Help with plasma TV choice


I would appreciate comments/suggestions to help me with my choice of plasma TV. This TV will be our first HT set-up, and will be used in a weekend home. It will be used for DVD playback, movie downloads, and the kids' video games (Wii). NO cable or satellite. Video signal will be supplied by an Oppo DVD player, and/or the TV's (or Oppo's) internal Wifi connectivity for movie downloads. As such, I would strongly consider a dedicated display, but don't seem to be able to find one in my price range.

Size-wise I would like something in the 55-60 inches diag range, and I
would like to spend $1300-2000 (street price), or so. After some research at a local dealer, I am pretty sure my choice can be narrowed to either
Panasonic or Samsung. The Samsungs' picture quality looks somewhat better to my eye, but I have concerns about screen reflectivity given reported issues with the Samsungs and the fact that there are many windows in the room where it will be used. The Panasonics in general look very good but somewhat subdued and less bright and defined than the Samsungs.

Rest of the system will be a Totem Dreamcatcher 5.1 setup driven by a B&K 307 receiver.

Thoughts? Thanks.
Keep in mind that the dealers are some what biased in the way they set
up their televisions. Sometimes they have special incentives from a
manufacturer to move a certain brand. My experience in recent shopping
is the Panasonic is the tops and LG would be second in plasma. In your
price range the Panasonic GT50 Can only be beat by their VT50. But they
cost about 500 more than the GT50. And the differences are very very
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Hi Frogman - sorry if this gets posted twice, something weird happened on my end.

Basically, all of the sets, no matter what brand, are calibrated to look their best in the much darker environment of the stores. When you get them home, they will appear MUCH more bright and sharp in your room, too much so in fact, so be prepared for that (people will look almost etched onto the screen). What you will want to do, no matter which brand you buy, is have it professionally calibrated once it has been in use for 250 hours, I think it is (unless you already know how to do this yourself). I did this, and could not believe the difference it made. I watched the guy carefully and could do it myself in future. So don't worry about your windows, you can calibrate it so it looks ideal in your room.

As far as specific brands, I would choose the Panasonic (which I did). I'm very happy with mine, no issues whatsoever. However, if there are issues, their customer service beats Samsung by a mile. Also, once they are outside the store and in someone's home, I do have a preference for the look of the Panasonics - the Samsungs are a little too sharp in the home environment for me. The Panasonic's colors, again after recalibration, look more real and lifelike. Mine looks fantastic, and I'm sure you would be very happy with one. And FWIW, the sound on them is quite a bit better than the Samsung's, though since you are going to run it through a home theater set up, perhaps that won't matter so much. I don't have a home theater set up and don't run mine through my audio system, I figure I will save the tubes for audio!
Thanks guys, very helpful comments; particularly re screen brightness and dealer bias.

Learsfool, your impressions mirror mine exactly. The differences that I noted at the dealer were not subtle. To use an audio analogy, the Samsungs were like good solid state, very clear and defined; impressive but bordering on the surreal and hyper detailed. The Panasonics; like tubes, with softer, more rounded images, but with a nice sense of refinement. I am glad to know that this can all be tweaked to satisfaction.

"have it professionally calibrated once it has been in use for 250 hours, I think it is (unless you already know how to do this yourself). I did this, and could not believe the difference it made. I watched the guy carefully and could do it myself in future."

Does one need any test equipment to do this, and how difficult is it to do without having watched a pro do it? It will be difficult if not impossible to get a tech to my house which is in the middle of nowhere.
Very happy with my Panny 50" plasma. Four years of very heavy use and never a problem and picture still looks fantastic. Never go by how a TV looks in a store -- they're never optimally calibrated so it's always an apples to oranges comparison. Once set up properly I'd think most of the Panny, Samsung, and LG sets will look very good. Read reviews here and there are lots on CNET that will give you some comparisons and other info. on features, function, etc. that may be helpful.

I think some of the Panny models offer an auto-calibration mode that approximates ISF standards, and in the one review I read it seemed to get pretty close and the reviewer was impressed. If so, that largely takes the calibration issue out of the equation and saves you upwards of $500 on getting an ISF certified guy to do it (unless you want to take it to that level). You can also get "recommended" settings for lots of TVs from "experts" from some of the TV sites (can't remember which anymore), so those at least can get you in the ballpark.

Last thing I'll mention, I sprung for an APC power conditioner that offers voltage regulation (compensates for dips/surges in power coming from the wall) along with filtering and surge protection. We have lots of power issues in our area (who doesn't these days), and it's nice knowing the TVs power supply isn't being subjected to all the strain and abuse. Not sure how much this has helped, but as I mentioned I've got several years of heavy use on mine with lots of brownouts, blackouts, etc. and never a problem. At the very least it's a nice peace of mind.

Best of luck
I replaced my Proton tube TV with a Panasonic about four years ago. The Panasonic plasma is so much better, I have been nothing but happy.
LOVE my Samsung Plasma. It has made concert DVDs a revelation. I have heard the Pannys are good as well, but I remember reading that the Samsung has a better rep among the hard core videophiles for naturalness of skin tones (if that matters to you) and picture adjustment options. I never thought I would like watching DVDs as much until I got mine.
I had the PAN vt30 found pic to be too dark for my tastes
Replaced with Samsung E8000 really love it
Asa far as picture the smart hub sucks but not that important to me
The new pan vt 50 looks brighter in store
It's your call good luck!!!!E
All sets come out of the box in torch mode for the sales floor. As mentioned above, you can't really compare without some careful time consuming adjustment.

Based on my own and friend's anecdotal experiences, I'm not convinced that Samsung has a firm handle on product quality and consistency. They make stuff that looks great on paper but seems to me to have too many premature failures.

Just purchased a 60" Panny GT50... Bottom line.. the best TV i have evr owned.. blew away my old DLP Samsung 61" and totally outdid the Sony LED HX850 that i tried... has a more real picture with accurate colors and a fantastic looking cinema-like picture.. can't be beat for $2,000.00!!!!!
The Sammy plasma came in a close second.. which I almost bought.. just think the Panny is superior. But these plasma's totally blow away all of the LED's I have seen.. the LED's give me a headache literally and are hyper-real and not very good looking...just my opinion.. hope this helps!!
Another thumbs up for Samsung plasma. I just bought an open box Samsung PN59D6500 59" Smart plasma at BB for $1199.00($2200.00 msrp) and could not be happier. Very rich and natural colors and very black blacks.

I owned a Mitsubishi 57731 57" dlp for five trouble free years and was very pleased with its performance with the exception of dark scenes, where the images were washed out in darkness. Black level performance was less than mediocre but the whites and bright scenes were about as good as any. Native contrast ratio was tested very low because of the not so good blacks.

This Samsung plasma has taken my viewing experience to a totally new level, especially BD and some of the better broadcast HD channels like Natural Geographic.

Hi Frogman - if you know anything about it, you could probably do it yourself. I knew absolutely nothing about it. The guy did have a piece of equipment, but I believe all he was doing was confirming what he was doing with the remote. So no, I don't think the test equipment is necessary. You can also, by the way, calibrate it for a few different settings - he did two different TV settings for me, one daytime, and one nighttime, and also did a third setting specifically for my DVD player.
Buy the largest screen size ST50 Panasonic and have it professionally calibrated by an ISF technician. The Samsung while good cannot match the picture quality of a properly caibrated Panasonic especially for black levels. The GT series offers the same picture quality as the ST series with the TOL VT series being only slightly better. Good luck!
Thanks everyone. I appreciate the suggestions. A related question:

The dimensions of the wall that the display will be mounted on is very narrow, and JUST wide enough for a 55" display. The L/R speakers and stands will be positioned just below the lower edge of the display. I bought the stands that the seller of the Totems had; they are 28" tall. Add to that the Totems' 11" and I am looking at a height of 39". The center channel will be positioned above the equipment rack positioned between the L/R speakers, also at 39". So, I am looking at a mounting height for the plasma where the lower edge of the display is 39" from the floor. Given a viewing distance of 12', the center of the display will be about 6" or 7" above the recommended eye level position.

Is it worth it to buy shorter speaker stands in order to get the center of the display exactly at eye level, or is 7" above eye level acceptable and a negligible deviation from the ideal? Is a downward tilting mount the solution? Thanks for your thoughts.
I think you would be more comfortable in the long run if you bought shorter stands. Could you maybe trade them somewhere?