In many ways, this is a watershed product in the world of home cinema, the biggest commercially available plasma TV we've yet seen - all 65 inches of it. But it's not just the sheer size that's got me excited about the 65PV500; this is a genuine consumer product - rather than a corporate peripheral - from Panasonic, maker of many of the finest plasma TVs on the market.

Impressively the 65PV500 shares Panasonic's Viera trademark good looks, meaning it is imperiously clad in a slick, surprisingly slender black frame, with the familiar strip of silver underneath. Even the detachable speakers come in a tastefully matching black.

The silver strip carries the SD card slot familiar from smaller PV500 sets, and, as before, this can be used for playing or recording digital stills or recording MPEG4 video from the integrated tuner and AV inputs.

Other connections tick all the key high-end TV boxes, with HDMI and component jacks joining a D-Sub PC port, three Scarts (two RGB-enabled), S-video input and so on. There's also a slot for adding Top-Up TV to the digital tuner.

Even as a Freeview TV, the TH-65PV500 is well-specified, with full 7-day electronic guide support, including genre filtering and the facility to set recording events (up to eight of them) simply by selecting programmes from the listings.

The screen also enjoys all the new picture processing and innovations found on the smaller PV500 screens. A new Viera colour-management system promises an astounding 8.6 billion colours, by combining a claimed 2,084 shades of greyscale gradation with more precise control of the brightness level and colour tone at individual pixel level.

Panasonic's Real Black Drive for upping black levels has also been improved, reducing further the pre-discharge emissions in the plasma pixel chambers that cause noise in dark areas on many plasma TVs. Also helping black levels is new Black Filter technology, which reduces ambient reflections and adds more richness to dark image areas.

Plasma's traditional problems with showing motion, meanwhile, are supposedly addressed by new motionsensing circuitry that detects potential trouble spots and processes out the noise before it can appear.

Last but not least the 65PV500 benefits from a 'sub-pixel' control system. This tackles jagged or blurred edges by processing each colour component in the RGB signal separately, rather than en masse as happens normally.

With dreams of diving headlong into king-sized versions of the superb pictures found on other PV500 plasma TVs, I switched the 65PV500 on... and found myself feeling seriously satisfied.

Performance

Maybe I was just awed by its physical size, but I would swear that, after calibration, no super-sized (55in or over) plasma TV has ever delivered more natural colour reproduction. Rich reds can occasionally look a touch orangey, but everything else - including notoriously tricky skin tones - is impressively believable.

It helps, too, that there's immense subtlety in the gradations, meaning there's practically no evidence of the background solarisation or the 'stepped', waxy appearance to skin that can plague lesser plasma rivals.

More subtlety can be seen in the TV's shadow detailing.

The shots of Captain Jack languishing in his jail cell during the night of the Black Pearl attack in Pirates of the Caribbean look exceptionally threedimensional thanks to the amount of subtle greyscaling on show.

The 65PV500 also scores points with its black level response. In fact, dark areas look almost as black here as they do on the smaller PV500s. View the display in a darkened room and the result is hugely cinematic. We measured real world contrast at 290:1.

Another key talent of this giant Panny is its suppression of noise. Screens of such prodigious dimensions naturally tend to emphasise any weaknesses in low-quality sources, but the 65PV500's image processing and scaling is so good that even images from the set's own digital tuner look astoundingly smooth and clean. In this respect, more than any other, the 65PV500 proves that it really was designed for the living room rather than the boardroom.

You might be forgiven for thinking that a screen such as this would be intolerant of standard-definition sources, such as DVD, but onscreen results are surprisingly good. Images retain a smoothness that is easy on the eye.

However, where this screen really shines is with high-definition. If you've only seen HD running on a smaller set - say a 32in LCD or even a 42in plasma - and not felt that it's quite as revolutionary as you'd expected, check it out on a screen as big and accomplished as this and you'll soon change your tune. If high-definition ever had a natural home, it's on the 65PV500. The levels of details are so extraordinary, you feel compelled to watch, and watch, and watch...

One other consequence of the size of the set is its general brightness; the picture isn't quite as bright as I'd have ideally liked. And depending on your viewing angle, it is possible to spot a secondary 'ghost' image (caused by the gap between the panel's glass strata). This only occurs when you are more than about 45º off axis.

Although I'm convinced that anyone forking out £9k on a screen will probably be accompanying it with a separate sound system, it's worth stating that the 65PV500's speakers deliver a sound that almost matches the pictures in scale. The soundstage spreads wide, and there's bass rumble and treble clarity aplenty.

For those looking for a flatscreen that is rather more special than most, this monster TV comes very highly recommended. Not only is the screen freakishly large, but it has a picture integrity that can take your breath away. Fine with DVD and just plain mind-blowing with high-definition, it would be my display of choice to partner Sky's upcoming HD services (if mundane issues such space are not a concern). John Archer