Hands On: Panasonic ZT60 and VT60 Plasma HDTVs
Deeper blacks, new Home Screen and voice control
August 01, 2013 by Grant Clauser

So what’s the picture look like? Does it live up to the hype?

Yes.

The Panasonic ZT60 is easily one of the best-looking TV’s I’ve seen. It clobbered all my test patterns, so I just started watching TV and movies right away. I’m not much of a crime show fan (real crimes in the news are disturbing enough) but I sat through a whole episode of CSI just to witness the lush liquid reds of every murder victim contrasted with the black backgrounds of the seedy hotel rooms where they met their ends.

Onto Blu-ray, played through an Oppo-BDP105, I watched The Hobbit for about the 75th time, because I can’t get enough of the Great Goblin’s wagging chins. The fight/chase scene under the Misty Mountains is one of my favorites, and the ZT60 handled it like a pro.

For 3D I popped Life of Pi. The colors and dynamics were excellent, and 3D was good, but not great. There was some crosstalk to the 3D image that I didn’t see with other TVs.

As much as I like the way the TV operates, there are two things that bothered me. First, whenever you turn on the TV, the first time you hit the volume button an advertisement pops up. That’s right, your TV manufacturer is serving you adds on top of all the ads you have to deal with from your regular TV programs. This is unique to Panasonic, and annoying.

Second, the first time you try to access the internet features you have to agree to a multi-page End User Agreement. I’ve never seen this before, or if I have, it’s never been so long and filled with Microserf-speak. The EUA essentially warns users not to do anything illegal with the TV’s software and that the company may take the feature away at any time without warning.

What about the VT60

Almost everything I’ve written about the ZT60 can also be applied to the VT60. Almost. When viewed in a dim room, the TVs offer identical picture quality. If the TV is not going in a living room full of windows and glare, and you prefer to watch your movies with the lights turned down, the VT60 will look just as good as the ZT60, and you’ll save $500.

But what if you live like a normal person and not a salamander from Lost River Caverns? The ZT60 has an important additional filter, a feature which Panasonic calls the Studio Master Panel, which cuts out most of the ambient light glare. It works. I had the TV in my basement, which is a dark cave, but even with the sconces and overhead lights turned on, the ZT60 looks good, noticeably better than the VT60. Both are great TVs; the ZT is a little better in ambient light. It’s worth recognizing though, that LED LCDs still generally look better in bright rooms than any plasma.

The VT also includes a pop-up camera on top. The camera is used for Skype video calls, facial recognition (for switching to different home screens) and games. The VT60 also includes front-firing speakers, while the ZT60’s speakers fire back and down.  The VT60s speakers do sound much better than the speakers in the ZT60, so if you’re not using a separate sound system or soundbar, that might be something to take into consideration.

Bottom Line
The choice between the two TVs is pretty easy: dark room=VT60; bright room=ZT60. If you’re looking for the best picture, either one of these may be it. I haven’t had a chance to try all the plasma TVs on the market (Samsung’s F8500 is an excellent one to compare), and new OLED and 4K TVs are in completely different price categories, so look around. Samsung TVs also have more a more comprehensive approach to smart TV, but that might not be important to every buyer. 

Panasonic TC-P60ZT60: $3,499.99
Panasonic TC-P60VT60: $2,999.99


More articles to help you find the perfect TV:
What Do Pros Looks for in HDTVs?
Are Curved OLED TVs a Big Deal?
The Case for Dumb TVs
Tips for New TV Buyers

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Grant Clauser - Technology and Web Editor, Electronic House
Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.

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