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Panasonic TH42PX80 Picture Quality

by Vincent Teoh
10 March 2008

Blu-ray High Definition

Blade Runner

There is probably no better film than the eternally dark Blade Runner: The Final Cut on Blu-ray to demonstrate the strengths of the Panasonic TH42PX80. Right from the word go as the opening credits of white letters faded in and out against a black background, the amount of precharge glow was about as minimal as you can expect from a top-tier plasma, surpassed only by the reference-level Pioneer Kuros. And the best news is, the black level fluctuation that I witnessed in test patterns somehow did not materialise in this film sequence.

Excellent black-level performance matters nought if shadow detail are lost in the murk... fortunately the Panasonic TH42PX80 was not guilty of this. If anything, the transition from near-black to dark grey appeared a touch too bright due to the combined effect of a measured overall gamma of 2.09 and a low-end gamma curve that rose somewhat acutely out of black. As a result, the picture could seem a bit more washed out (a.k.a. loss of image contrast) compared to screens exhibiting 2.22 gamma such as the Pioneer Kuros. I would've preferred it if Panasonic had included some sort of gamma control in the user menu to address this issue, but hey, I'm sure some viewers will relish the extremely revealing shadow detail delineation on the TH42PX80.

Gaff

The Panasonic TH42PX80 did not disappoint in the brightness department either, depicting Blade Runner's countless Los Angeles neon advertising billboards and floating vehicles in all their resplendent glory. Perhaps the scene that best encapsulates the expansive contrast ratio of Panasonic TH42PX80 is the wide shot of the futuristic Los Angeles city near the start of the movie (00:03:14). The inky silhouette of the skyscrapers, the wisps of ominous clouds hovering over the horizon, the dazzling bursts of flames – along with Vangelis' haunting score – all added up to a simply breathtaking moment.

Colours were saturated and skin tones looked natural enough on the Panasonic TH42PX80, which is no easy feat given the amount of hyper-intense stylised lighting employed in Blade Runner.

Daryl Hannah

I'm pleased to report that the Panasonic TH42PX80 properly handled 1080p/24 signal from the Sony Playstation 3 without telecine judder, as evidenced from the smoothness of the scrolling opening titles (00:02:18) and end credits, not to mention the numerous slow panning shots in the movie (e.g. when the camera panned left across a skyscraper around 00:10:18). I'm not sure whether this is achieved through 2:2/ 4:4 pulldown or frame interpolation, but it's pretty unlikely to be the latter considering that I didn't witness any "video effect" nor interpolation artefact even in scenes containing incredibly complex structures such as the pyramid-isque headquarters of Tyrell Corporation (00:16:31).

Tyrell Headquarters

Freeview Digital TV Standard Definition

The FA Cup weekend on BBC provided me with plenty of opportunities to assess motion handling on the Panasonic TH42PX80. It performed just like a top-tier plasma television should, portraying fast action sport with significantly less motion blurring than a typical LCD TV... the crowd and the pitchside advertisements maintained their definition and clarity even during medium-fast pans.

Football

Although the Panasonic TH42PX80 presented a largely clean picture courtesy of its effective baseline noise reduction, regular standard-def television programmes could look a bit soft so I'd be tempted to bump [Sharpness] up a couple of notches. Low bit-rate channels and material could still betray the Panasonic TH42PX80's tendency to exhibit posterisation, but this shouldn't pose much of a problem as long as a sensible viewing distance is adopted.

Richie Rich

Because there are still quite a number of 4:3 television programmes being broadcast on Freeview digital TV, viewers who wish to maintain the correct proportions should set [Aspect Ratio] to "4:3" and [Side Panel] to "High". This way, 4:3 material would be preserved as 4:3 (with a pair of grey side masks); and 16:9 would be displayed as 16:9. Either way, the screen would be filled up, lessening the risk of permanent screenburn.

HD Console Gaming

Even though there is no dedicated [Game Mode] available on the Panasonic TH42PX80, gaming response is never a concern – I measured its input lag to be equal to a Samsung F96 set to [Game Mode]. Gamers should probably worry more about the possibility of incurring irreversible screenburn: the Panasonic TH42PX80 was not as resistant to image retention as the Pioneer Kuro PDP-4280XD. I recommend following the advice given in our article on how to prevent screenburn... at least for the first 200 hours of use.

Devil May Cry 4

I didn't witness any phosphor trails (a.k.a. plasma rainbows, green fringe, phosphor lag, etc.) even when I wielded my sword with ferocious speed in Devil May Cry 4, but because individual susceptibility (i.e. depending on how high your retinal persistance is) plays a major part in determining whether you see these phosphor trails or not, you should trust your own eyes (e.g. in store demos) rather than what I say in this regard. Luckily for me I generally don't see these green flashes, but if you've seen them before on other plasmas, it's very likely that you'll see them too on the Panasonic TH42PX80 given that the underlying plasma technology remains unchanged.

4.5 Star Rating: Highly Recommended

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