Everything about the Panasonic P58V10 is big.

Its 58in screen; its unexpectedly (by today's svelte standards) expansive bezel; its feature list and, unfortunately, its price, which at around £3.5k seems to exist in some sort of alternate commercial reality to the ultra-aggressive one currently being fought over by the likes of Samsung, LG and Toshiba.

Although as we're about to discover, the P58V10's no-expense-spared approach pays such handsome dividends that the screen should find a fan base among the AV cognoscenti for whom money is still no object.

Features

Sitting just one rung from the top of Panasonic's large screen ladder, the P58V10 is fearsomely well specified.

The panel is, of course, endowed with a full HD pixel count.

But rather more eye-catching is its claimed contrast ratio of 2million:1, and the fact that it uses Panasonic's new NeoPDP panel design, with its enhanced brightness and greater running economies.

Panasonic tx-p58v10

The P58V10 is not, as we hinted in our introduction, the slinkiest TV in the world, but then a TV of such a size and price commonly ends up in a dedicated AV room where its hefty design is much easier to accommodate.

When it comes to connections, the P58V10 does enough to keep demanding users happy, thanks to its four HDMIs, an SD card slot capable of playing AVCHD and DivX video files as well as JPEG photos, plus an Ethernet port.

The latter is significant for two reasons. First, as with all of Panasonic's mid and upper range sets, the P58V10 has a built-in Freesat tuner, so the port will enable you to access the BBC iPlayer when it finally rolls out across the whole Freesat product line.

The Ethernet connection also makes it possible for you to access Panasonic's content-controlled portion of the Internet, dubbed VieraCast. Here you can easily navigate through specially constructed versions of YouTube, EuroSport and Picasa.

While this content isn't exactly copious right now, it is likely to increase in the coming months.

Ideally, a TV as costly as the P58V10 might have run to a fifth HDMI and included built-in Wi-Fi, but most people should be able to easily work around these issues.

Panasonic tx-p58v10

Where the P58V10 really justifies its price is with its picture processing. It boasts, for instance, Panasonic's so-called 600Hz system, where frame interpolation processing inserts enough extra 'sub-field' frames of image data to permit Panasonic to claim a 600Hz effect, even though the screen doesn't physically refresh 600 times per second.

The set also boasts the Pro 4 version of the brand's general purpose V-real video processing engine, as well as, its Digital Cinema Colour system, which uses top of the line processing to produce a range of colours close to that achieved by the new commercial digital cinemas cropping up with increasing regularity nowadays.

Finally, while the P58V10 isn't quite as infinitely flexible during picture set up as we'd like it to be, it does at least try to take some of the headache out of optimising images by including a picture preset that's been calibrated and formally approved by the independent THX quality assurance brand.

Ease of use

Aside from burying its keyframe interpolation options in a slightly obscure sub-menu, the P58V10 is an exercise in simplicity, with a clear, but hugely effective, remote control with simple and clear on-screen menus.

Panasonic tx-p58v10

The THX preset can take a lot of the sweat out of the initial calibration efforts we'd always recommend you put in with any decent TV.

Picture

While the P58V10 isn't without its picture flaws, which we'll cover presently, it's at its jaw-dropping best when doing what it will surely be its main occupation: playing movies from Blu-ray, Sky HD or HD games.

With these sorts of pristine high-definition sources, it produces one of the most flat-out cinematic pictures we've seen.

Dark scenes, for instance, are a joy to behold compared with most flat TVs, as the P58V10 delivers that key movie ingredient of deep, natural but also subtly shaded and detailed black levels in a way no straight LCD TV, and precious few LED sets, can come close to.

Even more striking, for us, is the P58V10's colour response. For as well as delivering the unusual (for plasma) vibrancy noted with most other NeoPDP designs, the P58V10 also avoids the orange-tinged reds and slightly green undertone to many dark scenes, which were so noticeable on various other Panasonic plasmas throughout 2009.

This is especially true if you use the set's Digital Cinema Colour option, which also boosts the range of the colour palette.

Further helping to make the P58V10 a movie screen par excellence is its wondrous knack of reproducing detail in HD sources – including, of course, the pair of high-definition channels currently offered on Freesat.

The sensation of clarity with the P58V10's pictures also owes a debt of gratitude to the '600Hz' engine, as the image suffers markedly less judder and edge flickering than we tend to see with Panasonic's non-600Hz plasmas.

While the panel's HD pictures are imperious, though, they're not quite perfect, owing to the very occasional forced colour and appearance of a low-level processing artefact, which occurs if you're using the TV's Intelligent Frame Creation frame creation system.

Oddly, the picture suffers from quite a few more rogue colours when you switch to standard definition material.

Panasonic tx-p58v10

However you can make improvements by toning down the colour settings for standard-definition viewing, and in other ways the set's Freeview/standard-def Freesat pictures actually hold up surprisingly well considering the enormity of the screen they're appearing on.

Sound

Although the P58V10's size doesn't quite lead to the sort of audio excellence we'd hoped for, the TV does, nonetheless, sound a lot more powerful, clear and dynamic than most of its flatscreen rivals.

Value

While the quality of the P58V10's pictures suggests that there are some seriously high-end processing and manufacturing techniques going on behind the scenes, it's still a shame that a screen of this high calibre is only likely to be affordable to a well-heeled minority.

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