As petrol prices continue to spiral skywards, the price of TVs continues to head in the opposite direction. Now, this situation doesn't quite make up for the fact that the government continues to rip us off when it comes to fuel tax (if the polluter pays, as they put it, why is there no tax on aviation fuel?), but it does at least give anyone who's thinking about buying a new TV something to be happy about - assuming that they don't have to drive too far to pick it up of course! The result of these tumbling prices is that consumers can now afford a larger, and generally better TV than they first thought.
A fine example of just how much TV you can get for your money these days is the subject of this review, the Panasonic TH-46PZ80B. As its name suggests, this is a 46in plasma TV - ok, so the name may not overtly suggest that it's a plasma, but anyone who's familiar with Panasonic will be aware that anything above 37in is based on plasma technology rather than LCD. Now, many will tell you that an LCD TV of this size represents even better value, and to a certain degree they'd be right. However, given the choice, in the current climate of 1080p Full HD screens, I'd go for a plasma if I could afford it.
As both myself and John have said many times in the past, plasma as a screen technology has one very important ace up its sleeve - black level response. Because plasma is an emissive technology, the intensity of every single pixel can be controlled, which means that if there's a scene with areas of both high and low intensity, the TV will not have to compromise on either area. The latest LCD screens employ dynamic backlighting in order to increase the contrast ratio, but you've still got a transmissive display with a single light source. Plasma's intrinsically superior black levels done just make for deeper blacks and increased low light detailing, the resulting colours are also far more vivid and lifelike.
There's more to the TH-46PZ80B than just its screen technology though. This is a Full HD panel with a native resolution of 1,920 x 1,080, so 1080p source material can be displayed pixel for pixel, with no need for scaling. That doesn't mean that scaling isn't important though, because you won't always be watching a pristine 1080p high definition source, and when you have to resort to standard definition, you want to be sure that it will still look good when blown up to 1,920 x 1,080. The TH-46PZ80B is equipped with Panasonic's latest V-Real Pro 3 picture processing, along with a staggering 1,000,000:1 claimed dynamic contrast ratio (30,000:1 native).