Most Iranians who want to choose between these models find reviews about North American and European models different from what is sold to them inside Iran. Add to this, they get lots of biased and false information and reviews from non-trustworthy sources.
I have to say that the Samsung B690 LCD HDTV is similar to what you see as the Samsung B650 in non-Iranian markets. The model number of the Samsung LCD has changed from B650 to B690 to keep Iranian buyers from confusing this model with the Samsung B650 plasma edition. So you see model numbers like Samsung LA-40B690 in the Iran market that I'm going to compare with the Panasonic TH-P42G10.
First of all, most Iranians who buy these TVs don't consider the type of signal that is used mostly in all their everyday TV use. That means some of them get disappointed after buying and expect the same full-HD picture quality presented to them in showrooms and stores.
Iranians use their HDTVs mostly for watching local or satellite TV channels, DVD movies, teletext, and non-HD video clips and downloaded movies. All of these are categorized as standard-definition (SD), not high-definition (HD). That means you don't get high-definition pictures and the quality is much less than what your TV can do at its best. Also, SD input signals should be upscaled to match with the higher resolution of HDTV flat panels.
So the very first aspect of my comparison is based on how HDTVs show standard-definition pictures.
The Samsung B690 has a very good SD upscaling compared with the poor SD performance of the Panasonic G10 plasma. HDTVTEST.com has preformed a thorough review of the Panasonic TX-P42G10, model that is more similar to what is sold here. Iran has a 576i/50Hz Pal TV system similar to Europe's. HDTVTEST believes "the Panasonic TX-P42G10 plasma TV does not deal with standard-def interlaced video signals (576i) very well at all".
I couldn't find a similar review on the SD performance of PAL TVs on CNET, but you may like to read CNET reviews on US models both for the Panasonic P42G10 and Samsung 40B650 LCD TV.
Looks and design
This is a very important factor in choosing a TV. Most Iranians buy these models as their first HDTVs for their homes and what they pay is much more than other countries. So the look and feel of the TV set is important for the family. Iranians spend a lot of time in front of their TVs and it is the center of attention and an important part of their home decor.
In my opinion, the Samsung B690 does look more chic compared with the Panasonic G10 in terms of Iranian taste.
Brightness and sharpness
The Samsung B690 is again a better choice for the typical Iranian user. Iranians are used to seeing their TVs under average to high ambient lighting in their homes and prefer a brighter TV. The Panasonic G10 has better performance in dark rooms, but that does not match the ambient light of many Iranian homes.
Also, as I stated before, the sharpness of the Samsung B690 is much better than the Panasonic G10, considering the former's better SD upscaling. G10 images get soft edges and less sharpness.
One important thing to note is that Panasonic has no menu shortcut for its THX video mode on its Asian TH-P42G10 model in Iran. This is considered a disadvantage in my opinion. One disadvantage of the Samsung B690 is that it has more light reflections on its panel.
Features/total cost of ownership
The Samsung B690 wins once again as Iranians like feature-rich, all-inclusive sets with a lower total cost of ownership. The Panasonic G10 in Iran does not have Internet/networking and firmware update capabilities. The Panasonic G10 also lacks USB input, Picture-in-Picture (PiP), and many picture adjustment options. The Samsung B690 provides DLNA networking, PiP, USB input for photos, music and HD video playback, and 180MB of internal memory.
I have to add that the Panasonic G10 has a memory card input that is not of much use to Iranians as it just plays AVCHD videos, and Panasonic media with HD bandwidth has a higher price.
It is also important to consider that USB inputs on Panasonic home theater do not play HD videos and the Panasonic G10 owner would have to buy an external HD player in this case. A Western Digital HD player costs around US$120 in Iran.
Remote controls of both models are somewhat similar in terms of ease of use and rating.
Samsung B690's four HDMI inputs and capability to play 1080p resolution over component input is another advantage over Panasonic's three HDMI inputs and 1080i-only component input.
The Samsung B690's flat screen displays static images from PC or VGA sources extremely well, with full color details, no flicker, and no screen burn-in; although that is a general feature of LCDs over plasmas.
Color accuracy/contrast/black levels
The Panasonic G10 is better than the Samsung B690 in these features. The Samsung B690 does not get a bad rating in this aspect and is still considered very good. Although many Iranians like saturated colors over natural colors, I give a point to the Panasonic G10 in this aspect.
LCDs generally use less power compared with plasmas. The Panasonic G10 uses NeoPDP technology that lets it deliver better brightness and quality at a lower power consumption. Considering all of these, though, the Samsung B690 is better than the Panasonic G10 as Iranians will not receive subsidized power prices anymore (soon).
Plasmas have generally wider viewing angles compared with LCDs, so the Panasonic scores, although the Samsung B690's viewing angle is acceptable for most cases.
Response time/fast-moving playback
Plasmas generally win LCDs in this aspect. Panasonic G10 is the best choice for gamers who do not want motion blur, while I consider the Samsung B690's response time sufficient for most uses by Iranians.
Both the Samsung B690 and Panasonic G10 have different reports regarding their audio in different scenarios, so I cannot consider one of them better than the other.
Price/construction quality/customer care
I consider both the Samsung and Panasonic to be of the same level in these aspects.
Conclusion: Samsung B690
In my opinion, the Samsung B690 is the best option for most Iranian TV buyers and gives them better quality and lower cost of ownership considering Iranian tastes.
I have to add that the Panasonic G10 is still rated as one of the best plasmas in the market and an Iranian buyer may not suffer much from its lower SD performance as its better color accuracy/black levels and contrast may compensate for its deficiencies. Some people also don't like sharper pictures and prefer softened pictures in natural colors provided by the Panasonic G10.
I recommend the G10 just for Iranian gamers who want to use their plasma for games most of the time. That is because of the response time, better motion clarity, color accuracy, and contrast rating for 1080p full-HD and HD input on the G10. Apparently, it is also recommended for those who want to use an HDTV with HD-quality input most of the time.
I hope this review helps Iranians choose the best HDTV they desire to fit their own needs, as well as more insight into Iranian consumer electronics market for CNET Asia readers.
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