You can read about it all you want, but to be in its presence is another thing altogether. And no, I'm not talking about Frucci. We gave you a sugary lick of its sweetness last Friday on site, but now here are some of the technical details and a nerdier gallery of our experience with Panasonic's 103-inch $70,000 1080p plasma wunderscreen.Its official name is TH-103PZ600U, and it's technically part of a plasma line that emerged last year. If you want to buy what could be more or less considered a 50-inch version of it—screen wise one quarter of the area—you'd pay just $2,100 at Amazon.
But as you have already seen, that extra 53 diagonal inches came straight from heaven, and with it came some burdens. It's the same 4,000:1 contrast ratio, nice and rich as plasma tends to be when compared to similar LCD technologies. Live action is great with no blur or jitters, as we had expected given what we've seen of Panasonic's smaller plasmas.
But those smaller plasmas didn't require 12 low-RPM fans running at all times, like this bad boy did. To be fair, I've had desktop computers with noisier fans, and the 8" wall mount didn't have any sort of special exhaust system to help the heat dissipate. In fact, as you can see in the gallery, Panasonic national product manager Karl DeManss had no problem standing up inside the wall mount:
Nevertheless, the TV does take a 220V wall socket, like a freakin' clothes dryer, so you gotta consider the impact to the electrical bill. (Then again, if you're in the market for a $70,000 TV, maybe you don't.)
Input-wise, the unit we got to play with had RGB, component video and DVI/HDMI, but picture only. There are no speakers, though it does have little 3-watt amps for BYO speakers. As I noted in the uncrating, it is a modular system, much like the commercial displays from Panasonic and Pioneer: you tell them which inputs you want, and they sock them in. I believe there were four proprietary slots in the strip, which you can see in the gallery. Each slot could take at least one input.
Contrary to our own concerns, the warm-up time was imperceptible—the screen went on straight away. Also, the pixels themselves were not as visible as we had feared. I was anticipating "screen door" like crazy, but for most of us, the pixels disappeared at about 70 inches of distance (for me, they disappeared around 80 inches). And you're definitely not going to want to stand as close as Adam was during his Bioshock frenzy. After a while, he had to sit down to keep from falling over.
Have a look at the gallery to see some of the specifics of our hands-on. Note the hallowed "dime test" to gauge pixel size, and the tape measure—held by Panasonic displays president Andrew Nelkin and me—to guarantee that it was in fact 103", when we had heard through the grapevine that it may, in reality, be a 102-incher. (The overall dimensions are 56" high by 95" across by 5" deep.)
Bottom line: Would I want one? Nope. WHAAA?? Okay, so yeah, I would love one. But Sharp told me that its goal is to have wall-sized LCDs in the coming years. And if Panasonic is as competitive as I think, it will start pushing the limits too. Bottom line is either bigger sets or cheaper 103s. Either way, we win. Hang on tight, cuz it's going to be a wild ride.
In case you missed the "uncrating" feature over the weekend, check it out.