As a 2D TV, the P42GT20 is a mixed bag. The good news is that it’s a stellar HD performer for its money, especially with 1080/24p Blu-ray feeds. Such images look mesmerizingly sharp, packed with natural contrast, and produced with an exceptionally deft colour touch. Regarding this latter point, colour tones are richer than usual for plasma technology, yet they’re also exquisitely natural. There seems marginally more striping in subtle colour blends than we saw with the VT20 models, but it’s seldom distracting.
The P42GT20 also outguns LCD-based rivals by avoiding that technology’s problems with motion blur and limited viewing angles.
With pictures calibrated to deliver the best combination of contrast, brightness and colour, HD pictures look slightly muted compared with the majority of LCD TVs – especially edge LED ones. But don’t mistake this for colours and contrast actually being wrong. The opposite is true, in fact. You just need ideally to keep light levels as low as you can in your viewing room if you want the TV to deliver its greatest impact
Our main concern with the P42GT20 is that it’s not a particularly sure-footed standard def performer. Freeview or Freesat standard definition broadcasts both tend to look a little rough and ready in noise terms, especially as there’s occasional dotting noise over skin tones during horizontal camera pans.
Colours, too, lose a little lustre when switching to standard definition, with a few tones suddenly starting to look slightly unnatural. And finally, there’s quite a bit of judder visible with standard definition pictures – more than we’d normally expect to see. This can be hugely reduced with the help of the Intelligent Frame Creation (IFC) frame interpolation system Panasonic has built into the P42GT20, but there’s a trade off for using this in the form of some noticeable unwanted processing side effects.
Oddly, standard definition pictures strike us as slightly worse on the P42GT20 than they were on the non-3D P42G20 – though without still having a P42G20 for direct comparison, it could be that our deflated impression of the P42GT20’s standard def pictures is more about the terrific standard def efforts we’ve seen from some rival brands recently rather than extra shortcomings in the P42GT20.
Wrapping up with the P42GT20’s audio performance, it’s pretty decent. A quite wide, open and dynamic mid-range leads the way, but is ably assisted by decent amounts of harshness-free treble reproduction and even a hint of bass. Though there’s predictably far less bass than you get with Panasonic’s VT20 models, which add a built-in subwoofer.
Simply by virtue of its suppression of crosstalk noise, the P42GT20 is by default the best sub-£1500 3D TV we’ve seen to date. It’s also a terrific HD performer, particularly with Blu-ray sources.
However, its standard definition pictures are a bit disappointing, and we really do have to question Panasonic’s pricing policy. For its £1,250 price versus the £800-ish cost of the non-3D P42G20 effectively means you’re paying £450 - or half the P42G20’s price again - for the P42GT20’s 3D capabilities. Even with a couple of pairs of 3D glasses thrown in, this looks a bit steep. Especially as we’ve just taken delivery of a new Samsung plasma TV that offers a more immersive 50in screen of full HD 3D pictures for just £1,030… Watch this space.