Poundstretcher

Adrian Justins finds that, with a bit of patient tweaking, this no-frills, 3D-capable plasma acquits itself well

The P42ST30B is the most affordable Panasonic plasma yet to offer viewing in the third dimension, and in terms of both spec and looks, it is the runt of the brand’s 3D plasma range. Its appearance is somewhat unrefined with its grey-green screen, industrial-looking 2in-wide gunmetal grey frame and slab of a pedestal for a stand.The plasticky remote control doesn’t help matters either, but at least the TV is solid enough to withstand knocks and sticky paws.

The connections roster is well up to snuff, though, with just about every analogue connection you could want, plus a digital optical output and four HDMIs (one side-facing).

Multimedia duties are handled by two HDD/Flash memory compatible USB sockets and an SD card slot. Extra mural entertainment is also provided by means of VieraConnect, In keeping with its budget status the P42ST30B’s picture adjustments are on the basic side. But it does offer some higher-end features such as 600Hz sub-field drive IFC (Intelligent Field Creation) CATS (Contrast Automatic Tracking System) and P-NR (picture noise reduction).

Panasonic just won’t change its entirely clunky GuidePlus-powered Freeview EPG. We’ve given it short shrift for several years, but our complaints fall on deaf ears.

Nor will the brand win any prizes for the dated look of its onscreen menus or the inaccessible placing of the IFC off/mid/max button and Clear Cinema on/off controls.

The P42ST30B is capable of serving up some superbly detailed HD images, but it’s one of those screens that requires work to get the most out of it. Human Planet on BBC HD Freeview shows that colour fidelity is accurate, contrast levels and shadow detail are strong and problems such as banding and colour flashes are negligible.

Bored To Death (Sky Atlantic HD) features some rapid camera pans that are eradicated by engaging IFC’s lowest setting without introducing detrimental artefacts in the process.

The Blu-ray of No Country For Old Men provides a great test for IFC and it’s good to find that this panel shows significant improvements over previous generations. With 24p Smooth Film set to Off, there’s slight judder and no image artefacts, set it to mid or max and there’s no judder with just a very slight halo trail.

Turn it down

Panel noise is clearly an issue, but it’s more or less solvable. The noise of the vast skies in No Country For Old Men can be reduced by engaging P-NR at the cost of some minor softening. But ditch PNR if you want to extract maximum clarity.

You’ll need to source your own 3D specs, and at around £100 a go, they aren’t cheap, but at least the brand’s designs are now more comfortable.

The other bit of good news is that the screen is a strong 3D performer. With the Monsters vs Aliens 3D Blu-ray disc, the scenes with strong vertical objects such as the Golden Gate Bridge show very little crosstalk so that you aren’t aware of any image lag. In terms of perspective and depth you can’t really go wrong with CGI for 3D, but Sky’s 3D channel suffers through resolution loss.

Aesthetic failings aside, the P42ST30B can reward you with an impressive viewing experience – but with similar-sized 3D models from LG and Samsung coming in a few hundred pounds cheaper, it might struggle to find buyers

HCC VERDICT

Highs: Solid picture performance; lack of artefacts with IFC; Viera Connect portal
Lows: Drab styling; Freeview EPG issues; 3D specs not supplied
Performance: 4/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 3/5
Overall: 3/5

Specifications

3D: yes Full HD: yes 1080p/24
Tuner: yes Freeview HD
Component video: yes, one
HDMI: yes v1.4 x 4 PC input: no
Resolution: 1920 x 1080
Sound: 2 x 10W Brightness (claimed): n/a
Contrast ratio (claimed): 5,000,000:1
Dimensions (w/o stand): 1020(w) x 640(h) x 69(d)mm
Weight (w/o stand): 19.5kg
Features: Ethernet connection; wi-fi ready (needs optional USB adaptor); dual USB; SD card slot; Dolby Digital Plus; Digital optical audio output; Scart socket; headphone jack; stereo phono x 2; composite video; Viera Connect including BBC iPlayer; YouTube, Skype and Acetrax; 8-day EPG