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Panasonic TH42PZ85B Conclusion

by Vincent Teoh
14 April 2008

SUMMARY
Although [Intelligent Frame Creation] may not win over many viewers, Panasonic TH42PZ85B delivers superb HD picture quality at an affordable price.

PROS
> Excellent blacks with no black level fluctuation in [Cinema] mode
> Full HD 1920x1080 native resolution delivers exquisite high-def detail
> Handles 1080p/24 video signal without telecine judder

CONS
> [Intelligent Frame Creation] doesn't work as well as we'd like it to
> Cannot deinterlace film-based content properly
> No white balance control in user menu to calibrate greyscale

Pros

  • Excellent black-level performance (though marginally lighter than Pioneer Kuros)
  • No black level fluctuation in [Cinema] mode (unlike most Panasonic plasmas)
  • True HD 1920 x 1080 native screen resolution allows for exquisite fine detail presentation
  • Fluid motion handling with minimal blurring even with IFC off
  • Displays 1080p/24 video signal without telecine judder
  • Clear shadow detail delineation (though can be too revealing, see Cons)
  • Clean picture with minimal digital noise at baseline
  • Good video mode deinterlacing with effective jaggies reduction
  • Zero overscan and 1:1 pixel mapping (1080 source) with [Picture Overscan] "Off"
  • Solid connectivity with three x HDMI inputs, SD card slot, etc.
  • Wide viewing angle with no drop-off in contrast/ colour up to 150° (but can exhibit the odd "double image"; see Cons)
  • Perfect screen uniformity
  • Inexpensive price for specifications

Cons

  • [Intelligent Frame Creation] doesn't work as well as we'd like it to
  • No film-mode deinterlacing
  • No white balance control in user menu for greyscale calibration
  • Green primary colour oversaturated and bluish
  • No gamma control in user menu to restore overall gamma near 2.22, causing shadow detail to look a touch too bright
  • Exhibits posterisation particularly with poor source
  • Settings cannot be saved independently per input (although can be saved separately for each picture mode)
  • Multilayered plasma glass causes "ghost image" of specific material (e.g. white text on a black background) to be repeated behind the original image, which is noticeable from certain off-axis angles/ distances
  • Does not accept 1080p video signal over component/ VGA
  • The usual plasma bugbears of glass reflection (though this is attenuated somewhat by the anti-reflection filter), phosphor trail, plasma buzz (that is related to screen brightness) and image retention/ screenburn

Conclusion

The Panasonic TH42PZ85B HDTV manifests all the traditional strengths we have come to expect from Panasonic flat screen plasmas: excellent black-level performance, revealing shadow detail, fluid motion handling, and natural colours. Moreover, the TH42PZ85B does not – in [Cinema] mode – suffer from black level fluctuation, unlike all its predecessors I have reviewed so far.

I suppose the real question is: what, if anything, does [Intelligent Frame Creation] add to the equation? Here are its effects at a glance (according to my own observations, not some promotional material from Panasonic):

  • makes film-based content look like video
  • introduces interpolation artefacts especially with fast-action sports
  • increases input lag by up to 55 miliseconds (55ms)
  • smoothens jagged edges marginally in standard-definition
  • adds pulsatile micro-feathering to vertical lines, leading to a decrease in both static and motion high-definition resolution on the Panasonic TH42PZ85B

In my opinion the [Intelligent Frame Creation] does more harm than good, but at least the option of turning it off is there in the user menu. If you can't wait for the arrival of  Panasonic's PZ80 range (similar specs to the PZ85 but without IFC technology), or don't mind paying extra for a feature you probably won't use, then the Panasonic TH42PZ85B still comes highly recommended considering that for just over a grand (at this time of writing), you get a full HD plasma television with superb high-definition picture quality.

Highly Recommended

4.5 Star Rating: Highly Recommended

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