What Hooked Us:
- The Panasonic gives sharp images at full HD resolution.
- Deep black and neutral colors make for a great picture.
- Even 24p format is beautifully presented.
Why We Grumbled:
- Standard PAL (576i) via HDMI is blurry and flickers a little.
- Fine details are missing from TV pictures.
- The sound is a bit feeble – Panasonic can do better.
The Final Verdict:
Almost second-to-none for HDTV playback in this price category, Panasonic’s newest model in the 42″ class does have its weaknesses, but nothing serious. Panasonic has got a firm hold of plasma technology, more so than any other manufacturer – the TH-42 PZ 85 E is impressive proof of that. The pint-sized price tag on this full HD set is baffling – many equally sized LCD sets are much dearer.
You also get more contrast for your money – in this aspect, this plasma absolutely wipes the floor with its liquid crystal competitors. The Televisions.com test will show whether it can also beat its nearest rivals.
Here are some points of interest:
As you can see… there’s nothing to see! With its unusually high contrast ratio, this plasma can display a very full and color-neutral black, which is, above all, totally independent of viewing angle – this is the absolute opposite case with almost all LCD models available at the time of testing.
Contrary to earlier Panasonic plasmas, the screen is no longer matte, but highly glossy. This makes the picture sharper, but also more reflective if viewed from an extreme side position. In daylight, it automatically adjusts the brightness without you noticing, whereas older plasmas would have simply looked dull.
A setting by the name of “Intelligent Frame Creation” promises fluid motion – i.e. the electronics calculate extra frames to insert between the originals. The edges are indeed sharper during motion, but in complex images some slight defects become visible, such as pixel noise around moving objects.
Standard Feature Set:
It has, for example, receivers for both analog TV and DVB-T, but they share just one single antenna input. In order to use both simultaneously, you will need to buy a suitable adapter from a specialist store. Three HDMI inputs should be enough for even large device collections, but two Scart sockets is a bit lean.
A YUV input, a side-mounted camcorder video input (composite and S-Video) and a VGA PC input complete the Panasonic’s analog video connections. A card reader for SD memory cards allows you to display HD-quality JPEG photos as a slideshow.
Remote Control and On-Screen Menus:
The remote control is large but well thought out. The viewer can use it to navigate the tidy on-screen menus, whose text is easily legible even from the couch. Thanks to a full channel list, you can find what you are looking for in the blink of an eye.
Once you select the channel, it takes just 1.5 seconds to change over, but there is unfortunately, no “Back” button for springing back to the last viewed channel. This is a real shame, as the Panasonic really would then have been perfect for channel hopping.
Economic use of raw materials is sensible, but whether that means you should really do without a decent hard copy of your TV’s manual is anyone’s guess. Only a shortened version is supplied in print, the full version is supplied on a CD-ROM. In any case, Panasonic will send you the full paper version free of charge if you call up customer services (the call, however, is not free).
TV and DVD Picture Quality
The picture mode “Cinema” gives the best quality images from the built-in analog and digital receiver. In this mode, the Panasonic gives a good, natural-looking picture. Some fine tuning is still required though – the TH-42 PZ 85 E only gives crisp details if you turn off the “Video Noise Reduction” and reduce the sharpness.
The color temperature setting “Warm” gives natural and accurate color reproduction. This plasma produces next to no visible false edges – news and finance tickers are clearly legible. Yellow-green color borders are occasionally seen on fast moving objects, but otherwise movement is clearly rendered. With details, such as channel logos, you can see that the TV’s picture is slightly on the pale side, and still not quite perfect.
The TV can really show its true potential with external receivers. Signals from set-top boxes or DVD players with a Scart output are sharp, with only minimal cropping of the picture edges when “Overscan Off” is selected.
The Panasonic flounders with 576i DVD playback – despite clean picture scaling, the image is slightly blurred, and during camera pans, step effects are frequently seen on slanted edges. If the DVD player supports it, the best playback option is 576p via HDMI – this, by comparison, looks really good.
HDTV Picture Quality
The Panasonic TH-42 PZ 85 E is definitely an HD television. All 1,920 x 1,080 pixels of the HD formats (1080/i, 1080p and 1080/24p) are crisply reproduced on the 42″ screen. Some extravagant test pictures with, for example, one pixel wide checkered patterns (pixel phase), do show some inaccuracies.
In practice, with movies for example, this is not noticeable. Blu-ray movies, such as the latest Bond flick “Casino Royale” are sharp and do not miss a single detail. The original movie frame rate (24 Hz) is accepted without complaint, so films are displayed with no added judder.
Nighttime or gloomy scenes look enormously vivid, thanks to the exceptional black level. The nighttime car chase in Chapter 13 of “Casino Royale” is an excellent example of this. Also, black and white scenes, such as the opening sequence of the film, are free of discoloration on such a color neutral set.
The color temperature of 6,800 Kelvin is almost at the ideal value (6,500 Kelvin). Red and green tones are emphasized a little more than is called for; here, the color saturation is too strong. Typical plasma defects are also present on the Panasonic, with light color shadows and weak flecks of color appearing during fast camera pans.
Computer Operation and Sound Qualit
A plasma screen as a PC monitor? Not a problem with the TH-42 PZ 85 E. Digital computer signals are sharply displayed up to the set’s native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels via HDMI. Signals from older PCs via VGA still present easily legible text and symbols, albeit only at screen resolutions up to 1,366 x 768 pixels.
Compared to older Panasonic plasmas, the sound quality is actually slightly worse – mostly because the TV no longer emits a widespread sound. The set has a distinct rumble with low tones and high volume settings, and so male voices in particular are often hard to understand. The mid range is discolored and the bass is hollow – music, also, does not sound good. Our recommendation, therefore: Definitely connect the set to a HiFi system or an AV receiver.
Settings for the best home-theatre performance*
Picture Mode: Cinema
Contrast: 17.5 cm
Brightness: 12.1 cm
Color: 12.1 cm
Sharpness: 4.0 cm
Color Temperature: Warm
x.v. Color: Auto
Video NR: Off
Intelligent Frame Creation: Off
Color Management: Off
* applied to realistic playback from HD DVD/Blu-ray material through the HDMI interface in a darkened environment. Manufacturing and HDMI playback device deviations may necessitate slight adjustment. The centimeter (cm) setting refers to the length of the bar that appears in the menu.
Quick Points Summary
Panasonic’s latest 42″ plasma is a true contrast-wonder, and is also affordable despite its full HD resolution.
Exemplary: All the connections are well labeled and easily accessible.
Not absolutely ideal: The Panasonic exaggerates red and green a little, but otherwise the colors are very accurate.
- S-Video : 2
- Input Video Formats : 576i/p, 720p, 1080i/p
Dimensions & Weight Details
- Dimensions & Weight Details : Panel with stand – 106.42 cm x 32.7 cm x 72.3 cm x 34 kg
Digital TV Tuner
- Digital TV Tuner : analog, DVB-T
Test Lab Data
- Color neutrality : 8
- Picture-quality with HD-Signals : excellent
- Motion-errors : good
- Picture-quality with DVDs : good
- Brightness – maximum : 165 cd/m2
- Black level : 0.03 cd/m2
- Televisions.com rating : 6.7
- Picturecropping (overscan) using HDMI : 0%
- Contrast – maximum : 5500:1
- Brightness – average : 68.5 cd/m2
- Contrast – ANSI : 412:1
- Homogenity of picture : 96%
- Composite video : 3
- HDMI : 3
- Video Interface : HDMI, Scart, Component, VGA, S-Video, Composite
- Product Type : 42″ Plasma TV
- Weight : 30 kg
- Width1 : 06.42 cm
- Height : 67.315 cm
- Depth : 9.2 cm
- Power Consumption Stand by / Sleep : 0.4 Watt
- Power Consumption Operational : 324 Watt
- Diagonal Size : 42″ – widescreen
- Image Aspect Ratio : 16:9
- Resolution : 1920×1080
- Brightness : 165 cd/m2
- Image Contrast Ratio : 5500:1
- Dynamic Contrast Ratio : 1000000:1
- YUV : 1
- VGA : 1
Test Lab Data
- Linearity errors on greyscale : 1.37%