Full of promise

Adrian Justins takes in all that this 3D-enabled plasma has to offer, but thinks there’s still room for improvement

The TX-P42VT20 is by no means the slimmest or most stylish TV on the market, but it makes up for that in the features department. Dual Freeview HD and Freesat HD tuners; 3D compatibility; VieraCast internet video services; USB video recording; wireless networking and other multimedia skills headline its extensive spec sheet.

Equally (if not more) important to anyone thinking of spending a significant slice of money on this NeoPDP panel are the picture processing tricks used to eke out every last bit of visual goodness, including Panasonic’s Infinite Black Pro contrast and a THX movie mode.

Connections wise, the TX-P42VT20 wants for nothing, with just about every contemporary and legacy port catered for, including an audio return channel-equipped HDMI for minimising the number of cables needed in a AV setup. The provision of a wireless adapter makes establishing a network a far simpler task, by reducing the number of cable runs, and because this screen automatically makes friends with your networked devices, including in my case, a BT Home Hub, an Apple Mac and a Windows 7 server. Sadly, the wi-fi dongle projects from the frame and spoils the set’s clean lines.

Audio reproduction, ever the weakest link, is boosted marginally by a built-in 10W sub that complements the usual pair of 10W stereo speakers.

As we’re becoming weary of saying, Panasonic’s menu system is in dire need of a makeover. It looks drab and some functions are illogically buried in subfolders, including the 3D settings, so that switching from 2D requires several button presses to find the right 3D mode (plus, you’ll want to engage the set’s dynamic picture mode to boost the brightness).

Despite all the hype surrounding 3D, the extra dimension still isn’t the huge draw for TV watching that it has become in the cinema. So 2D remains the most important aspect, and Smart TV functions could well become more significant than 3D. Here, Panasonic’s VieraCast internet video service is more basic than some and lacks the BBC iPlayer.

You get access to a small selection of content and for Skype users, the built-in app could be handy. On the plus side, there is no shortage of detail and clarity with broadcast HD sources, with the panels at the side and bottom of the Sky News HD screen showing superb levels of detail. Colour fidelity is also excellent and black levels are worthy of a Pioneer Kuro.

Avatar on Blu-ray (2D) is absolutely knock-out in terms of its overall impact and natural colour fidelity, but the screen doesn’t match, say, Samsung’s 8000 series LCD for detail, especially in darker areas.

The screen’s biggest issue, though, is dealing with movement. Camera pans and fast-moving objects can be quite juddery (but never disastrously) and engaging Intelligent Frame Creation helps, but it makes movies seem like camcorder-sourced video and can cause haloing. It switches off automatically during 3D playback and when watching Blu-rays in 1080p/24 mode.

There’s a pretty good argument that says 42in is too small a screen for 3D where the effect makes objects seem small. With that in mind, I’d recommend stepping up to Panasonic’s 50in VT20 model if that’s what you’re interested in. Otherwise, this can be considered a very good HDTV.

HCC VERDICT

Highs: Splendid overall picture quality; wireless networking works well; bursting with features
Lows: IFC side-effects; some judder issues; activating 3D is a chore
Performance: 4/5
Design: 3/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 4/5

Specifications

3D: yes Full HD: yes 1080p/24
Tuner: yes Freeview HD, Freesat HD, CI slot Component video: yes 1
HDMI: yes v1.4 x 4 (1 side, 3 rear); 1 Audio Return Channel
PC input: yes 1 Mini D-Sub 15-pin
Resolution: 1,920 x 1,080
Sound: 3 x 10W, 2.1-ch
Brightness (claimed): N/A
Contrast ratio (claimed): 5,000,000:1 Native
Dimensions (w/o stand): 1,035(w) x 656(h) x 85(d)mm
Weight (w/o stand): 21.0kg
Features: NeoPDP; Ethernet connection; supplied Wireless LAN adapter; DLNA certified; VieraLink; CATS; 600Hz Sub Field Drive Intelligent Frame Creation Pro; Viera Image Viewer SD card slot; dual USB (Flash memory/keyboard/wi-fi/USB HDD Recording/HUB); 2 sets of 3D glasses; 0.001 msec response time; Deep Colour (10/12-bit); x.v. Colour; THX mode; V-Audio ProSurround; Digital optical audio output; 2 x Scart; headphone jack; HDMI CEC; VieraCast internet video