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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.