A 42in plasma for under £700? Really? It’s true ¬– and even more astonishing when you think that as recently as 2005, our favourite 40-43in telly had a list price of £2,800.
This set is not only a third of the price of its predecessor, it’s also much better. Lots of people aspire to size nowadays, and it often transpires that 42in is the largest most of us can sensibly accommodate in our homes unless they’re palatial. But let’s face it, many of us don’t mind sitting closer than we should ¬– which is why this set will prove so popular.
The technical specification is everything you’d expect, even at this price: three HDMI inputs, plus digital and analogue TV tuners. It’s HD Ready, of course, but don’t expect Full HD or native 1080 capability. This isn’t cutting-edge stuff; it’s bargain established tech.
Receiving a 1080p/24fps Blu-ray remaster of Full Metal Jacket, and using its own internal scaling to fit the picture to the HD Ready screen, the Panasonic impresses.
Black tones are a particular strength of current plasmas, and this leads to excellent contrast in all kinds of scenes. Motion-tracking – such as the hectic Vietnam battle scenes – is another discipline that separates the plasma men from the LCD boys. The native 24fps ability helps this TV reproduce scenes just as Kubrick shot them.
Elsewhere, colours are neutral and natural, white tones clean and bright, and depth of field is expansive. Picture noise, even in the most complex or smoky scenes, is surpressed well and textures such as skin tones convince.
Now, it’s true that a Full HD set will deliver greater detail – it’ll induce more ‘wows’ with its almost three-dimensional picture and incredible detail. But it won’t deliver contrast like this Panasonic.
With less attention-grabbing content, such as some standard-def football broadcasts, the Panasonic does rather well. Because its scaler isn’t working as hard to shift pictures up from PAL’s 576 lines to this set’s 768 lines, it can even better more-expensive sets. You might get a touch less detail in darker scenes, but movement can be conveyed better.
The story’s the same with DVD: it doesn’t wow you with detail, but natural colours and good contrast make sure you’re concentrating on the movie, not any irritating picture flaws.
Our major grump must concern the sound. Like most big-screen makers, this Panasonic has the usual skin-and-bones presentation. Still, this is such a bargain that you’ve no excuse not to buy a decent sound system.