Panasonic TH-42PZ700U Review: Pixel-Packing 1080p Plasma

Panasonic TH-42PZ700U
Meet the first plasma television smaller than 50 inches to offer full 1080p resolution-packing over two million pixels into its 42-inch screen. This Panasonic set offers terrific image quality when playing standard and high-definition video sources, set off by comfortable viewing angles. Although I was disappointed by the resolution limitations of some of the set’s HD-compatible video ports (there’s no 1080p input on VGA or component video ports), this minor flaw was overshadowed by a picture that delivered detail and clarity that few high-definition sets match.

In our labs, the TH-42PZ700U turned in solid performance when fed quality 1080i/p video sources and made standard-definition programming look better than it does on most HDTVs I’ve seen. The set’s screen resolution of 1,920 by 1,080 pixels progressively scanned produced a crisp and detailed image; the default picture size mode with this video resolution eliminates image overscan. Unfortunately, the TV overscanned 720p video by 5.5 percent, sacrificing detail around the video’s border and slightly softening the picture due to increased scaling of the remaining video information.

I used satellite television, DVD video, HD DVD, and Blu-ray media for standard and high-definition video trials. I was particularly impressed with the TH-42PZ700U’s treatment of DVD video delivered at 480i resolution via component video cable. The TV took about 5 seconds to detect film-sourced movies such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, but once it had finished processing, it revealed subtle shadow detail and facial features. The greens in Raiders’ jungle scenes appeared almost electric, but disabling the TH-42PZ700U’s color management feature, as the manual suggested, restored the foliage to a more natural color. The set’s color tracking across dark-to-light intensities was admirably linear and among the best I’ve seen, particularly in the darkest portions of the picture, where the eye is most sensitive to error.

Motion performance with sports and action sequences was as good as on any HDTV I’ve seen to date, and there was no detectable controller input lag when playing Xbox360 games.

In terms of viewability, this TV is an excellent example of plasma’s advantage over LCD and rear projection sets on the task of providing a consistent image at the widest range of horizontal and vertical viewing angels. And the antireflective screen coating proved effective at reducing harsh reflections-in contrast to the highly reflective gloss-finished bezel.

With a street price of around $1,400, Panasonic’s TH-42PZ700U is a steal of a deal for a talented set with full 1080p resolution. That’s quality plasma at an amazing price.

Panasonic TH-42PZ700U Review
Price Range: $1,999.95

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