If you’re into your multimedia, the P42GT20 has a decent suite of tools at its disposal. The USB ports don’t just record, for instance; they can also play JPEG photo files, MP3 music files, and video files.
The set carries an Ethernet port too, as required by the Freeview HD and Freesat HD platforms – both of which are promising to finally deliver some interactive services that actually use the port in the very near future. But in the meantime you can use the Ethernet to access multimedia files on a DLNA-ready PC, or jack into Panasonic’s Viera Cast 'walled garden' of online services.
These services are decent, with highlights of the AceTrax film rental/purchase platform, YouTube, Eurosport, Twitter and Skype. However, the rather pointless presence of a bunch of foreign language ‘channels’ emphasises the fact that Viera Cast doesn’t have the BBC iPlayer, Demand 5 or much other really interesting free streaming video content.
The last key feature of the P42GT20 is its endorsement by both THX (a THX preset is provided) and the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF), with the latter being achieved thanks to the set’s provision of a decent set of colour and gamma management controls. We still feel there’s room for improvement in this increasingly important area, though.
In assessing the P42GT20, we immediately noticed the missing black level filter we mentioned earlier. Dark scenes look noticeably more grey than they do with the V Series models. That said, put in the context of the sub-£1,500 40-42in market generally, the black level response is actually impressive – as we would naturally expect of a Panasonic plasma TV.
We should also qualify our reduced black level point by saying that we noticed the issue less during 3D viewing than we did with 2D, thanks presumably to the pronounced brightness reduction you get with Panasonic’s plasma TVs in 3D mode.
Having mentioned 3D, we might as well look next at this aspect of the P42GT20’s performance. And having donned one of the two pairs of active shutter glasses currently being given away free with the P42GT20, it’s a huge relief to find it performing every bit as well as Panasonic’s higher-grade 3D TVs when it comes to crosstalk noise. Compared with any rival 3D technology we’ve seen, evidence of the dreaded double-ghosting phenomenon is extremely minimal - and even when it does crop up, it’s seldom strident enough to be truly distracting.
Not so marvellous is the reduction in brightness you have to put up with in 3D mode, and the resulting loss of shadow and deep colour detail during dark 3D scenes. 3D images also look a bit softer than they do on some LCD TVs. But as we’ve said before, we find Panasonic’s 3D brightness and sharpness reduction ultimately far less aggravating than the painfully distracting crosstalk which plagues all 3D LCD screens we’ve seen so far.
Another issue worth mentioning here is that having seen a number of very large 3D screens now, the relatively small screen of the P42GT20 does reduce the immersive impact of 3D. But we guess we’ve just been spoiled in this respect.
Although we remain philosophically opposed to 2D to 3D conversion, we should comment on it with the P42GT20, given that it’s Panasonic’s first stab at the technology. The first thing that strikes us is that Panasonic’s converted images are more limited in terms of depth than those of Samsung’s 3D TVs. But it’s also slightly less prone to depth errors.