Panasonic’s newest PZ81-series of plasmas is positioned as the company’s premium range, so it’s no surprise it comes fully loaded with features designed to max its picture and sound quality.
The biggest news, though, is each PZ81’s built-in support for Freesat: connect one to a suitable satellite dish, and it’ll receive a host of free-to-air TV channels, including high-definition TV from the BBC and ITV.
Given the monthly subscription costs of pay-TV alternatives, that has to make it appealing to many buyers – and even if you live in a house without a satellite dish, it’s not particularly expensive (about £80) to get one fitted.
Like its siblings, the TH-46PZ81 has three tuners (one analogue, one Freeview, one Freesat), and is easy enough to get up and running, its automatic installation and elegant set-up menus guiding you through the process in no time.
The main event, high-definition Freesat performance via BBC HD, is hugely impressive. Switched to pixel-to-pixel mode, the Panasonic’s 1920x1080 plasma panel and powerful image processing give the 1080i broadcast image every chance to shine.
In fact, we reckon it looks appreciably better, with less noise than using an external Freesat tuner box (which makes sense, when you think about it, because it shortens the signal path from TV receiver to plasma panel).
Back to black
As with other Panasonic plasmas, the TH-46PZ81 includes Real Black Drive, giving it formidably inky, dense blacks and potent contrast performance, but unusually it also gives you both 100Hz motion scan and Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation system, each of which works assiduously to deliver smooth, convincing motion during even the most fast-paced action.
Assuming you can tear yourself away from the satellite picture long enough, you’ll be equally blown away by the Panasonic’s image quality with Freeview digital TV – which you’ll still be watching if you want to access Sky Sports News, for example (it’s not available on Freesat).
And unsurprisingly, true 1080p content from Blu-ray and games is thrilling – better, even, than the Freesat HD image, and presented with exemplary 24fps smoothness.