Wanted to post some thoughts on the shootout - sorry it has taken me a while but it has been a busy week. I preface my comments by saying they are only my opinions and observations - I don't believe they are scientific fact and neither should you.
I was at Saturday night's shootout and I think I am fairly unbiased in my views - I try to be fair to all the TVs and give them all a fair shake. I have a Pioneer Kuro KRP-600M but don't feel my very existence depends on that TV remaining the reference forever. I will be very happy the day there is a TV that is much better than the Kuro that makes me feel I need to upgrade my main TV. Based on what I saw at the shootout, that day may be coming soon - perhaps as soon as next year. In the last few years, I have recommended and helped friends and relatives buy Panasonic plasmas, Samsung plasmas, LG LCDs, and Samsung LCDs - whatever fits the situation and budget of the person I am trying to help.
First off, I want to thank Robert, his family and the guys who did the calibrations and work to set up the shootout. Great job as always.
Second, congratulations to Samsung and the F8500 plasma on winning the shootout. Samsung clearly put a lot of resources into developing this plasma and it is a fantastic TV. As someone said at the shootout, the light output of this TV is a revolution in plasma development. I couldn't agree more. The increased light output was evident compared to the also excellent Panasonic VT60 and ZT60. Samsung deserves acknowledgement and praise for their work this year. That said, I believe all three plasmas are truly terrific TVs - there is a much bigger gulf from any of the LCDs to the plasmas than between the plasmas. I truly can't imagine anyone not being happy with the F8500, ZT60, or VT60. How close these TVs are was really brought home to me after the official shootout when plasmas were compared to the Kuro 50" using the Kuro experience disk. Yes, the Kuro could achieve slightly better black, but all four of these TVs were so incredibly close on this black level torture test material in a dark environment that without the others next to it, I don't think you could be disappointed in the black level. It was also clear to me that the F8500, VT60 and ZT60 are clearly better than the Kuro in a moderately lit room - the filters on the newer TVs have advanced in the last 5 years. This moderately to brightly lit room difference is larger than the difference between these TVs in a black cave in my opinion.
As for the LCDs, in almost everything, the plasmas were better. Even for those that like lots of light output, the F8500 now does that, so I don't see much reason to buy one of these LCDs unless you just don't like plasma. The differences between the 3 LCDs and 3 plasmas could not have been more evident than it was on the scene from The Dark Knight Rises - very dark scene with lots of blacks in a dark room. Batman and Cat woman's costumes were shiny, black and full of detail on the plasmas. Even straight on with the LCDs, they couldn't match the depth of the plasmas. I feel this is due not just to very black blacks, but sufficient shadow detail - all three plasmas were in another category compared to the LCDs.
I was unpleasantly surprised at the quality of the Sony. I was looking forward to seeing the 4K display that goes for $7000 in 65" size, especially since Sony has designed some very good LCDs in recent years. What a disappointment. This TV simply could not produce a good black level - much worse than other recent Sony TVs. You think for $7000 they could build a full array local dimming TV even with 4K resolution, but I guess not. Motion was not good on this TV either, and even though you expect poor off-access viewing from an LCD panel, especially a non-IPS panel, this TV had the worst off-angle performance of any medium to high end TV I have seen in several years. Literally moving a foot or two to the side would significantly degrade the picture. On the bright side, at the end we put on some 4K material from the special Sony server and on some of the bright images, particularly still images, the resolution was amazing looking. Very impressive clarity and detail. Problem was you could only notice a significant difference from 1080p if you were about 5 feet from the display. By the time you were 8 feet back, you lost this benefit on the 65" display - on an 84" you would be able to be further back and still see the advantage. The other problem was that on dark scenes such as from The Amazing Spider Man, the poor black level hurt the picture more than the extra resolution helped it. My takeaway from this TV is that the regular indicators of making a great TV - black level, contrast ratio, color accuracy, motion resolution, processing, etc. are more important to get right than having 4K (no reason you can't have both but we don't have that yet - maybe Oled will do that). Other takeaway is that other than the resolution, this is a very ordinary panel - not high end by LCD standards at all. If you want a Sony, find an HX950.
The Panasonic WT60 was not good by high end TV standards, particularly in black level, but the off-angle performance of the IPS panel should not be dismissed. If you are getting an LCD, and you sit dead center, get a Samsung or other VA panel for the better blacks. If you have several people watching it, you really need to consider an IPS panel as any advantage of the VA panels disappears quickly at even small off-angle viewing and the IPS starts to look much better.
Sorry for the long post - I get paid by the word usually. Just kidding. Sort of.