Now for the bad news. Starting with the fact that while standard def pictures look sharp and clean, they don’t seem as natural or vibrant with their colours as HD ones. There’s also evidence during standard definition viewing of colour banding instead of perfectly smooth colour blends – a problem that very occasionally pops up with HD, too.
Next, even with the NeoPDP panel, and using the TV’s really quite ugly Dynamic picture preset, the P42V10’s pictures aren’t as bright and dynamic as those of a good LCD set. And this brightness difference becomes more pronounced using one of the set’s more sensible presets, such as Cinema or THX. In a darkened room I guess this might not be too much of a problem, but it does stop images having that ‘pop’ that so many people like to see.
Next, while HD pictures look detailed and extremely natural, they don’t look quite as pin-sharp as we’ve seen them on one or two LCD TVs.
Finally, the IFC processing does cause some gentle artefacting from time to time, in the form of some slight shimmering around moving objects, sporadic flickering, and even a touch of shearing under extreme circumstances.
But such issues are common with pretty much every strong motion-processing system to some extent, and in the great scheme of things the P42V10’s artefacts aren’t severe enough to stop the system being a major benefit to pictures for 90 per cent of the time. Plus, of course, when the feature does become distracting with certain high-octane sources, well, you can just turn it off!
Turning to the P42V10’s audio, it isn’t as all-round excellent as its HD pictures. Chiefly because a slight shortage or range at both the bass and treble ends of the audio spectrum leaves the mid-range feeling a bit compressed. Good volumes can be achieved without distortion or cabinet ‘hum’ setting in, though, and the set has a decent stab at opening up to accommodate action scenes.
I guess a couple of big comparison questions need to be cleared up here. So first, is the P42V10 a Pioneer ‘KURO’ killer? No, it isn’t. The latest KURO plasmas still outgun the P42V10 on black levels and colour response – though of course, they cost considerably more.
How does the P42V10 stack up against the best LCDs? Here it’s more complicated, and a sort of ‘horses for courses’ situation. For while the best LCDs produce punchier, sharper, more dynamic images with less colour banding, the Panasonic scores on black level (except for more expensive LED backlit TVs) and motion clarity/response time.
Hmm. All this compare and contrast stuff is starting to sound unfairly negative. So probably the best way I can sum the P42V10 in a more upbeat context is by saying that it is actually the best 42in plasma TV you can currently buy (given that Pioneer doesn’t do 42in ones anymore). Which makes it a must-audition set for anyone unsure as to which TV technology to buy, and an absolute no-brainer for LCD haters. Especially given its surprisingly aggressive price.