- Review Date: 11/27/2013
- Bottom line: The Panasonic ZT60 family of plasma HDTVs offer the outstanding performance you would expect from a flagship line, but you can get the same performance from the VT60 series for a lot less money.
- Pros: Excellent black level. Brilliant colors. Feature-rich.
- Cons: Very expensive. Power hog. Only three HDMI ports.
Panasonic's ZT60 series of plasma HDTVs not only represent the company's flagship line, they may very well represent Panasonic's final contribution to the ever-shrinking plasma TV market, since the company is bowing out of the plasma HDTV market altogether by the year's end. These stylish displays deliver superior black levels and robust color reproduction, and they offer a strong feature set including dual remotes, Wi-Fi connectivity, an extensive catalog of Web apps, and voice control. They also boast Panasonic's Studio Master Panel technology, which is supposed to reduce reflection from ambient light to provide a better daylight viewing experience.
As with any top-of-the-line model, the ZT60 commands premium dollars; we reviewed the TC-P60ZT60, a 60-inch model with a $3,499.99 (list) price tag, and as good as it is we can't recommend it over our current Editors' Choice, the Samsung PN60F8500 ($2,799.99), or the TC-P60VT60, which offers identical performance to the ZT60 for $500 less.
Design and Features
Style-wise, there's very little that distinguishes the ZT60 from the VT60 other than a slight variation in the silver trim that surrounds the 1080p panel (the ZT60's upper trim is a bit more pronounced). Both use a sleek bezel-less edge-to-edge glass design and both include a heavy brushed silver-finished metal stand with a V-shaped mounting bracket (though you can use an optional wall-mounting kit as well). The ZT60's cabinet weighs in at a hefty 80 pounds, and the stand adds another 17 pounds of bulk.
The right side of the cabinet holds Power, Volume Up/Down, Channel Up/Down, and Input buttons (pressing and holding the Input button launches the on-screen menu). As with the VT60 you only get three HDMI ports, which are on the left side and are joined by three USB ports, an SD card slot, and a digital audio output, all of which face outward. On the back of the cabinet, facing downward, are a set of shared component/composite A/V ports, a LAN port, and an antenna/cable connector.
You get two remotes with the ZT60: a standard 9-inch, 43-button wand and a smaller 4.5-inch touchpad remote. The wand offers all the usual color-coded, playback control, and number buttons, along with Apps, Home, and 3D buttons. It also has a dedicated Netflix button and an eHelp button that launches a helpful online user manual. The touchpad remote only has a handful of buttons, but they control Volume, Channel, and Power, and can access both Web apps and the Home menu. It also has a microphone that lets you search for movies, TV shows, and other content using voice commands. Just make sure you enunciate clearly, because this feature can otherwise be frustrating. As with the VT60, the touchpad is sensitive and requires a bit of patience to master.
Picture settings are plentiful. The ZT60 offers nine picture presets including two modes reserved for professional calibration, as well as the usual Contrast, Brightness, Tint, and Sharpness adjustments. Pro settings let you set panel brightness, automatic gamma control, black extension, and color gamut. You can also adjust white balance and individual gain for reds, greens, and blues, and you can fine tune color details through Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. There are several 3D adjustments (Depth, Left/Right Swap, Auto-Detect), Game Mode, Gamma Detail adjustments, and five Color Temperature presets.
The ZT60 offers wired and wireless Ethernet connectivity, and a generous variety of Web apps including streaming video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube. Panasonic's Viera Marketplace offers loads of free and subscription-based education, lifestyle, and entertainment apps, and you can stay connected to your social network services with the preinstalled Facebook, Twitter, and Skype apps.
Like the VT60, the ZT60 delivers outstanding performance. In fact, its peak brightness, black level, and color accuracy measurements were nearly identical to its less expensive sibling and well within the "wiggle room" of any panel (and impossible to discern with the naked eye). We use a Klein K10-A colorimeter, SpectraCal's CalMan5 software, and DisplayMate's HDTV diagnostics to measure luminance and color accuracy and the ZT60 turned out a remarkable black level of 0.0061 cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 159.38 cd/m2 (the VT60 had a black level of 0.0051 cd/m2 and a peak brightness of 158.42 cd/m2). The Editors' Choice Samsung PN60F8500, by comparison, got nearly twice as bright at 301.21 cd/m2 for a contrast ratio of 55,779:1.
The ZT60's measured contrast ratio of 26,127:1 was a tad shy of the VT60's (31,062:1), but still very impressive. Shadow detail from the Planet Earth documentary on Blu-ray was sharp and well-defined, especially in the darker scenes shown in the Caves and Ocean Deep episodes. Colors remained crisp and bright regardless of the viewing angle.
Color accuracy was good, but not perfect out of the box. As shown on the CIE chromaticity chart above, greens and blues (represented by the colored dots) were very close to their ideal coordinates (represented by the boxes), but reds were a bit hot. Fortunately, there was no red tinting and colors appeared evenly saturated both on the DisplayMate Color Scales test and while watching television and Blu-ray discs.
We placed the ZT60 next to the VT60 for a side-by-side comparison and had a handful of PC Lab staffers come by to offer their opinions on which set delivered the better picture. The overwhelming response was that they looked identical. Unfortunately, we were unable to test the ZT60's Studio Master Panel technology in our labs to see how it handles ambient lighting in a sunlit room.
The ZT60 comes with two sets of active 3D glasses that are lightweight and comfortable. The 3D imagery while watching Sharks 3D was sharp and showed very good depth, but you get a slightly dimmer picture when wearing the glasses. I noticed a smattering of crosstalk but if you aren't actively looking for it you probably won't notice it.
As with most plasma HDTVs, the ZT60 requires a fair amount of power. It consumed 362 watts of power in home theater mode during testing, which is comparable to the VT60 (355 watts) but still better than the Samsung PN60F8500 (392 watts). If you're looking to save money by reducing power consumption, stick with an LED backlit model like the LG 55LA7400, which uses 99 watts of power.
If the TC-PZT60 series turns out to be Panasonic's final plasma HDTV line, it will stand as a solid representation of what plasma technology is, or was, all about: inky blacks, robust colors, and stunning image detail. Despite the TC-P60ZT60's stellar performance it doesn't replace the Samsung PN60F8500 as our reigning Editors' Choice for big screen plasma HDTVs; the Samsung outperforms the ZT60 across the board and is significantly less pricey. If your heart is set on buying a Panasonic plasma HDTV, the VT60 offers identical performance and is around $500 cheaper than the ZT60.