Panasonic Plasma TV Review

Model: Panasonic TH-58PX600U
Description: 58" Plasma Television, Widescreen 16:9 Format
Resolution: 1366 x 768 (HDTV)

Includes: Integrated pedestal stand and HD2D Sound Enhanced Speaker System,
NTSC and ATSC (HDTV) tuners, 2 HDMI high-definition inputs and one compter 15 pin VGA input,
2 component video, 3 composite video, 3 S-Video connection.

Color: Silver and Black Bezel and casing.

Reviewer: Robert Wiley
Review Date: October 2006


The Panasonic TH-58PX600U contains the 9th generation panel of the ever-popular Panasonic plasma line. This is a new size foray for Panasonic and the entire viewing world and it is massive! One can only assume that since the 50" plasma size is 8" larger than the 42" plasma, Panasonic went up another 8" to the 58" from the 50". That would be some type of bad reasoning I guess. The real explanation lies with the manufacturing process and how many 58" sheets of plasma glass (plasma display element) the factory can produce as opposed to the 65" glass that they also make on a per hour basis. It's all about economics, and the 58" size - though incredibly huge can be produced and offered at a drastically reduced price from the 65" offering as a result of the production output. This plasma TV has impressive HD resolution, and all the inputs one could want - even VGA 15 pin computer input.

With each passing generation, other top-tier plasma television manufacturers—such as Samsung, Pioneer, and Toshiba—are improving both their picture performance and overall value. Samsung and Toshiba have focused on matching Panasonic's aggressive price-point with their new models. Pioneer, on the other hand, remains focused on its first-rate picture quality and aesthetic appeal and providing a comprehensive feature set at a slightly more expensive price. This upgraded Panasonic PX600U series model compares equally with Pioneer's excellent PDP-6070HD model in features, appearance, inputs and quality while the less expensive Panasonic PX60U series lacks some of the "extras" these two offer.

PICTURE: 97/100

Like most televisions on the market today, the Panasonic TH-58PX600U came out of the box with superficially bright default picture settings. Out of the box, the picture is in a default picture mode setting of Vivid (which maximizes Contrast and Sharpness settings) and a color temperature setting of Cool. The first task before examining the picture quality of the plasma TV is to find the picture settings that get us closest to D6500K—the optimum prescribed color temperature used by the film and broadcast industry. Because Panasonic plasmas typically have a cooler default temperature setting than other brands (which often leads to a "blue push" in the white balance), the "Warm" color temperature setting is preferred for increased realism. By switching to the "Standard" picture setting (which has medium Contrast and Sharpness settings) and using a "Warm" color temperature, we quickly move much closer to D6500K. Maintaining a color temperature close to D6500K is important because it is the basis on which the rest of the picture calibrations are made.

Panasonic Plasma TV Review

Color and detail on the Panasonic TH-58PX600U was outstanding

The following table contains the picture settings for the TH-58PX600U after its ISF calibration. We highly suggest that you use these settings if you purchase or own this television. By configuring the television to the below settings we were able to get the color temperature to D6650K, a substantial improvement over the out-of-the-box measurement of D10000K+. Using the below settings to regulate the color temperature and white balance virtually perfects the picture of the TH-58PX600U:

Panasonic TH-58PX600U Optimal Picture Settings
Picture Mode Standard
Picture +22
Brightness +8
Color -1
Tint -4
Sharpness -14
Color Temperature Warm
Enhanced Black Level Off

Figure 1. Optimal picture settings for the Panasonic TH-58PX600U using ISF calibration.

At these settings, practically speaking, there is no further calibration needed on this model. There is no need to tinker with hiring a calibration specialist and tinkering with dangerous service menus.

Wow, once the picture was calibrated the TH-58PX600U really sparkled. The picture is clear, crisp and with great color accuracy and deep blacks. Watching an HD upgraded version of Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones was fantastic on this TV. I just turned the sound off and enjoyed the visual clarity, deep color saturation and excellent chip processing of this Panasonic plasma. In the stark deserts of Tatooine there are scenes with harsh, bright sunlight and demanding contrast. I was actually able to make out the texture of the sand dunes and was captured by the scenes moving from bright harsh exterior lighting to dark interiors of the farm hut without any false contouring (banding patterns in dark scenes). Dark matter detailing was superb in a night scene in a torchlit camp of the Sand People when Anakin has gone to find his mother. There was no blotching and black out in dark areas, definition remained true.

Panasonic Plasmas are unmatched in dark scene performance; the PX600U series is no exception This smooth transition between dark shades can be attributed to the 3,072 shades of gradation in the TH-58PX600U—an attribute that sets Panasonic plasmas apart from the 2nd tier plasmas manufacturers.

After we performed the ISF calibration to optimize the television's picture, we decided to measure the TH-58X600U's contrast ratio (light output ratio of whitest white to the blackest black) for ourselves. We used a signal generator to display the checkboard test pattern for contrast, and the accompanying colorimeter to measure the light output from each sample. While the black levels on the TH-58600U are quite impressive, our measured contrast ratio for the television was 779:1 which is superb. Manufacturers of flat panel TV, including Panasonic, greatly "enhance" their specifications to entice buyers and "beat" the competition. There are few standards for their unrealistic and compromised measurements.

Panasonic TH-58PX600U Review

Contrast measurements on the TH-58PX600U were very impressive

HD college football broadcasts were spectacular and make for an excellent Saturday afternoon. The depth is incredible especially when viewed on over the air broadcasts as opposed to HD cable programming. The uncompressed signal is astoundingly clear. Flesh tones are amazing, and colors vibrant - it seems you could reach around the 3D players.


The PX600U series is a slight step up in aesthetics from the PX60U series. It's got that Pro appeal that says it costs more with black banding around the screen and a thin silver finish bezel surrounding the black banding. The excellent 31 watt audio system which incorporates 2 subwoofers is hidden in the casing. This is an 11 watt upgrade from the PX60U series. The new look of the TH-58PX600U is definitely very modern, and it has significant "pop." The unit is massive at 57.3 inches wide, 36.2 inches in height and 5.7 inches deep.

For the TH-58PX600U, Panasonic improves its already user-friendly remote control. The easy-to-find buttons are generally in the same place as the last model, but now they are bigger and easier to find without looking. The remote feels good in your hand, has intuitive controls, and would be a serviceable solution as a universal remote control.

The on-screen menu system on the TH-58PX600U is relatively unchanged from Panasonic's previous generation TH-58PX600U, however it has the new electronic programming guide included in this upgraded model. I found the whole system very intuitive. When the Menu button on the remote control is pressed, the main menu options—Picture, Audio, Timer, Lock, Memory Card, and Setup – appear in an easy-to-read fashion. The Picture menu includes the picture controls required to calibrate the picture. The Audio menu features Bass, Treble, and Balance adjustments. In the Other Adjust sub-menu for Audio, you can choose Surround for a marginal Virtual Surround Sound experience. Also in this sub-menu, the users with Home Theater systems may choose to simply turn off the internal speakers of the television in favor of your own surround sound set up. The invisible speakers system will complement this choice.

When viewing material from a non-HDTV source, aspect ratio becomes a concern with the TH-58PX600U. There are four modes for adjusting regular 4:3 inputs to the widescreen 16:9. The first option is to watch the source in its native 4:3 ratio with the sidebar "letter-boxes." Panasonic allows the customer to change the color of the letter boxing, and it is wise to change these to black if you want to use this aspect ratio setting. With Full mode, the picture is uniformly horizontally stretched across the screen for true HD content. With Zoom mode, the plasma cuts off the top and bottom of the screen and zooms in so that the sides match with the ends of the screen. Obviously, most people will not choose this setting because they don't want to lose any of the picture. The final choice is the most popular—Just mode - which most likely stands for 'justified". Just mode stretches the picture horizontally but uses a special algorithm to correct size the picture and minimize distortion, particularly in the middle of the screen. With this method, distortion on a 4:3 source is virtually undetectable and I have found this the preferred way to watch even 4:3 programming after a little break in period for your eyes to adjust.

Panasonic adds a front composite video input and digital card slot input at the front of the panel for this HDTV plasma. This is particularly useful if you want to display images from a digital camera or a source that you will use only temporarily. The 58PX600U also contains a 15 pin VGA input for convenient computer hook up and use. There is also an SD (secure digital) memory card slot for viewing digital camera and camcorder content.

Another important addition to the TH-58PX600U plasma TV is the second HDMI input. Because of the increase in popularity of new HD and Blue Ray DVD players and digital high-definition cable and satellite boxes which already support the HDMI format. One additional input over the PX60U series is the cable card slot for those who are adamant about losing that cable box. The plasma also includes digital audio output capabilities. Even though one cannot choose input sources directly on the remote, it is easy to navigate to the chosen source.

One more included feature of the TH-58PX600U series over the TH-58PX60U series is a PIP (picture in picture) option. Though rarely used, there are those football game days when sound is not a must but seeing both games is!

The two speaker two subwoofer audio system totals 31 Watts of power and are more than adequate for home viewing. This is an 11-watt upgrade over the PX60U series. With the beefier sound system, you notice discernable channel separation and a better soundstage than you might expect from TV speakers, and enough bass response to procide some punch. Panasonic offers a Virtual Surround option for the TH-58PX600U and its performance is robust for such a in-built system. While many home theater aficionados will want to use their own surround sound speaker system, the included speakers will impress the average consumer.

VALUE: 97/100

The Panasonic TH-58PX600U is an excellent value piece and can be purchased for around $4200. That's a LOT of screen for the money! It compares well with the Pioneer PDP-6070HD as its only real competition in the 58" to 61" TV range. Only the Samsung 63" plasma TVs can compare to this unit in price per inch. It contains all of the features of the Pioneer PDP-6070HD (around $5500) but for much less money and only 2" smaller. It has the pro quality feature set of upgraded sound system, cool looks, cable card input, and computer compatibility and input that the Panasonic TH-PX60U series lacks and at only a couple hundred dollars more. Panasonic introduced the TH-58PX600U with an MSRP of $5,999 at specialty retailers and authorized Panasonic delaers both online and brick and mortar.


* Ratings from 70 to 100. Ratings in the 60s for any category are reserved for product with a serious defect or design flaw.

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