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Panasonic TH42PZ70 Picture Quality
As I watched Next – a sci-fi action flick with a plot as ludicrous as Nicholas Cage's hairdo in the movie – on the Panasonic TH42PZ70, I was immediately impressed by the television's excellent blacks and revealing shadow detail, two of the traditional assets we have come to expect from quality plasma TVs. When Cris Johnson (Nicholas Cage) emerged on stage to perform some magic near the beginning, the lukewarm crowd (including two sceptical FBI agents) and roomful of mostly empty seats were plainly visible in spite of some truly deep blacks being churned out by the TH42PZ70.
The real pull of the Panasonic TH42PZ70 is its true HD 1080p panel resolution, and – with [Picture Overscan] set to "Off" – it didn't disappoint in fine detail retrieval and presentation. In the sequence where Cris waltzed through the casino floor to evade pursuing security personnels, I still managed to make out the numbers on the fruit machine's credit meters. Likewise, the Grand Canyon landscape would not have looked as sublime had the plasma not been able to portray the colourful intricacies of the rock layers.
However, it was during a panning shot of the Grand Canyon (32:11) that I detected a mild judder on the Panasonic TH42PZ70. When I played back the same scene on the Pioneer PDP-508XD and the Samsung LE52F96BDX, the judder simply disappeared. In essence this suggests that while the Panasonic TH42PZ70 accepts 1080p/24 signals, its screen doesn't refresh at a rate that's a multiple of 24Hz which is integral to buttery-smooth pans.
To be fair though the judder on Panasonic TH42PZ70 is extremely subtle. Depending on your eye sensitivity and knowledge of what to look for, you may not even see it.
Though not as accurate as those on the Pioneer Kuros or the recent Sony KDL40W3000, colours on the Panasonic TH42PZ70 were well-saturated so flesh tones and green foliage did not look unnatural. False contouring were kept to a minimum, though admittedly the high-definition source helped a lot.
And while it could not achieve the absolutely blur-free motion of CRT TVs, the Panasonic TH42PZ70 preserved resolution in motion better than most other flat panel televisions, and that's without needing to resort to motion estimation technology. For example, the markings on the shipping containers (when the camera panned overhead the ship at 29:59) and the number plate on the van during one of Cris' premonitions (1:12:49) remained legible when lesser televisions might have made a mess of them.
Freeview Digital TV
Because watching standard-definition content on a full HD panel is akin to magnifying a low resolution passport photo to the size of a poster, I'd been preparing myself for the worst, but the Panasonic TH42PZ70 turned in a surprisingly decent SD performance. From a viewing distance of 8 feet away, the picture looked remarkably clean with minimal digital noise and posterisation, the latter of which can get pretty annoying on Panasonic plasmas of the past.
Jaggies and line twitters were inevitable especially for film material, but should not present too much of an eyesore as long as you sit at a sensible distance. The 2 factors that made SD programmes extremely watchable on the Panasonic TH42PZ70 were its well-groomed greyscale and fluid motion handling, which did full justice to the stylish camerawork – with lots of quick fades, zooms and pans – of Top Gear:
Let's talk about aspect ratio, seeing that the 16:9 Panasonic TH42PZ70 is not immune from image retention and screenburn, yet there are still a fair number of 4:3 programmes floating about on Freeview digital TV. When [Aspect Ratio] was set to "Auto", the television would try its best to fill the screen: 16:9 programmes would be presented as 16:9; and 4:3 would be stretched/ zoomed in to 16:9 resulting in the incorrect aspect ratio. For those of you who wish to maintain the correct proportions, simply set [Aspect Ratio] to "4:3" and [Side Panel] to "High" : 4:3 programmes would be preserved as 4:3 (with a pair of grey side masks); and 16:9 would still be displayed as 16:9. Either way, the screen would be filled up, minimising the risk of screenburn.
PS3 Console Gaming
When playing console games on plasma televisions, the primary concern – besides raking up your kills or completing the mission – should be that of image retention or even worse, irreversible screenburn. The Panasonic TH42PZ70B is not as resistant as the Pioneer Kuros to image retention: at this point of writing I'm well into 250 hours but I still see the odd ghost images after gaming sessions. To be honest though, these generally wash away within a couple of minutes of full-screen TV viewing, and as the hours pile up image retention should become less and less frequent. If you need some reassurance/ guidance, I have written an article on how to prevent screenburn on plasmas.
Another problem which worries potential buyers of plasma TVs is phosphor trails (a.k.a. plasma rainbows, green fringe, phosphor lag, etc.). In this respect you need to trust your own eyes and not what I write, because individual susceptibility weighs heavily in the final experience. Differential phosphor decay is inherent in the plasma technology, but whether you see these phosphor trails or not depends entirely on your retinal persistance.
As I rolled around in Heavenly Sword, I did not witness any green trails around the white waterfalls, but then again I generally don't see them except under the most extreme of circumstances. If you've experienced phosphor trails on other plasma displays, it's very likely that you will see them on the Panasonic TH42PZ70B, in which case you might be better off with an LCD TV.
Otherwise, the TH42PZ70B delivered a compelling gaming experience with its vivid colours, fine detailing, and above all superb motion handling.
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