As usual, the star of the show is the Panasonic TX-P42GT50’s outrageously good black level response. During dark scenes it portrays even the blackest parts of the picture with absolute authority, and not a trace of the greyness you get especially with LCD, but also rival plasma, screens.
What’s more, since the P42GT50’s stunning black level depth can be achieved natively, dark scenes enjoy outstanding stability, with none of the shifting brightness levels created by dynamic contrast systems.
And there’s still more. For the self-emissive nature of plasma technology also means that the P42GT50 can reproduce dark scenes with more shadow detailing than you can get out of any rival screen technology.
The P42GT50 also delivers on plasma’s advantage of suffering with practically no resolution loss when showing moving objects, and can be watched from a much wider viewing angle than any LCD TV without losing colour or contrast.
Its ‘2500Hz’ system means, moreover, that it suffers less with judder than previous Panasonic plasma generations have tended to, especially when watching 3D.
The Panasonic TX-P42GT50 is very impressive with 3D material in fact, reproducing HD feeds with great detail, along with a well-judged sense of depth, and minimal crosstalk. Some LCD TVs have started to tackle crosstalk well too this year, but the P42GT50’s suppression of the ghosting problem is still great to see.
Other great things about the P42GT50 include the sharpness it displays with HD footage, and a gorgeously natural yet still rich colour palette that’s besmirched precious little by the sort of colour banding plasma TV sometimes generates when trying to resolve subtle colour blends.
Finally in the plus column, our input lag tests came up with an average figure of around 40ms which, while not the very best around, shouldn’t be high enough to be regularly usable as an excuse for your lack of gaming skills.
For all the P42GT50’s strengths, though, especially when it comes to delivering a serious movie performance, it is inevitably not perfect. For instance, despite Panasonic greatly improving the brightness performance of its ‘G15’ 2012 plasma panels, pictures still don’t look as dynamic in ambient light as they tend to with good LCD screens. This issue is particularly noticeable with 3D - though to be fair, the P42GT50’s 3D images are much brighter than those of Panasonic’s 2011 plasmas.
Another issue is that with the picture running quite brightly to combat ambient light, you can see signs of dot noise and momentary colour lag over skin tones as they move across the screen. You can greatly reduce this by calling into play the upper echelons of Panasonic’s Intelligent Frame Creation processing, but doing this tends to leave pictures looking rather unnatural.
One further issue is that if you use the Dynamic mode during 3D viewing, the picture’s brightness level seems to jump around really quite distractingly during dark scenes. But so long as you can live with one of the other (admittedly slightly less punchy) picture presets, this problem largely disappears.
Sonically the P42GT50 is a solid enough effort. It’s not quite as powerful and open sounding as we might have hoped given its excellent build quality, but it’s slightly richer in its sound and less prone to distortion than many rival flat TVs.
Good LCD TVs can produce punchier images in bright rooms than the Panasonic TX-P42GT50. But if you’re into films and you’re in the market for a high quality 42in TV, you really can’t do any better than the P42GT50 right now. Its contrast performance, in particular, is simply in a league of its own.