That’s a massive shame, because in a lot of ways plasma still has the edge on LCD and LED and some of our favourite tellies of the last few years have boasted plasma tech. But instead of mourning the loss, let’s celebrate its life with one last review of a brilliant plasma - the Panasonic TX-P42GT60B.
Extra ordinary looks
We’ll start with a minor quibble: the Panasonic TX-P42GT60B doesn’t look all that special. There’s minimalist, and then there’s plain. It’s certainly slim and thin-bezelled (for a plasma) and the brushed metal stand looks presentable, but it’s a matter of perceived value: look around the market and you’ll see more striking designs. It’s pleasant enough, but it won’t catch your eye from across a crowded showroom.
Fairly well connected
There’s an SD card and three USB ports, which allow recording and playback on external drives. Internet access is via Ethernet or integrated Wi-Fi, while live TV is provided via both Freeview HD and Freesat tuners. There are only three HDMI ports, however. One more wouldn’t have hurt.
Make yourself at home (screen)
When you power up, you’re greeted by ‘My Home Screen’. This is Panasonic’s latest interface, and it’s one of the nicest we’ve seen on any telly this year. The main picture is surrounded by little boxes of content and apps that you can organise, just as you would on a smartphone. Want a calendar and a photo frame under a live feed of the news? Go for it. Building your own home screen is easy, and actually a little bit fun. Not your thing? You can skip this altogether and watch plain TV like the old days.
The GT60’s picture is seriously impressive. Images are bright and colourful, and contrast is excellent. Skin tones are natural, with a good degree of subtlety to shading. There’s plenty of detail, too: from fabric to foliage, there’s a good degree of texture.
And then there are the black levels, one of plasma’s long-acknowledged strengths. Dark scenes get properly, inkily black. But it’s not the sort of darkness that masks everything: light detail manages to shine through nicely. The ability to handle bright whites and deep blacks in the same frame is an advantage that the best plasmas still have over LCD TVs.
It’s even good in 3D: the active shutter glasses are fairly easy on the eyes, there’s a good sense of depth, with plenty of detail and very smooth motion.
The sound, as is so often the case with flatscreens, isn’t brilliant – if you can stretch to it a soundbar or full speaker system is well worth it.
Control method (and madness)
Nothing says ‘cutting edge’ like doing the same stuff in fancier ways – which is why manufacturers like to offer multiple control options nowadays. In this case you get a physical remote and an Android/iOS app. The remote is just a regular wand of buttons, but the Viera Remote 2 app is rather special.
At first glance, it’s nothing new: you can change the channels and volume levels and punch numbers in. But it also turns your portable device into a second screen, so now you can watch Countdown on the loo. Hey, we won’t judge you.
The app also offers a comprehensive collection of picture-adjustment controls for the more fussy and tweaky AV aficionados. It’s a colourful interface, and looks even better on the larger screens of tablets. Those with patience might want to play with the app’s voice control option: it works with basic commands like ‘volume 24!’ but barking orders feels daft.
Bored of controlling the TV? Time to draw on it using the Touch Pen, an addition that has us utterly baffled. It’s an oversized electronic crayon that pairs to the TV via Bluetooth. The idea is that you take a screen-grab and doodle on it as if you were using a Samsung phablet. Why? We have no idea. The novelty of drawing beards on people wears off in all of a minute and you’ll never use the pen again. We’re also not sure why anyone would want to poke at a shiny new telly with a stick anyway.
This is a stonkingly good TV. It has an exemplary picture, a good set of connections, a brilliant control app, and a lovely smart interface. Yes, the design is a little plain and that touch pen is just bizarre, but that doesn’t make this Panasonic any less special. Plasmas may be a dying breed, but this one is alive, kicking and brilliant.