What Hooked Us:
- This plasma flat-panel television from Panasonic delivers full contrast with a natural and true-to-life picture.
- The finest of HDTV details are displayed on the set’s 1920 x 1080 pixel display.
- Its built-in SD card reader enables photos to be precisely displayed on the TV in full resolution.
Why We Grumbled:
- Although the Panasonic accepts 24 Hz film material, the ensuing picture has more judder associated with it when compared with other TVs.
- The Panasonic presents a rather flat and insipid image in brightly lit environments
The Final Verdict:
The reduced brightness levels and slightly higher power consumption of a full HD plasma compared with LCD technology are easy to get over at this low price of just 1,800 GBP; especially with all the superior contrast trimmings. But then wait, on top of that, and for the very same price, the Panasonic TH-42 PZ 70 E delivers natural colors and saturated blacks even when viewing off-perpendicular.
Panasonic is concentrating on plasma technology for the high-end consumer market segment. The Panasonic TH-42 PZ 70 E is the first Japanese full HD plasma set to be pitched beneath the 1,800 GBP watershed. At Televisions.com it will be put through its paces and will have to satisfy the toughest of tests.
Panasonic has created the TH-42 PZ 70 E plasma panel to deliver a picture with a very rich contrast and deep blacks. With its screen resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, the set is fully capable of reproducing full HDTV resolution pictures from sources such as set-top boxes, HD DVD and Blu-ray players. Despite its large 42″ screen dimension, the engineers at Panasonic have managed to squeeze in all the required video electronics and loudspeakers into a very slender cabinet.
Both analog cable TV and digital DVB-T tuners are incorporated within the set – but only one common antenna interface. In order that both signal sources can be used simultaneously, then, as with the majority of sets, an appropriate adapter is required from a suitably equipped specialty store.
The remainder of the Panasonic’s interfaces is also a little reserved. Two digital HDMI interfaces, two Scart sockets, a YUV interface and an analog VGA interface for PC operation are all the Panasonic has to offer – and nothing more.
Other reputable manufacturers provide three HDMI interfaces, as more and more modern playback equipment is being shipped with this digital interface as standard – which is not a bad thing.
By contrast, the SD memory card reader is a real highlight and allows slideshows, for example, in HDTV quality to be presented on the screen. This feature is rarely found in other flat-panel displays.
Operation is only convenient in parts:
One and a half seconds are required for a new analog channel to appear when switching stations, and almost two seconds are needed when in digital DVB-T mode. These figures are nothing to cheer about as they lie within currently accepted limits.
The list of channel presets is clearly laid out and permits easy access to the stored programs, but the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) is particularly poor. Other manufacturers, with their EPG implementation, offer a complete program overview covering the next 8 to 14 days.
In DVB-T mode, pressing the “Guide” button on this Panasonic’s remote control will pull up information on the current program and that of the next. We understand something different behind the meaning of EPG.
Video and DVD recorders from Panasonic communicate well with this flat-panel TV. The playback equipment exchange information on their own channel presets via Q-Link on Scart or Viera-Link on HDMI. In addition, this equipment can also be managed through a common screen menu interface.
The screen menus, which are very well laid out, are also very appealingly presented and responsive. The rather bulky remote control has its buttons logically arranged; it is not overloaded and is therefore easy to operate.
TV and DVD Picture Quality
The TV performs well when receiving both analog and digital content. Noise and block artifacts do not make themselves present with any disturbing regularity. Details appear crisp and without excessive edge sharpening, but some smear effects are associated with homogeneously uniform images. In total, the picture is well balanced and seems perfectly natural. Fast moving fonts, such as those associated with stock market tickers are clear and legible, and the picture remains crisp even when the camera pans across a scene.
A useful extra comes in the form of an additional 50 Hz mode. Motion comes across as if being presented on a CRT screen. The motion described by a firmly kicked football, for example, remains sharp although, sadly, lightly colored shadowing does trail behind such fast paced objects. Also, screen contents do tend to flicker more in this 50 Hz mode.
Material played back through a set-top box connected to the Scart, S-Video or YUV interfaces is equally well presented. Even imagery from economical satellite TV sources is presented clearly on the Panasonic.
DVD playback through an HDMI interface gives the best results, and has exceptional clarity. To achieve this level of realism though, minor adjustments to the TVs settings need to be performed (refer to the ideal settings). Then the preset “Cinema” will cause the Panasonic to deliver colors naturally. Black-and-white movies, such as “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” are accompanied with neutral gray shading. Only when the scene becomes more fast-paced does this neutrality alter to become slightly bluish and yellowy – but this does not really detract from the viewing pleasure of the otherwise exceptional picture result.
The rich blacks of the plasma set deliver a real sense of focal depth. LCD sets are still a long way from this achievement. The plasma only really fails to perform well in brightly lit viewing environments. In this scenario, the plasma produces imagery that is a little flat and lifeless. Darkening the environment somewhat immediately transforms the Panasonic’s picture into one that is contrast rich and full of vibrancy.
Finally, the panel, with its full 1080 vertical lines, delivers visible advantages in sharpness when playing back PAL coded content (576 lines) when compared with other models with just 720 or 768 vertical lines.
HDTV Picture Quality
The full HD Panasonic begins to show its true value when playing back high-resolution material from an HDTV receiver, HD DVD or Blu-ray player. It is a real pleasure to watch movies, such as the Blu-ray edition of “Casino Royale” on this flat-panel simply because of the rich detail that they contain.
With a TV such as the TH-42 PZ 70 E, the danger is that the viewer spends more time searching for these details than actually concentrating on the movie itself. The finest of details present themselves, such as the grating behind the crane trolley, are rendered to perfection on this flat-panel.
Sadly, original judder-free 24 Hz cinematic material is not the Panasonic’s favorite format as observed in the opening credits of the Bond movie, “Casino Royale”. A great deal of judder is apparent with the animated roulette wheel.
Its video processing electronics are perfectly able, however, to produce flicker-free imagery of more complex HDTV motion sequences delivered in the interlaced 1080i format from set-top boxes.
Although the Panasonic does not have specific algorithms to interpret the slight differences in color spaces associated with PAL or NTSC material, the set was able to deliver impressive results with all the test material at Televisions.com.
Pictures that are deliberately grainy, such as those from the HD DVD edition of “Miami Vice”, which were shot without artificial lighting sources, are excellently mastered by the Panasonic. Other TVs, by comparison, simply remove the effect as they regard it as interference. The excellent perception of focal depth is a little reduced by the plastic front coating when viewing the set from a distance less than 2 meters – which anyway is a bit too close.
The anti-reflective screen works perfectly for eliminating reflections from direct sunlight or internal room lighting, but the manufacturing process to achieve this creates visible interference patters on pictures that are composed mainly of uniform white areas.
Computer Operation and Sound Quality
If using the Panasonic as a PC monitor for presentations and the like then, for the best results, it should be interfaced through the HDMI connector. Doing so will enable the full resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels to be made available for perfectly crisp imagery. The smallest of screen fonts and the most intricate of symbols are then clearly legible. Older generation PCs can also take advantage of the analog VGA interface, but at a maximum resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. Even in this mode, the picture is cleanly rendered and sharp.
The integrated switchable “Virtual Surround” function is responsible for good spatial sound separation in the room, but the universal broadband loudspeakers show their weakness in the high tones. Speech, by comparison, is clear and understandable, and the bass tones sound realistic. However, for that true theater experience, this is not adequate.
Only an analog audio output is provided by this Panasonic plasma for use by an externally connected AV receiver. A digital interface has not been incorporated on the TH-42 PZ 70E so that Dolby Digital Audio for DVB-T, for example, is incapable of being used.
Settings for the best home-theatre performance*
The following parameters are to optimize the contrast, color and detail representation for both PAL and HDTV standards:
Picture Mode: Cinema
Brightness: 12.5 cm
MPEG NR: Off
Color Balance: Warm
Color Management: Off
Mosquito NR: Off
Picture Overscan: Off
Side Panel: Off
Color: 15 cm
* 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
Simple and elegant: The Panasonic TH-42 PZ 70E is available in black only, and the pedestal foot does not rotate.
Complete: Everything is present, except that is for a separate antenna interface for DVB-T broadcasts and digital audio. Even a Common Interface (CI) bay is present.
Good: Only the color space deviates slightly between the two “Cinema” and “Warm” presets.
- S-Video : 2
- Input Video Formats576i/p, 720p, 1080i/p
Dimensions & Weight Details
- Dimensions & Weight Details : Panel with stand – 113.28 cm x 11.68 cm x 64 cm x 42 kg
Digital TV Tuner
- Digital TV Tuner : analog, DVB-T
Test Lab Data
- Color neutrality : 9
- Picture-quality with DVDs : very good
- Picture-quality with HD-Signals : very good
- Motion-errors : good
- Picturecropping (overscan) using HDMI : 0%
- Homogenity of picture : 96%
- Contrast – ANSI : 429:1
- Televisions.com rating : 7.7
- Brightness – maximum : 169 cd/m2
- Contrast – maximum : 2800:1
- Black level : 0.06 cd/m2
- Brightness – average : 68.3 cd/m2
- HDMI : 2
- Composite video : 3
- Video Interface : HDMI, Scart, Component, VGA, S-Video, Composite
- Product Type : 42″ Plasma TV
- Width : 113.28 cm
- Weight : 42 kg
- Depth : 11.68 cm
- Height : 64 cm
- Power Consumption Stand by / Sleep : 0.2 Watt
- Power Consumption Operational : 219 Watt
- Diagonal Size : 42″ – widescreen
- Image Aspect Ratio : 16:9
- Dynamic Contrast Ratio : 10000:1
- Resolution : 1920×1080
- Brightness : 169 cd/m2
- Image Contrast Ratio : 2800:1
- YUV : 1
- VGA : 1