When I first lined this TV up for review, I have to hold my hands up and admit that I'd kind of made my mind up about it before it even arrived.
This shocking state of prejudgmental affairs came about from my experience with other, larger members of the flagship PZ800 family, which led me to suppose that the 42PZ800 would be a more or less awesome performer, but a tad too expensive for comfort given how great Panasonic's cheaper plasma TVs are right now.
But as I settled down to search the web this week for the latest pricing on the 42PZ800, everything changed. For I found the 42PZ800, complete with Panasonic's floorstanding cabinet option, going for a competitive £1,133. I did find it for £890(!) at one point but that price disappeared into thin air a few hours before this review was published - a reminder that online prices can fluctuate very rapidly!
For once, though, Panasonic can even claim to get off to a great start with the 42PZ800's looks. For while the chassis of the main 42PZ800 screen is, as you'd expect, no different to the slightly bland black rectangles of its larger siblings, the addition of Panasonic's own cabinet suddenly brings the whole design to life. It emphasises the 42PZ800's slimness while also giving the overall screen design a much greater sense of purpose, as it becomes an integral component in what's actually a very stylish ‘bigger picture'.
The PZ800 range is also exceptionally well qualified in the connectivity department, distinguishing itself in particular from other TV series lower down Panasonic's range by having four v1.3 HDMIs. Another ‘flagship' connection feature of the 42PZ800 is the way its SD card slot can play AVCHD video as well as JPEG stills - a potentially very handy touch for camcorder users.
While we're focussing on issues that distinguish the 42PZ800 from lower models like the 42PZ85, we need to cover the 42PZ800's Advanced Smart Sound audio system. This employs a system of separated tweeters and woofers rather than the usual single, all-in-one speaker design, and so should deliver greater power and clarity.
Not surprisingly the 42PZ800 benefits additionally from an impressively long list of Panasonic's latest video processing technologies. Probably the single most significant of these is V-Real 3 Pro, which works to improve almost every element of the picture - particularly, from our experience, noise reduction and scaling clarity.
Given how impressed we've been by it on other screens, meanwhile, it's also great to find the 42PZ800 carrying Panasonic's Digital Cinema Colour, which has enough power to produce a claimed 5,120 equivalent steps of gradation. This, Panasonic reckons, helps the 42PZ800 enjoy a colour range similar in scope to that of a commercial digital cinema.