The P42VT30 scores highly for its connectivity. It’s both expansive – including four v1.4 HDMIs, three USBs, a LAN port, and the play/record SD card slot – and handily arranged so that every socket can be accessed from the side or bottom, to aid wall mounting. It’s notable, too, that the screen is so skinny that one or two connections can only be accessed via included ‘downsizing’ adaptors.
The last thing to point out about the P42VT30’s features is that it’s very multimedia savvy. Its compatibility with Panasonic’s Viera Connect platform provides access to such online services as Skype, the BBC iPlayer, Facebook, Eurosport, AceTrax and YouTube (with many more apps and services coming soon). It can play files from DLNA PCs on its network, meanwhile, as well as video (including DivX HD), photo or music files from USB drives or SD cards.
First impressions of the P42VT30 in action elicit precisely the gasps of ‘wow’ we’d been hoping for. Especially since the set’s black level response is not only palpably better than even that of the P50GT30, but also the richest and deepest we’ve seen since Pioneer’s KURO sets.
Obviously, this isn’t the first time we’ve drawn comparisons between Panasonic TVs and the legendary but sadly now extinct Pioneer KUROs. But with the P42VT30, the comparison is particularly justified, since we’d say the depth of its black levels really does finally tally with that of the last KURO set we tested. Dark scenes contain areas of blackness that really can look as black as the bezel around the screen, or the inky darkness of a blacked-out room.
Not surprisingly, this has a terrific impact on the TV’s portrayal of films, in particular, where extreme contrast ranges and really dark sequences are routine. Remember, too, that thanks to plasma’s self-emissive nature, the almost infinitely deep black levels can sit side by side with rich colours and punchy whites, without the usual contrast, brightness and backlight uniformity compromises you get with LCD/LED technology.
The P42VT30’s pictures are also stunningly detailed and sharp with HD material, with the high contrast range serving to underline the image’s crispness and texture. As you’d expect, this helps the set produce impressively finely delineated colour tones and blends too, and colours additionally look pleasingly vibrant and fully saturated. Though it did seem to us that colours on the P42VT30 weren’t quite as vibrant as those of the P50GT30.
The P42VT30 handles motion well for the most part too. Naturally, there’s none of the blurring that you get with LCD TVs thanks to plasma’s more or less instant response time, and judder is generally well contained. There can be some jerking – or perhaps more accurately, double imaging – with 50Hz PAL material, but this is only seriously distracting under very specific circumstances, such as when a camera pans over the lines of a football pitch. Plus you can reduce the problem considerably if it’s troubling you via the set’s Intelligent Frame Creation system – though if you do this, make sure the frame interpolation isn’t set any higher than its Mid setting if you don’t want pictures to start looking painfully processed.