As noted with the P50VT20, Panasonic’s latest NeoPDP technology - which introduces improvements in the plasma panel design right down to the cell structure level - produces easily the most convincing colours we’ve seen from Panasonic’s plasma TVs. Reds now avoid the orange look seen at times in the past, skin tones look totally realistic (especially using the Digital Cinema Colour option) with natural tones and practically zero patchiness or colour striping, and greens look much more 'in balance' with the rest of the colour palette.
Just occasionally, a dark scene will adopt a very slightly greener overall tone than we’d like. But these moments are rare, and in any case are largely lost amid all the stuff the P42V20’s pictures get right.
This 'right stuff' further includes an exceptional ability at reproducing the detail and clarity of HD sources, and some solid-to-good standard definition pictures that look sharper and more naturally coloured than we see with models in the lower regions of Panasonic’s plasma range. As part of this, it’s worth stressing that Panasonic currently remains the only brand to deliver Full HD resolutions on 42in plasma TVs.
The sharpness just discussed is seldom if ever besmirched by motion judder or blur meanwhile, thanks to a combination of plasma technology’s innate response time benefit over LCD, Panasonic’s 600Hz Sub-Field Drive, and Panasonic’s potent Intelligent Frame Creation/24p Smooth Film processing.
As a side note here, though, we would strongly urge you not to engage any of the motion processing when gaming, as the slight delay it creates can lead to your face getting shot off on Modern Warfare 2 with even more depressing regularity than usual. Fortunately Panasonic has included a Game picture preset that largely fixes this delay issue, so we suggest you use it.
More good news comes from the fact that you don’t have to spend hours tweaking the P42V20’s new, extensive picture setting options to get the sort of video excellence we’ve been describing. Sure, there are benefits to some time spent calibrating things, but the provided THX preset is a vast improvement over the one seen with last year’s Panasonic premium plasmas - presumably because the new panel design’s enhanced abilities, especially with colour and black level response, have allowed THX to get much closer to its ideal picture settings.
The P42V20’s sound isn’t as accomplished as its stellar pictures. First impressions are promising, as the soundstage appears larger and more dynamic than most. However, over time the soundstage becomes tiring, as it filters through to your ears that the initially imposing bass lines are actually rather muddy and forced, while trebles sound peaky and sometimes even harsh. This is especially true of the Music audio preset; we thus much-preferred the Speech mode.
If you want the vast majority of the picture quality of Panasonic’s latest 3D models but don’t need 3D, then the P42V20 is the answer to your prayers. It’s an outstanding 42in TV in almost every way, and as such manages to make its £1,160 price look better value than we’d expected.