Several TV makers have unveiled Internet-ready televisions. Though let it be said: Internet-linked TVs are not designed for those who want to surf the web. In their current incarnation, they are meant to enhance our TV viewing experience by offering more entertainment choices and useful web-based information. The limited Internet content is accessed via icons, or widgets, that are located on the screen.
Enter Panasonic’s 46-inch Viera TC-P46G10 plasma TV, which is definitely on the cutting edge of the Internet TV scene.
All new Panasonic Viera plasma TVs in the G Series offer Internet TV in what Panasonic calls Viera Cast. The feature is accessed via a semicircular green button on the remote. The first time you press the VIERA CAST button, it will ask you to upgrade the firmware. I had to do this twice.
Once that was settled, a press of the VIERA CAST button brings up several boxes on the screen. The center box is the video I was just watching—and around it are widgets for VIERA CAST SETTINGS, YOUTUBE, TODAY’S WEATHER, a PANASONIC CONCIERGE (help), PICASA WEB ALBUMS, BLOOMBERG TELEVISION, and AMAZON VIDEO ON DEMAND. Click on any box, and it will fill the screen. I used the remote’s navigation dial to move around and access content. When finished, I pressed the VIERA CAST key, and the boxes disappeared.
Don’t expect YouTube videos to be displayed at the TV’s Full HD 1080p resolution, however. You’ll get whatever resolution the video was shot in, blown up to fill the screen, warts and all. On the other hand, utilizing Amazon Video On Demand will allow you to download and stream HD movies. (Though you’ll have to open an account with your computer to utilize this function.) While some may criticize Panasonic for not including Netflix, Amazon does offer volumes of HD movie titles for streaming. Of course, if you want Netflix also, you can buy a Blu-ray player (to watch movies in 1080p screen resolution) from either LG or Samsung that includes this service.
There’s even a COMING SOON box for future Viera Cast services, so who knows—Panasonic may sign an agreement with Netflix in the near future.
So, how did the TC-P46G10 work as an HDTV? Quite well. The setup was easy and straightforward. It was a simple task of connecting the cable from my rooftop antenna for over-the-air HD, and one HDMI cable into the HDMI 1 input. Except for over-the-air, all signals were routed through an Onkyo TX-SR875 A/V Receiver. HD video signals were provided by Dish Network’s ViP722 HD set-top box, and an LG Blu-ray player also served up 1080p content.
All Viera G10 Series plasma TVs offer a screen resolution of 1080p, THX certification, an SD card slot for the viewing of digital camera images, and they are energy-efficient. Key image enhancements include 600Hz Sub-Field Drive that offers greater clarity in fast moving scenes, especially in movies. Think of it as the plasma TV equivalent to 120Hz or 240Hz refresh rates on LCD TVs, but at a blazing 600Hz.
Movies have always been plasma’s strong suit, and they did not disappoint. The Dark Knight offered images of exceptional clarity and provided many shades of black. The lush jungle flora of Lost Seasons 1 & 2, now finally on Blu-ray, looked so realistic that you could almost reach out and touch the greenery.
And via the SD card slot, the stills from my digital camera never looked so good blown up to 46 diagonal inches. Spectacular images of my recent trip to Italy and Greece from my Canon PowerShot SX10 IS, which is a 10 megapixel camera, made me wistful for the Amalfi Coast again!
The Panasonic Viera TC-P46G10 is an excellent example of a new breed of plasma HDTV that rendered images from all sources quite well. Brightness and contrast ratio were very good, even in a brightly lit room. All it took was some manipulation of the picture settings from the on-screen menus to render razor-sharp and natural-looking images.
But what separates this model from others on the market is its Viera Cast service. I found it to be handy and easy to use. Image “burn in” was not an issue either. And the set’s list price of $1,500—or approximately $1,100 on Amazon.com—makes it quite the bargain.
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Dennis has been involved with Consumer Electronics forever it seems. His 25+-year career includes a 12-year tour of duty at Consumer Reports magazine, as well as stints as a product reviewer, market analyst, technical editor, and consultant for the electronics industry. He lives in Ossining, NY with his two children, one demanding cat and piles of A/V equipment.