Let’s not forget, either, that all scaling of any sources – standard or high definition – will be done on the 42PX80 by Panasonic’s esteemed V-Real 3 image processing engine. With additional algorithms focussed on improving colour response, motion handling and, especially video noise levels, we found V-Real 3 doing a great job on the 37in 37PX80 a few weeks ago, so there’s no reason to suppose it will let the side down here.
A slightly unexpected secondary element of the 42PX80’s image processing is a 100Hz system. Although these are now commonplace on LCD screens to reduce problems with motion blur, with plasma technology the idea is that doubling the usual PAL refresh rate will make plasma images look more stable and solid – especially during camera pans.
A brief tour of the 42PX80’s exemplarily laid out onscreen menus is enough to convince us that aside from a handy energy-saving mode, we’ve pretty much covered all the TV’s truly significant features already. So we might as well get on with finding out if Panasonic has had to sacrifice any of its traditional plasma strengths in order to sell a 42in TV for under £700.
A few minutes spent in the company of the perennial night skies of ”30 Days of Night” on Blu-ray proves that there doesn’t seem to be any corner cutting going on when it comes to black level response. The dark backdrop to all the exterior town scenes looks suitably inky – as do the vampire’s chilling eyes. In fact, far from suffering any price-induced quality reduction, the 42PX80’s black levels are even deeper than those of Panasonic’s already outstanding previous plasma range.
As well as being deep, the 42PX80’s black levels feel completely natural. By which I mean that you can make out effortlessly all sorts of subtle details in even the darkest of corners. This gives dark images real depth in place of the slightly hollow, flat look dark scenes tend to have on all but the absolute best LCD screens.
A more unexpected plus point about the 42PX80’s pictures is their sharpness. For even though this isn’t a full HD TV, as the chief vampire rubs the blood of his deceased ‘partner’ over his head – nice – you can see each individual hair. Plus, needless to say, every last dribble and splatter of gore on all the vampires’ pale faces gets immaculately rendered.