Panasonic TH-42PX25U/P 42
Panasonic's 42-inch plasma handles color well, taking third place for that attribute in our tests of eight models. We saw deep reds in footage from a classic car show, for example, and natural-looking skin tones for characters in a high-def recording of The George Lopez Show. The TH-42PX25U/P also took third place for displaying detail, with minimal video noise in TV recordings and DVD movies. But the TV placed sixth in our measure of brightness and contrast--ironic given that Panasonic touts the high contrast specifications of its plasmas as a major selling point. The end result was a middle-of-the-pack rating, with the TV placing fourth out of eight for standard-definition and high-definition content and fifth for DVD performance.
Audio performance was likewise uneven. The dual 13-watt speaker units (tucked discreetly into slots on either side of the screen) pumped out powerful, rich audio. With the set's BBE VIVIA 3D surround-sound effects turned on, the audio enveloped us during a prolonged action sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1, set to Al Hirt's frenetic jazz piece "Green Hornet." The speakers handled the task with finesse even when we pushed volume above 50 percent. But audio quality deteriorated with bass-dominated music, as in a later part of the film featuring Tomoyasu Hotei's thumping ditty "Battle Without Honor or Humanity." Though this test pushed every TV we evaluated to the edge, the Panasonic performed the worst. Its rattling sound reminded us of overcharged car-audio systems that make the entire vehicle vibrate with each heavy bass note.
More troubling, though, are a number of design quirks. For example, the TV supports the 720p HDTV format only via VGA outputs--not over HDMI or component outputs, the recommended sources for TV. We had to switch both our DVD and our recorded TV sources to 1080i digital output for testing. And the set can't save custom image settings for each input: For example, you can't calibrate the screen for both your DVD player and cable TV feed. The best you can do is pick a compromise of settings to use across the board.
And in a product class obsessed with thinness and good looks, the TH-42PX25U/P is rather homely. Though its weight of 92.6 pounds is about average, it looks especially big. The screen is surrounded by a glossy black frame and a cabinet in a dull gray shade that looks best suited to factory equipment. The gray cabinet expands and widens out at the base, merging with a bulbous tabletop stand.
The gray expanse below the screen houses a front panel featuring control buttons (such as volume and channel), component and S-Video inputs, and slots for several memory card formats (for displaying digital photo slide shows on screen). While the panel provides handy functions, especially the photo viewing, its front-and-center placement behind a conspicuous pop-open door is far less elegant than the side-panel location of similar features on rival TVs such as the LG 42PX4D and the Sony WEGA KDE-42XS955.
The Panasonic TH-42PX25U/P provides better-than-average image quality overall. But the awkward design and lack of support for the common 720p HDTV format makes it hard to love.
This story, "Panasonic TH-42PX25U/P" was originally published by PCWorld.
Panasonic TH-42PX25U/P 42