There's only one way to kick off the picture quality section of this review, and that's by saying that the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 finally delivers an even deeper black level than the justly legendary Pioneer Kuro plasma TVs.

This statement might not mean too much to you, we guess, if you haven't been following the twists and turns of the TV world over the past five or six years. But for Panasonic to break Pioneer's black level record really is a watershed moment.

Especially since the impact the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's groundbreaking black levels have on its picture quality is astounding. Being able to see inky, rich, natural black tones during dark scenes of our favourite films is frankly a revelation, providing the perfect foundation for other elements of the screen's picture quality to build on.

What's more, because the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 uses plasma technology (which can produce individual light levels for every single pixel in its pictures), the stunning black level response does not require the sort of general luminance reduction you get with most LCD technologies when they try to show dark scenes.

This means that the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's pictures still contain outstanding amounts of shadow detail even in the very darkest corners, and the TV is able to produce really vibrant, rich colours and reasonably bold whites right alongside those adorable blacks.

This all comes as a breath of fresh air versus the crushed blacks and hollow dark areas common to some extent with all rival technologies.

And there's more. The pixel-level localisation of the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's plasma luminance also means that it is completely immune to the sort of backlight clouding/inconsistency problems still alarmingly - if understandably - common on today's LCD TVs.

Feed the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 a completely black screen, and that blackness will remain beautifully uniform from one corner right across to the other, despite the enormity of the screen.

Panasonic TX-P65VT50 review

This is, of course, extremely important to how immersed you can become in what you're watching, since there's nothing more distracting than seeing a bunch of light pools lying across your TV's picture. Especially if you're watching 3D content.

Underlining the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's black level abilities is the startling intensity of its colours. The past couple of flagship plasma TVs from Panasonic have struggled a bit when it comes to luminance levels, looking awesome in dark rooms but feeling rather muted when you've got much light in your room.

But this year's VT50 series of TVs look much punchier, thanks to a combination of greater energy efficiencies in Panasonic's latest plasma panels and a conscious decision to use those efficiencies to boost the image's brightness rather than trying to get a higher grade on the new energy efficiency rating system (the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 'only' scores a C).

The Panasonic TX-P65VT50's pictures are also breathtakingly sharp and detailed. Every last nuance of even the very best HD pictures is reproduced with total precision, and given extra glorious emphasis by the sheer size of the screen. There's zero noise to get in the way of your enjoyment of the glories of HD either, and nor is there any resolution loss over moving objects - another clear advantage plasma has over LCD technology.

Panasonic TX-P65VT50 review

The judder issues that have slightly plagued some of Panasonic's previous plasma TVs have been largely squashed by the new sub-field drive system on the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 too, even if you don't trouble yourself with Panasonic's Intelligent Frame Creation motion processing.

The dual-core processing in the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 does mean, though, that this motion processing is more effective than usual, delivering even greater smoothness (if you like that sort of thing) without generating as many unwanted side effects as usual.

The dual-core processing also seems to be playing a significant and positive role in the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's upscaling of standard definition pictures, since they appear surprisingly sharp but with most of their inherent noise carefully processed out.

Obviously a screen this large is really made for HD, but if you do occasionally have to tolerate standard definition, it's nowhere near as offensive to your eyes on the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 as you might expect.

Colour

Yet more evidence of the power of the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's image processing can clearly be seen in the subtlety of its colour reproduction. There's much more finesse in colour blends than we're used to seeing with Panasonic's plasma televisions, which plays a very important role in ensuring that colours still look exceptionally natural despite the extra punch the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 injects into them.

Add up all the strengths we've just dissected, and if you find yourself watching a movie with the curtains drawn and the lights dimmed you will likely also find your jaw hanging open in awe at the Panasonic TX-P65VT50's truly stunning pictures.

Such images would previously only have existed on one of Panasonic's very expensive professional-grade monitors, which means that Blu-ray images pretty much by default look better here than they've ever looked before on a domestic TV.

3D picture

Shifting to 3D, the excellent news continues. The extra brightness Panasonic has injected into its plasma pictures this year counters much more effectively the quite heavy dimming effect caused by Panasonic's active 3D glasses, enabling images to look much punchier.

So much so that you can comfortably watch them with a bit of light in your room, which wasn't the case with previous 3D Panasonic plasma TVs.

3D images are also improved on the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 by the dual-core processing, in two key ways. First, colour blends look noticeably cleaner and smoother than they have on previous plasma generations, and second, motion is superb, avoiding almost completely the judder that still creeps into the 3D pictures of a surprisingly high number of TVs.

The Panasonic TX-P65VT50 significantly also gets rid of pretty much all the crosstalk ghosting noise that surprisingly slipped into the 3D pictures of the ST50 series, leaving you able to fully appreciate the crisp, detailed joys of Full HD 3D in all its deep, immersive glory. Let's not forget, either, that 3D works best on big screens, and TV screens don't get much bigger than this.

Panasonic TX-P65VT50 review

The motion handling, contrast and quality 3D, together with the huge screen size, make the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 a really pretty wondrous monitor for playing games on. So it's great to find it turning in a very respectable input lag time of just 39ms.

So are there any problems at all with the Panasonic TX-P65VT50? Well, you can't ignore the fact that its £3,500 (around $5,490) price tag will prove an impossibly tall order for many TV buyers.

Also, despite Panasonic's impressive improvements where brightness is concerned this year, it's still a fact that if you're watching the Panasonic TX-P65VT50 in a bright environment, its images tend to lose quite a bit of their punch. Certainly much more than happens with LCD-based screens.

Also in the negative column, motion can look a bit 'fizzy' from time to time, especially over skin tones, and if you make the mistake of watching 2D images using the set's Dynamic preset. But this issue reduces to almost nothing if you use a relatively subdued preset and sit a sensible distance away from the screen.

One final oddity is some curious brightness jumping that sets in with medium-dark material when using the Dynamic preset. This is especially obvious while watching 3D, when the panel is working especially hard to combat the dimming effect of the active shutter glasses.

Thankfully the problem pretty much disappears if you shift down a gear to a different picture preset - so really this is just another reason to avoid the Dynamic preset.