You can certainly understand Panasonic’s wish to make 3D a big-screen experience with its first 3D TVs. The immersive qualities of the new full HD 3D experience shift up a gear with every inch you add to your 3D screen size.
But now, a few months after 3D first blasted – or sputtered, depending on your point of view! - into our living rooms, it’s commercial reality time. Meaning that Panasonic needs to recognise that large tracts of the TV buying public have neither the living room space nor the financial wherewithal to bag one of the brand’s 50in or 65in 3D 'big boys'.
So today we’re faced with an altogether more manageable, 42in 3D TV sporting Panasonic’s logo (and distinctively drab clothing): the TX-P42GT20.
It’s not just the P42GT20’s size that’s been 'crimped' in creating a more affordable 3D plasma TV, either. For the use of a 'G' in its model name rather than the V associated with Panasonic’s previous flagship 3D screens indicates that the new 3D model is built around the brand’s mid-range G20 chassis rather than the all-singing, all-dancing V chassis. As such, the GT20 lacks the V series' new, high-tech black level-boosting filter. While we’ve liked the 2D G series models we’ve seen, particularly considering how little they cost, there’s also no doubt that the black filter in the V models has delivered a noticeable performance lift, so it will be interesting how much we feel its loss in the third dimension.
In most other ways, though, the GT20’s spec sheet is pleasingly long. In fact, it even adds one potentially significant trick: 2D to 3D conversion. More on this later.
Another early highlight finds it sporting a full HD, 1,920 x 1,080 resolution – something that’s a big deal in the plasma world, with Panasonic remaining, so far as we’re aware, the only plasma manufacturer currently offering so many pixels inside a 42in plasma screen.
Also unique to Panasonic TVs this year are twin HD tuners. In other words, the P42GT20 carries both Freesat and Freeview HD receivers, so you can receive HD broadcasts wherever you are in the UK.
The P42GT20 lets you record both standard and high definition video from its built-in tuners, too, using external USB HDDs. Well, actually, saying HDDs in the plural isn’t strictly accurate. For despite our best efforts, the only hard drives we’ve been able to get working with Panasonic’s recording TVs have been the Buffalo JustStore Desktop HD-EU2-UK devices recommended on the brand’s website. Hopefully Panasonic will prove a bit less closed-minded with future generations of its time-shifting TVs.
The P42GT20’s core panel, meanwhile, is one of Panasonic’s very latest NeoPDP affairs, with all the improved phosphor/gas/filter goodness that promises. It’s a 600Hz affair too (meaning the plasma cells pulse 10-12 times per second), and even more importantly given the TV’s 3D status, unlike the standard issue G Series models, the P42GT20 has been given the fast-decay technology Panasonic originally introduced for its first 3D TVs. This is necessary to reduce the dreaded crosstalk double ghosting issue so common with 3D footage on other TV brands.