is $200 more than that of the next-most-expensive set in its size category, the Sharp Aquos LC-46D64U, and $800 more than the two two 47-inch Vizio models (the SV470XVT and the VO47LF).
In the PC World Test Center, our panel of judges rated this plasma set's image quality as Good. Like other plasma HDTVs it supports a wide viewing angle. I was also impressed seat the level of detail it preserved: folds in a dark cloak, for instance, in our The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King DVD test (chapter 12). But other jurors complained that some colors looked washed out and dull.
The TH-46PZ800U enjoys THX certification--so when run in THX mode, the TV should approximate the image quality of a professional monitor used in mastering video content. You'll see what the filmmakers saw when they signed off on the final product. (We do not conduct our tests with preset modes such as this model's THX mode.)
Speaking of preset modes, the TH-46PZ800U doesn't ask you, out of the box, whether you'll be using the set as a store demo or in your home. As a result, you'll have to adjust the set yourself--at least by setting the mode to THX--to optimize the TV for home use.
In my hands-on tests, the Panasonic's audio quality was phenomenal when matched against competing sets' built-in speakers. The audio strained when I turned the volume all the way up, but at two-thirds of maximum volume, I could hear every quiet detail of a movie's soundtrack, and the music carried me with it as it reached a crescendo.
The set has an SD Card slot located handily up front, which you can use to port digital photos to the TV screen. Despite this convenience, though, Panasonic's playback support lacks the versatility of the USB port on the Samsung LN46A650 (which can play back MP3s and show photos).