Review: Panasonic TH-42PX80E

 
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Published: May 22, 2008 11:00 PM
By Vincent Lheur
The Viera TH-42PX80E is the first Panasonic plasma that we've tested with the new generation G11 panels.  You may recall, this is the new component that equips models that have been sold since early spring 2008.  It comes in a 37 inch version, the TH-37PX80E, but the definition falls to 1024x720 instead of the 1024x768 of the 42 inch.  On the other hand, this loss of definition is a potential advantage because the number of lines corresponds to the 720p of HD.
 
The design is sober and versatile

With its elegant and versatile look, the PX80E will be able to fit into almost any interior.  Its massive base has to be assembled by the buyer who may immediately notice there is no rotation system.

The panel

The display surface has been treated with an anti-reflection coating making and the end result is a semi-glossy look.  One thing is sure, it's not matte.  As we mentioned above, this is the 11th generation from Panasonic and this model has an HD Ready definition of 1024x768.  We are therefore far from the optimal 720p (1280x720).  Note that in sleep mode or turned off, the panel color is light grayish green.

Connectivity and components

With 3 HDMI, the TH-42PX80E can easily be connected to peripherals.  This is for the best because a digital HD tuner will have to be acquired for the end of the year as there is only a simple classic tuner on the TH-42PX80E.

Bare bones menus

The menus of this plasma can be best summed up as clear, efficient and rather unattractive.  There are few adjustment options.  For example, it's possible to activate a ''real'' 100 Hz mode - not the filter that improves fluidity in movies.  Its activation considerably eliminates the flashing associated with 50 Hz.  Moreover, it was impossible for us to go back to this previous setting which we found too austere.  This is more or less the only option available to improve the quality of display.  Finally, changing the gamma is directly dependant on the profile you choose (Cinema, Dynamic, Normal or Eco).

We found it unfortunate that basic parameters (brightness, contrast, saturation, etc.) do not have more gradual values, cannot be easily memorized or are more distinguishable.  A simple scale indicates the level of each setting.

Good numbers


Unsurprisingly, the depth of black is worthy of a plasma with a measurement of around 0.11 cd/m².  Maximum brightness varies between 180 and 210 cd/m² which produces a measured contrast between 1600 and 1800:1, or in other words, two rather good values.
As usual, the predefined Cinema setting enables obtaining the best gamma curve and colors are more accurate.
In practice

When watching our first DVD, it was exactly this good color fidelity that caught our eye.  Very nice and natural colors quickly immerse the viewer in the movie.  Otherwise, rescaling was efficient but lacked a bit of sharpness.  As for HD movies, they displayed the same pleasant colors but suffer from a lack of definition.  We get the impression that we are limited by the 1024x768 panel although the image is still very pleasant.  Afterglow, which is close to zero, enables us to read letters that are usually illegible on an LCD.

On the other hand, we were a bit disappointed by the color of the panel.  Its grayish green tint lowers the contrast perceived by the eye in a well lit room and black therefore lacks depth.  However, once we turn out the lights we find an excellent display again.  It's best to plan your home cinema parties in a dark room with this TV.  Otherwise for other uses (your favorite programs, games, etc.), this lighter color isn't necessarily a defect.  Also note that contrast has to be pushed almost to the maximum to obtain a nice display.  It will therefore be necessary to avoid leaving fixed images for long periods of time or the panel could be left with a "ghost image".
4/5 Panasonic TH-42PX80E DigitalVersus 2008-05-23 00:00:00

Pros

  • Very nice and natural colors
  • Good contrast and depth of black
  • Excellent viewing angles and reactivity

Cons

  • The panel's light color
  • Menus overly simple, settings should be more gradual
  • Digital tuner isn't HD compatible
  • Lack of sharpness in HD

Conclusion

Barely escaping a lower grade, this plasma combines a number of noticeable defects; definition is a bit limited, there is no HD digital tuner, and the panel isn't dark enough in well lit rooms. Either way, it's still a good TV.

OUR SCORE 4/5
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