Monday, January 21, 2008

TH-42PX70 Review - Panasonic Viera 42" 1080p Plasma TV

Having dominated the plasma technology market over the past few years, it's no wonder that every new generation of Panasonic plasma TVs are greeted with much anticipation. The latest one is no different: having been unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2007 in Las Vegas at the beginning of the year, roll-out of the 10th generation plasma began in Europe (soon to be followed suit in the US) in March 2007. I encounter the Panasonic TH-42PX70 quite often in my profession, and so will give a brief rundown of its capabilities.

Panasonic plasmas have an excellent reputation for unrivaled black level and shadow detail, and I'm happy to report that the TH-42PX70 is up there with the best in this department. Batman Begins and Unforgiven ? both suitably dark films ? would have absolutely murdered any lesser competitors, but on the Panasonic TH-42PX70 I could still see fine shadow detail that could have so easily been engulfed by nothingness.

Furthermore, there's not very much you need to do to get the picture looking right: if all TVs were produced in this manner, ISF calibrators will soon be out of job. To attain the 6500 Kelvin (daytime) color temperature in which films are shot and broadcast, simply go into your user menu, select the "Cinema" mode (assuming you haven't done so when you first set up your TH-42PX70) and then the "Warm" color temperature. By doing this you make sure that you're watching the film as per the director's vision.

Traditionally image retention are a big problem with plasmas; not so with TH-42PX70. I had detected a slight hint of retention after putting on static images (from my computer) for 10 minutes, but within 1 minutes of resuming moving images the retention washed away. I really think that as long as you take the proper precautions, image retention on plasmas is a thing of the past.

Nevertheless, the TH-42PX70 has its own set of weaknesses. For starters, it still suffers from problems of false contouring where there should be fine gradation. Part of this is source-based as the problem largely went away when watching high-definition, but if you're sensitive to this kind of thing it may annoy you.

The previous generation of Panasonic plasmas was haunted with what is known as "purple snake" or "purple ants", where purple bands or pixels with appear around green areas with small change of gradient. In the TH-42PX70 I couldn't really see it when sitting from 8 feet away, but if I move closer to the screen at say 3 feet I would notice it... IF I'm looking for it. Just something worth bearing in mind.

When reviewing plasmas, I cannot refrain from mentioning buzzing noise, which is typical trait of plasma TVs especially with high-contrast scenes. In fact, I could vividly remember a massive plasma TV shootout I attended where a pure white background was used to test how loud the plasmas buzzed. In TH-42PX70's case, the buzz is more like a high-pitched whine, which didn't particularly trouble me when the sound was on, but if you have ultra-sensitive ears, this is something to take into consideration.

To sum up my view as someone who sees and installs more than your fair share of flat panel television, the TH-42PX70 does most of the important things better than most TVs. Sure it's has its flaws, but this is such a wonderful set-and-forget plasma TV that if I were shopping for a new plasma TV, I'd take this in a heartbeat.

Robert Keene installs home theater by day and indulges himself in high-definition films by night. For more info on Panasonic TH-42PX70 plasma TV, check out his website at

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