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With the 42PZ85's HD credentials very much in order given its reasonably affordable price, it turns out to be a solid standard definition performer too. In fact, in some ways it's rather better than ‘solid'. Certainly standard definition sources are upscaled to the screen's Full HD resolution without nearly as much grain or emphasis of MPEG noise as we get with many Full HD TVs.
Black levels retain their depth and tonal neutrality, too, and the Intelligent Frame Creation system manages to cope well with the reduced precision of the standard definition source.
The relative freedom from noise of the 42PZ85's standard def efforts does seem partly down to a slight softness in the screen's standard def presentation, though. Personally I prefer this to the sharp-but-noisy approach generally favoured elsewhere, but there will doubtless be some people who feel exactly the opposite.
Colours also aren't quite as believable with standard definition as they seem with HD. I'm not entirely sure why this should be the case, unless something in the rescaling processing makes it happen. But it definitely seemed as if the tendency for reds to look marginally orange and low-lit tones to look a touch green around the gills was more pronounced with standard than high definition material.
The 42PZ85 has plenty to commend it sonically, too. On the upside the set delivers some pretty high volumes without the speakers distorting of the cabinet vibrating unnecessarily. There's plenty of breathing room in the treble register too, allowing the soundstage to appear detailed without the sort of harshness that's common in the flat TV world.
The mid-range is more open than many too, enabling the soundstage to open up quite nicely to accommodate the demands of a decent action scene.
With the soundstage also getting propelled far and wide around your room without losing cohesion, my only negative comments would be that bass doesn't drop quite as far as I'd ideally like, and that the ‘Voice' mode makes sound so relatively feeble that I really can't understand why Panasonic has even bothered including it. Stick with the ‘Music' option if you know what's good for you - at least when watching films.
The 42PZ85 is yet another hugely accomplished Full HD 42in plasma TV from Panasonic. And as such it's another potentially lucrative string to Panasonic's bow, given that no other manufacturer has managed to squeeze 1,920 x 1,080 pixels into a 42in plasma TV.
I guess there's a little question mark hanging over whether the 42PZ85 makes quite as strong a case for its existence as either Panasonic's money-saving 42PZ80 option or the 42PZ800 with its Digital Cinema Colour processing - processing I'm actually starting to appreciate more in hindsight than I did during my initial review.
But of course, whether a specific TV in a range of great TVs suits your particular needs or not is a decision that's down to you, the individual. All I can do is confirm that the 42PZ85 is, indeed, a great TV.
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