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Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ85 42in Plasma TV - Panasonic Viera TH-42PZ85
From the 42PZ85's specification, I expected it to deliver picture quality somewhere between that of the 42PZ80 and 42PZ800. And that's pretty much exactly what it did! Not exactly a bad thing when even the 42PZ80's picture quality is best described as excellent…
As ever with a Panasonic TV, the most outstanding single element of the 42PZ85's pictures is its superb black level response. While maybe not quite achieving the completely natural black level extremes of Pioneer's premium KURO plasmas, the 42PZ85 shows dark HD movie scenes - like the night-time scene in Wanted where Wesley accidentally shoots one of his colleagues - with practically none of the grey mist or green undertoning that still afflicts dark scenes on so many flat TVs. What's more, it manages to deliver these black levels without them seeming forced or low on shadow detail.
The naturalism of the 42PZ85's blacks helps the set deliver some unusually credible dark colours too, with none of the slightly ‘PC-like' colour toning witnessed under similar circumstances with more than a few LCD TVs. Even Angelina Jolie's flesh looks realistic as she emerges sans clothes from her ‘healing bath'. Not that I was looking, of course.
The 42PZ85's Full HD resolution comes in handy with colours, too, helping the screen render subtle colour shifts and blends better, so that HD movie worlds look impressively three-dimensional and solid.
Also key to what truly is a terrific HD performance, is the image's sharpness. The Full HD resolution again comes into its own here, enabling every pixel of a 1,920 x 1,080 source to materialise on the screen without a trace of scaling noise, grain or softness - provided, at least, that you do the sensible thing and make sure the Picture Overscan option is set to off.
Only a couple of relatively minor issues trouble me with HD viewing. First, as with other TVs in Panasonic's current range, the Intelligent Frame Creation system needs to be used a touch sparingly. For while it improves the clarity and fluidity of motion in an entirely positive fashion for most of the time, with some of Wanted's most outrageously kinetic sequences the processing can't quite keep up, causing momentary flickering or stuttering artefacts.
These artefacts oddly don't seem as pronounced as they can be on larger IFC-equipped screens, perhaps simply because of the 42PZ85's relatively small screen area. Also, I'm certainly not saying IFC isn't worth having; merely that you should possibly commit to deactivating it for action films or sporting broadcasts.
The other issue is that colours aren't quite as expressive as those of the 42PZ800, especially when it comes to bright reds and greens, proving the worth of that model's Digital Cinema Colour system. The 42PZ85's colours also aren't as in your face as those of many LCD TVs, but for me this is compensated for by their far more subtle, natural flavour.