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Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV review

John Archer




  • Recommended by TR

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Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ80 42in Plasma TV
  • TH-42PZ80 42" Plasma TV (Widescreen, 1920x1080, Freeview, HDTV)


Our Score:


Panasonic is probably as surprised as we are that it is still the only manufacturer selling 42in plasma TVs with Full HD resolutions. But then it is, after all, apparently hugely difficult to make stable plasma cells (or pixels) small enough to fit 1,920 x 1,080 of them into the screen acreage afforded by a 42in TV. So we guess other brands either just haven't cracked the miniaturisation problems yet, or else they've decided it's easier to stick with LCD technology for their Full HD 42in screens.

Whatever the reason, its exclusivity certainly puts Panasonic's new Full HD 42PZ80 in the buying sights of the still-strong plasma fanbase. Let's just hope the lack of competition hasn't led to any complacency…

Design-wise, the 42PZ80 follows the same appealing aesthetic as most of the other sets in Panasonic's current range. Which is to say it boasts a chunky gloss black bezel offset neatly by a stretched diamond of silvery finish along the bottom. I'm not quite as much of a fan of this design as Riyad is, but it's certainly a million miles from ugly.

Turning to the TV's connectivity, we find three HDMIs (v1.3 with Deep Color compatibility), the de rigueur component video input, a digital audio output, a D-Sub PC input, and an SD card slot for the direct playback of digital photographs.

In terms of specifications beyond the eye-catching 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, the star of the show in my eyes is a claimed contrast ratio of 30,000:1. This promises black levels of truly prodigious, movie-loving depth and naturalism - especially as it's a ‘native' figure not dependent on any brightness-reducing shenanigans of the sort employed by LCD screens to deliver their claimed contrast ratios.

People trying to decide between 42in LCD and plasma models might also like to note that the 42PZ80's workable viewing angle is far greater than that of practically any LCD TV, while its response time is next to zero, meaning there should be no major problems with the sort of motion blurring that afflicts most LCD TVs to some extent.

Picture processing duties, meanwhile, come courtesy of Panasonic's tried and mostly trusted V-Real 3 technology, which we've found especially effective at noise reduction, detail enhancement and colour management on previous Panasonic TVs.

Let's not forget, either, Panasonic's near-legendary Real Black Drive technology, designed to massively increase a plasma TV's control of the electrical current being discharged into plasma cells, resulting in dramatic black level enhancements.

With HD sources, the 42PZ80 is a chip off the old Panasonic block. Which is, of course, a good thing. A very good thing, in fact.


July 29, 2008, 4:11 am

How does Panasonic keep doing it? All of their televisions are getting Recommendations! All I know is, when I'm able to afford a new television, I'm definitely looking in Panasonic's direction!

The Pope

July 29, 2008, 2:44 pm

Not *every* model is outstanding - we would always advise reading reviews of the exact model you are considering, as performance can vary even within the same family. That's true of all manufacturers really.

Truthfully, there are excellent TVs from a range of manufacturers these days but for me, Panasonic and Samsung stand out as consistent producers of highly desirable displays. And it's not just us that thinks so either :)


July 29, 2008, 7:13 pm

How can you award this TV as 8 for design when the 37" LCD reviewed in June got a 7? They look exactly the same!



July 29, 2008, 7:41 pm

Uh oh, Ginormo has a point...

"Not *every* model is outstanding"

True, but a lot of them seem to be. If you look at TR's filtering, All of their Panasonic TV's minus 3 have a score of eight or above. They don't seem to be as inconsistent as Toshiba's range of 2007. But then you did address that.

Even though I'm being told by EVERYONE that LCD is the way to go, I'm still going to buck the trend and get a plasma. TR mentioned in their 2007 awards that the plasma "haters" were all very wrong when they looked at the Pioneer Kuro. Those Kuros are certainly sexy! Wish I could I afford a Kuro...

Matt G Baish

July 29, 2008, 7:44 pm

Well this telly has a (42/37 - 1) * 100 = 13.5% bigger screen across the diagonal & so design score must therefore be 13.5% higher; 1.135 * 7 = 7.95 or 8/10 rounded up - simple!

Or is it not supposed to work like that? ;^)

Andy Vandervell

July 29, 2008, 7:46 pm

No no, that's exactly how it works. ;)


July 29, 2008, 8:50 pm

So that makes the 50inch have a score of 11.

Not bad.

Matt G Baish

July 29, 2008, 9:40 pm



July 30, 2008, 12:03 am

It's very true that all the "pub experts" are happy to tell everyone that plasma is dead, and LCD is a far better bet. Believe me when I say, they are totally wrong!

I have two TVs in my house and they're both plasmas, one's a Panasonic and the other a Pioneer. I can honestly say that right now there is no finer TV than Pioneer's Kuro range - if you can afford one, you shouldn't think twice.

However, not everyone can afford a Kuro, and the Panasonic plasma's offer superb value, as well as great image quality that will put most LCDs to shame. If you're serious about your movies, but don't have enough cash for a Kuro, Panasonic's latest plasmas are definitely worth considering.

Of course the really interesting bit is the fact that Panasonic will be manufacturing Pioneer's panels from now on, and that should result in some technology sharing too. I seriously doubt that Panasonic wants to play in the very high-end market where Pioneer lives, but some of that Kuro technology could filter down into more affordable Panasonic screens.


July 30, 2008, 1:21 am

Probably because LCD is the "safer" option. It seems to be the norm. Only a few plasmas in my Futureshop, but wall to wall LCD. Maybe it's the marketing? Too bad, because people are missing out on some really good high def imagery! And soon I won't be one of them!


July 30, 2008, 1:39 pm

It does beg the question, "Why are all these manufacturers making LCD TVs rather than Plasmas?"


July 30, 2008, 3:52 pm

The answer is simple. There are far more LCD panel manufacturers than there are plasma panel manufacturers. So pretty much anyone can buy panels and build TVs, which is why you find so many no-brand, cheap LCD TVs, but no similarly priced and badged plasmas.

I flew out to Japan last year to see Panasonic's plasma factories, and I can tell you that the investment that Panasonic is making in plasma is significant. This is why Pioneer decided to let Panasonic take over its panel manufacturing. Last year Panasonic had two massive plasma factories, and it had just broken ground on a third that is set to be bigger than the other two put together!

And of course, let's not forget that as already mentioned, the man on the street seems to think that LCD is superior to plasma, and will walk into a shop already convinced that he wants an LCD. That's part of the reason why Sony stopped making plasmas a couple of years back.


July 30, 2008, 5:11 pm

Well I believe that they both have strengths and weaknesses. My understanding was that, generally speaking:

Plasmas = better black levels

LCD's = Faster response times

People like to connect their Xbox and PS3's up to their TV's so may rather have an LCD for this purpose.

Also, I believe some are put off by the rumour/risk of screen burn. I haven't experienced this myself, but if it is a problem then I wouldn't want to leave my TV on Sky Sports news for example.

If I was using my TV for movies only then I'd get Plasma, but as I use it for a variety of purposes, LCD suits my needs more.

Matt G Baish

July 30, 2008, 5:18 pm

I have had both 32" Plasma (albeit an SD Philips - pah!) and LCD (HD Sony) and, apart from the obvious benefits of HD over SD in my particular case and the IME better reliability of the Sony product, my current LCD set has one *MAJOR* advantage over Plasma & that is non-lab-condition performance.

This is mainly down to the relatively high reflectivity of the glass fronted Plasma screens which, really, are a pain in the butt unless you are watching a movie at night with all the lights turned off (although we do this too; it is not ideal for standard TV viewing). Ambient lighting and daytime viewing with the curtains open were a no-no.

Now I am sure there must have been some advances in this area (e.g. anti-reflective coating) if anyone can enlighten me so that I may reconsider Plasma when my next purchase is due? (about 2015 if this credit crunch goes on much longer, by which time we'll have OLED to consider too :)) Judging by the plasma panels at my local Sony Centre though I don't hold out much hope.


July 30, 2008, 9:19 pm

I have an Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii hooked up to my Kuro and they all look superb, without any hint of response time issues. But then the market becoming obsessed with response times has resulted in LCD moving backwards rather than forwards. Instead of us all using 10-bit panels by now, we've actually moved backwards to 6-bit panels just so the crystals can be overdriven to lower response time!

As for the off plane ghosting issues with plasmas, due to the glass front. That was a long time ago, and not anything I've seen for many years. I certainly don't see it with either of my plasmas.

Matt - I'm curious as to what plasma panels you're looking at in your local Sony Centre, since as I mentioned already, Sony hasn't made a plasma TV for about two years.


July 30, 2008, 9:24 pm

Matt - you're right, watching a plasma in bright sunlight can be more challenging than watching a bright LCD. But that overly bright LCD will then never produce the kind of black levels you'd want when you're watching with the the curtains closed or the lights down.


July 31, 2008, 2:16 am

"...the man on the street seems to think that LCD is superior to plasma, and will walk into a shop already convinced that he wants an LCD. That's part of the reason why Sony stopped making plasmas a couple of years back."

Riyad. Surely you're not suggesting Sony would subject consumers to an inferior technology just to make a buck now, would you? ;)


August 1, 2008, 12:50 pm

So do I buy this (𧿗 at John Lewis with 5 yr guarantee) or save up a few more ££ for a PDP-4280XD Kuro (£ 1199 at comet with one yr guarantee)...

£ 400 is a big difference.

Casual viewer , mainly Sky+ SD and DVD's.

Might consider $ky HD. Not sure I am going down BluRay path just yet.

Or should I just stick with my trusty Philips 32 " pixel plus CRT 32PW9527 (state of the art 6 only years ago).


August 2, 2008, 4:48 am

Can't offer Skinner any advice at the moment, other than don't spend, , , yet. : - )

Some Philips are plenty good enough and will stay working for a good few years.

My understanding was that plasma was better for motion and still better than LCD at bigger screen sizes, if so, then they still have appeal for 'UP' -grades, not just films but football, I wouldn't want to see the ball blurred when Man U lose everything next season.

We should have had 3D by now skinner, but since we don't, I would strongly suggest a Sky HD subscription as a good use for any spare money, rather than a "better" telly. Channel 4 has been a relevation and will resume it's quality once Big Brother is out of the way, also the BBC docs (Wainright/Wild China) in HD drip with awsome beauty, regardless of the pixel count.


August 15, 2008, 6:07 pm

Have bitten the bullet and bought one of these a from JL, arrives 19th Aug.

Will let you know what I think...


August 16, 2008, 4:12 pm

Just added Sky Thomson HD box to the Panasonic 42PZ80 and the lip sync problems are serious, particularly on the HD channels. Panasonic and Sky have so far come up with no solution. Has anyone else got this problem or managed to resolve it?


September 14, 2008, 8:47 pm

Please help. Currys and Comet give a 1yr guarantee with this panel but according to a small local Panasonic dealer, Panasonic give a 5yr manufacturers guarantee. Is this true and are Currys and Comet conning the public into buying their own over priced extended warrantee????

Geoff Richards

September 14, 2008, 11:18 pm

@strifesdrummer - I can't think of any reason why you would not be covered by Panasonic's warranty anyway! It's quite common that the first 12 months is covered by the retailer, and any balance is direct with a manufacturer. Not just Currys / Panasonic but anyone and for any electronics really.

Retailer extended warranties are rarely worth the extra cash. Check that years 2 through 5 are covered by Panasonic and buy with confidence. Use your credit card if ordering online for extra protection (and potentially cashback!)

Alan Pritchard

October 3, 2008, 2:14 am

Re Impy on 16th August. I have just linked up a Thomson HD box and have found the same lip sync problem. Is this the sky box or the TV? It only appears to happen on the HD channels.

Sven Okonomi

October 23, 2008, 3:27 am

Im looking for the ultimate 42" HD gaming screen (Xbox 360 mainly),

and this kinda seems to be the one. Am I right?

The review does seem to mention some judder in fast motions, but apparently the TV also offers game mode, so I assume they put atleast some thought into this particulair use?

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