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It's fair to say that we've found precious little to complain about with Panasonic's current mid-level ‘PX' range of plasma TVs. While not up there with Pioneer's latest premium KURO sets, they've certainly stood out from the mass-market crowd.
Yet if there's been one area that has consistently let them down, it's their audio. The speakers equipped on the PX70 plasma models we've seen to date just aren't great, lacking the power and frequency range to really partner Panasonic's excellent pictures with the audio they deserve.
Which is precisely where the TH-42PX700 comes in. That extra zero at the end of its name denotes it to be the proud owner of Panasonic's modestly titled Advanced Smart Sound Speaker system, which replaces the relatively standard speaker design of the PX70 models with speakers that incorporate twin passive radiator woofers for, hopefully, much enhanced bass, power and clarity.
Not that this is the only thing differentiating the 42PX700 from its cheaper siblings, mind you. For the 42PX700 additionally boasts a very handy third HDMI - perfect for the dedicated AV fan that could realistically own such HDMI-sporting sources as a Sky HD receiver, a PS3 console, an Xbox 360 Elite, an HD DVD player, a Blu-ray player, an upscaling DVD player… You get the picture.
Yet another difference is the addition on the 42PX700 of a front-mounted card slot that can take either SD or SDHC (high capacity) cards for the direct playback of JPEG stills.
The 42PX700's final point of divergence from lesser Panny models is its design, which sports a new and reasonably natty-looking silver undercarriage alongside the expected gloss black bezel.
One key area where the 42PX700 is absolutely identical to its PX70 sibling, though, is its pictures, since it uses exactly the same V-Real 2 image processing engine. While this might initially sound slightly disappointing, let's not forget that the picture quality of the 42PX70 is, after all, absolutely excellent. So the phrase ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it' springs to mind.
For people who haven't seen any of our other recent Panasonic plasma reviews, V-Real 2 comprises a number of key processing tricks. Not least among these is the use of a 1080p digital processing chipset enabling the TV to handle native 1080p sources as well as ‘re-master' non-1080p sources into the 1080p format.