If you really couldn't give a monkey's about 3D TV, but still value picture quality highly, Panasonic's Viera TX-P42G30B might be right up your street. It's the most advanced 2D-only model in the company's current lineup of plasma sets, including BBC iPlayer, yet it's very reasonably priced -- you can currently pick up this 42-inch model for just over £700 online.
There are some important differences, though, between the G30 and some of Panasonic's higher-end screens. Obviously there's the lack of 3D support, but the TV is also lacking the company's Infinite Black Pro filter, which helps improve contrast performance when using the TV in a room with lots of background ambient light. You don't get the freesat tuner that's found on the GT30 and VT30 models, either.
Despite these omissions, the G30 is certainly not lacking when it comes to features. Its Infinite Black panel promises deep and inky black levels, there's Panasonic's Intelligent Frame Creation Pro processing onboard to help smooth out motion issues, and it supports a range of Internet services too.
The set may lack support for freesat, but there is, as you would expect, a Freeview HD tuner onboard, so along with the usual line up of standard-definition channels you'll also find HD ones lurking in the EPG, too. Interestingly, like many other models in Panasonic's current range, if you plug a USB drive into one of the two USB ports you can use it to record shows to disk to watch later.
Internet equals iPlayer
Around, the back you'll also find an Ethernet port. Hook the G30 up to your home network and you'll be able to access a range of services from the Viera Connect menu, including BBC iPlayer, Eurosport News, Facebook, Twitter and even Skype. All in all it's a decent line up of services, but not quite on a par with what Sony offers on its TVs.
The G30 also supports the playback of digital media, including MP3 files and a range of video formats such as DivX and MKV. Files can either be played locally from USB storage devices, or alternatively you can stream content across a network from your PC. The streaming was very easy to setup and the quality of the playback was excellent, especially on HD content.
Naturally, what makes or breaks a set like this is picture quality, and we have very few quibbles on this front with the G30. One of the strengths of plasma technology has always been the deeper black levels it offers, and this TV is no slouch in this department.
Black levels are important because they help a screen to deliver richer contrast levels that make movies look more cinematic. The G30's performance isn't quite on the same level as the VT30, but it's still hugely impressive.
The set's Infinite Black panel offers faster-firing phosphorous, which helps to cut down on trailing, and indeed the set's motion handling is top notch. You can enhance this further by calling the Intelligent Frame Creation Pro system into action. It's best left turned off, though, when watching movies, as it can lend them a flatter, less natural look. Bear in mind this is something that affects all of these types of systems.
Colours are also beautifully rendered with soft, realistic skin tones and lush greens and reds for outdoor scenes. What's more, the G30 does a fine job of upscaling standard-definition content, such as normal Freeview channels, so the video looks as crisp as possible without taking on an overly processed, smeary or noisy appearance.
While many thinner TVs struggle when it comes to audio, the G30 is better than most in this department. The TV's chassis actually bulges out slightly at the bottom to create some extra space for the speakers and the results speak for themselves. The set has much more bass-end thump than most TVs and even the mid range sounds quite punchy.
There are a few negatives, however. One constant bugbear with the Panasonic sets is the poor Freeview EPG. Rather than using the normal guide, the company uses the Guideplus system. This is annoying because it displays small, Web-style adverts on the left-hand side of the EPG, which somewhat compromises the available space for showing programming data.
The design of the TV won't set the pulse racing, either. At best it can be described as conservative; at worst, well, it's boring. It does look better than some of Panasonic's 2010 models, mainly due to the metallic strip that runs across the bottom of the TV, but it's still a long way from the sexy designs of some of LG's sets.
Also, if you tend to watch TV during the day with light streaming through your window, the GT30's Infinite Black Pro panel works better under these conditions and so may be worth the extra asking price.
On the whole, though, these are fairly minor points, because the G30 gets the important stuff right. It delivers fantastic HD and SD pictures, has good sound quality and a decent lineup of features for the price. If you're just not interested in 3D at the moment, it's great buy.
Edited by Nick Hide