It comes as no great surprise to find the P42X50’s onscreen menus containing precious few features of note. The only things of interest are a handful of handy themed picture presets, On/Off settings for Panasonic’s self-explanatory Vivid Colour system, a noise reduction system, and a couple of tools for combating plasma’s traditional problems with image retention.
Image retention is much less of a problem for most plasma TVs than it used to be, especially if you exercise a little caution with bright screen logos during the first 100 hours or so of a plasma’s life. But the provision of pixel orbiter and ‘screen wipe’ functions is still welcome.
One last specification to mention is that unexpectedly the P42X50 bags a B rating on the new energy efficiency scale, compared with the Cs attached to Panasonic’s latest NeoPlasma panels. We’d guess the lack of any 3D on the P42X50 is the main reason behind this power consumption difference.
Firing the P42X50 into action first as a TV (as opposed to a ‘movie machine’), our first reaction to its performance is that it’s... pleasant. This, we realise, is hardly the sort of air-punching adjective we usually associate with a Panasonic plasma TV. But for a 42in plasma TV costing under £370, we’d argue that ‘pleasant’ is more than good enough!
Heading up the good stuff while watching a combination of the Olympics in HD and normal HD and standard def broadcasts is the image’s clarity. This is chiefly down to a level of motion clarity that frankly humiliates all affordable LCD-using rivals - and even some considerably less affordable ones!
HD pictures don’t look as spectacularly detailed as we’ve seen them elsewhere, but there’s never any doubt that you’re watching HD images. And there’s impressively little noise to worry about considering the TV is having to downscale full HD feeds to its native 1024x768 resolution.
Colours also look impressively balanced and natural in tone, so long, at least, as you try to avoid the over-aggressive dynamic preset, which tends to make reds and greens look too dominant and ‘cartoony’.
Despite clearly not enjoying the same class-leading black level response of Panasonic’s NeoPlasma TVs, meanwhile, the P42X50 still enjoys a good contrast range, with blacks that still get impressively deep even while plasma’s self-emissive nature continues to allow dark scenes to retain superb amounts of shadow detail.
Lack of brightness in light rooms
The issues with the P42X50’s pictures that stop us from raving about them kick off with their lack of brightness. They definitely look a bit muted versus most LCD TVs (and Panasonic’s own higher-level plasma models), a weakness heightened if you find yourself watching the set in a very light room. In fact, if you predominantly watch TV with lots of sunlight around, we’d go so far as to say that the P42X50 just isn’t the set for you.