Ok, here's my report...
I picked up the Panasonic 50PM50U
display from Costco on Saturday. The box is huge and heavy so I had a buddy help me maneuver it in to my apartment. I got the stand setup and placed it where my old TV was and fits perfectly against the wall. I practically rewired everything as I was connecting some of my system components differently and I still need a few other cables which I'll buy today. More on these details below.
The picture is great. During the Olympics, a few times I've thought it was a little dark. But this was during events that were poorly lit so I can't really complain too much. HD stuff is fantastic and I'm glad to see some HD commercials, although I skip over them using the Comcast DVR. SD stuff from my TiVo looks decent but it all depends on what level of stretching I'm applying. If I use standard 4:3 display setting with side-bar letterboxing, the picture looks great. However, if I start stretching it out, it starts to look pretty nasty and both the low signal quality and compression artifacts show. This TV had 3 stretch options, the standard "fit to screen" mode, a "zoom" mode, as well as a "justified" stretch that stretches the sides more than the center and does some other tricks. This looks the best as far as stretching goes. (If you need more details I'll scan the image from the user manual. It cleared it up for me.) The viewing angle is very good and you have to have an extremely acute angle to see phantom images.
It was fun to compare the SD and HD Olympic signals. Once you see HD you don't want to mess around with SD stuff.
During the Olympics from time to time the signal got screwed up or something and would stutter and pixelate for about a second or two. Since I have a ton of new gear I don't know what is wrong. Is it the HD signal? Is it the new Comcast Cable Box? Is it the Cable Box's DVR functionality? Maybe I'll TiVo the SD signal tonight so if there's a hiccup I can compare it on HD and SD. If I rewind the HD show using Comcast's DVR the hiccup still occurs when it is played again. The cable box is connected via component video cables, but I'll switch to HDMI today. The TiVo is using S-Video and is now using its built-in tuner so I can have it record SD stuff and I'll use the Comcast DVR for HD stuff or the rare SD show on Digital Cable (BBC America, for example).
My DVD player is progressive scan compatible and is connected via component video cables. The picture looks great for movies I was watching, but I was sad to see that my Babylon 5 DVDs showed a little bit of interlacing artifacts which surprised me since it was originally taped in HD. DVD playback is something I've barely looked in to at this point.
My GameCube looks pretty good. It is connected via S-Video also but is capable of outputting a progressive scan picture. Once the Cable Box switches to HDMI it will free a component video input which I'll use for the GameCube. I'm excited about Metroid and Zelda in progressive display. Yum. Like the DVD player, this is one of the inputs I've not tested too much.
Overall I have a good experience with the TV. Glare is not really an issue and is no worse than my old TV or LCD Cinema Display. Although I haven't used it during the day that much so the jury is out. The picture is very good and it was a snap to setup if you know what you're doing. It runs pretty warm and I'm sure it uses way more power than my old Sony CRT TV, but since I don't pay for power in my apartment I don't have to worry to much.
Now, some minuses. The built-in speakers are OK. I thought they were a little weak with the BASS so I turned that up in the audio settings. Now It sounds better but really I'm gonna need a separate surround sound system. It only has a single HDMI input, so when Blu-Ray comes out I'll have to pick which uses HDMI and which uses component. Also there's no DVI, so I can't connect a laptop and get the full native resolution. (And I wanted my pictos and such on there when I wasn't using it. Alas.) In the display's software I can't name the inputs either, so I'm stuck with them labeled as HDMI and Component 1, etc. Also, it is only 1366x768 resolution and I'm pining for a native 1080p resolution, 1920x1080. An additional front-mounted A/V input would be nice too.
The 50" size in my apartment is a little too big. This is something we're still debating, but I think a 45" would work better. Our current stand is too deep and too tall. The height of the TV is fine when standing or sitting across the room at my computer, but when sitting on my couch it is a little too high. The new stand we're looking at only lowers it a few inches. The TV's built-in stand (ie feet) also adds 2 inches or so and maybe I could find another solution there.
Right now I think I'll keep this unit for at least 5 months. At that time I'll see what the resale price is and what other units are out on the market. If I gotta have a better unit I'll take this one back to Costco and get something else. Otherwise I'll keep this on for a little longer and eventually sell it on craigslist or hand it to my Mom who will think its fabulous!
Bottom line: all the lugging was worth it so I can watch the olympics in HD.
Here's the inputs the TV has:
2 Component Video
2 Composite Video
I wish it had 2 HDMI and DVI. Firewire would be nice but is hardly required. Also at this point I've changed my mind no built-in tuners. I don't really need one since I'm using all sorts of external units already. If this was a second TV or I wanted to place it in a place without a setup box I'd want a tuner though.
Phew, long post. More later today after I use it some more. If I upgrade to HDMI for the cable box I'll see if it gives a better signal.
Oh, one more thing... The Comcast DVR is pretty crappy. I liken it to Mac v PC when comparing it to TiVo. TiVo is like a Mac, it is a snap to use, is intuitive, and gives great feedback. Overall an excellent user experience. The Comcast DVR is clunky and doesn't have as many features. It's interface doesn't give any feedback and is slow to respond. It does do HD right now however, but on its 120 GB drive it'll only record like 13 hours of HD content! If you've never used a TiVo you might think the Comcast DVR is cool, but if you've used a TiVo you'll just find it lacking. Also the Comcast remote is insane!! I'll post a picture of all the remotes and you'll see what I'm talking about.