There are some pretty useful features to be found in the TH-42PZ700B’s menus, but thankfully Panasonic has made sure that it doesn’t blind the user with science, with all the options fairly easy to understand and implement. There’s a Viewing Mode selection, which is something that’s more often found on projectors, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not useful, far from it in fact. You can choose from Dynamic, Normal, Movie and Auto modes, with each one offering different contrast, brightness, sharpness, colour settings etc. The really clever part is that you can assign particular viewing modes to particular inputs – so, if HDMI 1 is your HD DVD player, you’ll probably want to assign Movie to it, and if HDMI 2 is your PS3, you’ll probably assign Dynamic to it to get those super-vibrant colours.
There’s a P-NR (Picture Noise Reduction) option with Off, Min, Mid and Max settings. For the most part the Min setting was more than capable of dealing with any unwanted noise and artefacts, and even then, the source had to be pretty poor in the first place. Also well worth a mention is the Picture Overscan setting, which allows you to switch off the overscanning circuitry, essentially giving you a 1:1 pixel mapped image – exactly what you want from your 1,920 x 1,080 line sources.
Panasonic plasmas already have a great reputation when it comes to image quality and the TH-42PZ700B just enhances that reputation further. I’d go as far as saying that the pictures from the TH-42PZ700B put every other 42in HDTV in the shade, it really is that good. I decided to feed this Panasonic some top drawer HD content to get the ball rolling, in the form of The Matrix Reloaded on HD DVD – the image quality on this disc is nothing short of amazing, especially when pumped out at 1080p from a Toshiba HD-XE1 player. Watching Agent Smith address Neo before that incredible fight highlighted the level of detail that the TH-42PZ700B can achieve. Seeing Neo’s face clearly reflected in Smith’s sunglasses while he talks, added a true sense of depth and immersion to proceedings. And once the fight starts, it’s clear that this TV doesn’t lose its grip on fine detail when faced with fast moving action – Neo’s battle with hundreds of Smiths has never looked so good. Likewise the chase on the freeway had me holding my breath in anticipation, meanwhile all work in the office ground to a halt as the whole team marvelled at the pictures emanating from this TV.