The clarity and detail in the 42PX80’s HD performance clearly proves the strength of the V-Real 3 engine. As does the set’s standard definition performance, which finds standard def images from the set’s built-in digital tuner getting upscaled to the screen’s higher resolution much more successfully – as in, with less noise, greater sharpness and improved colour toning – than we find with most flat TV rivals.
Plasma technology generally handles motion better than LCD but with the 42PX80 Panasonic has really underlined that argument by tackling in impressive fashion any residual problems noted on its previous models, such as faint dot noise over horizontal motion, or slight judder. Even 1080p/24 sources look as smooth as you like.
With pictures also catching our eye with their overall freedom from video noise, their rich, mostly natural colour palette and their exceptional stability (thanks, no doubt, to the 100Hz element), the 42PX80 is arguably the best Panasonic plasma TV to date. Not bad considering it’s also the cheapest.
That’s not to say that it’s perfect, though. For instance, colours don’t look as vibrant and aggressive as those of some rival LCD sets, or Pioneer’s premium KURO plasmas. Also, while colours are generally believable, one or two tones don’t look quite right. Deep reds, for instance, can go a bit orange, and the occasional skin tone can appear slightly over-ripe.
Finally in the negative column, while the 42PX80’s scaling of 1080-line sources to its 768 native resolution is good, a true full HD plasma could give you a touch more noiseless transparency when watching HD images.
But then, of course, a full HD 42in plasma TV would likely cost you considerably more. And in my opinion the quality of the 42PX80’s rescaling processing is more than sufficient to justify sacrificing a little native resolution in order to save a few quid.
Wrapping up our tests of the 42PX80’s AV talents with its audio capabilities, it’s pleasing to find the set pumping out considerably more volume and dynamic range than we’re used to hearing with Panasonic’s ‘PXx0′ plasma ranges. However, to get truly excellent sonics, you need go for models higher up in Panny’s new range that use the brand’s clever Advanced Smart Sound speaker designs.
After combining Panasonic’s finest plasma performance to date with an amazingly aggressive price for a 42in flat TV, the 42PX80 starts to look like arguably the biggest bargain of the year so far.