Last year, reviewer after reviewer declared that Panasonic plasma TVs offered the very best picture quality among sets in their class. The reason was great black levels that approached -- but not quite surpassed -- those of Pioneer's legendary and unfortunately discontinued Kuro plasma TVs. Then the unthinkable happened. As we blogged about here in the past, seemingly overnight, those great black levels retreated to the realm of only very good, leaving owners infuriated -- even more so when CNET reported that the black level retreat was by design. Flash forward to this year, and as noted in our just updated report on plasma TVs, Panasonic's plasma TVs again capture the picture-quality flag in the eyes of many. But, are last year's black level woes a thing of the past or a preview of coming attractions?
CNET and Home Theater Magazine are among those that are tracking black levels in Panasonic's 2010 plasma TVs. Results are still preliminary, but neither reviewer has seen an issue thus far. CNET's last update -- in June -- reports no black level changes after over 200 hours on the Panasonic TC-P50G20 it tests, while Home Theater Magazine reports the same after 800 hours. Chatter in user forums is also light on the issue thus far. Because of that, we continue to count Panasonic plasma TVs among the best choices in their class, albeit with a pretty big caveat. And, as our plasma TV report reveals, it's not the only top performing plasma TV available. See the report for the full story.