Panasonic remains as committed to plasma as ever and continues to create some fantastic TVs. The £800 Viera TH-42PX70 uses its tenth-generation panel, and it certainly seems as though Panasonic is learning with each new iteration.
It's probably fair to say most people don't consider technology to be the pinnacle of artistic beauty and modern art. While the Turner prize is unlikely to be awarded to a TV in the near future -- although we wouldn't rule it out completely -- at least Panasonic has made an effort to make its TVs aesthetically pleasing.
The TV has a glossy black surround to the screen. It's not as reflective as some of the piano-black bezels we've seen, but it looks all the better for that. Underneath the screen is a cunningly disguised speaker strip, which is barely noticeable unless you go looking for it.
For all the handsome styling, the TH-42PX70 is an imposing piece of kit. The size of it is both impressive and, when you are trying to lift it up, daunting. The TV itself isn't especially heavy on its own, but once you screw it on to the supporting pedestal it becomes much heavier -- we're pleased to see there are also options for a cabinet stand and a wall-mount bracket.
At the back, there are the usual inputs: a pair of HDMI sockets for your hi-def equipment, a pair of Scart sockets for all your older gear and component in for consoles. There's also a PC input, which rounds off a decent selection of connections, although we would like to see three HDMI sockets on a high-end TV such as this.
The Panasonic TH-42PX70 may not be a 1080p screen, but it is capable of downscaling 1080p images. It has an RGB PC input, although we'd suggest the usual caution when using a static input on a plasma, as the risk of damage and burnt images is reasonably high -- you wouldn't want to see the Windows taskbar for evermore. Nevertheless it's good to see a PC input here for use with media centres and games consoles such as the Xbox 360.
We can't help but think that Panasonic has spent some time re-thinking its menu systems recently. The setup of the TH-42PX70 was a dream. Scanning for both analogue and digital channels was quick and simple. We also found the menus on the TV generally were simpler to use, needing fewer button presses.
We hooked up our Toshiba HD-E1 to the TH-42PX70, and the good news is that whatever your HD source, the Panasonic does an awesome job of displaying it.
The only real complaint we have about the TH-42PX70 is the presence of the traditional plasma sparkles. These little demons are present when a dark image is being displayed. During normal viewing these aren't a problem at all, but when you look at the TV close up, they are quite noticeable. We were able to make them out in a totally dark room when the TV was showing a black image, but this is unlikely to be a problem in the real world.
Freeview performance was decent. We usually prefer the look of Freeview on plasma over LCD -- there's generally a little more sharpness in the image. This was true of the TH-42PX70, but we didn't think the Freeview picture was as crisp as we've seen on recent plasmas from Samsung and Hitachi. That said, for a screen this size, digital TV still looked pretty decent.
Sound was pretty good too, especially for general viewing, although when it comes to movies we felt that, despite the size of the TV, the low-end sound was rather weak. This means explosions and action movies lack a little punch. It's a shame that Panasonic didn't opt for integrated woofers, as on its TH-42PX600.
Overall, we liked the Panasonic and it performs better overall than the Hitachi P42T01. It's fair to say this isn't a quantum leap over the previous range, but it's still generally a worthwhile improvement, especially in terms of usability.
Ultimately, strong HD performance and good overall colour mean this is a good choice if you like movies -- just make sure you attach it to a decent sound system.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Nick Hide