|Find the most popular LCD or Plasma for your price range|
Reviewed: 15 April 2009
Panasonic seem to be playing safe with their 2009 entry level and mid range plasma screens. Evolution rather than revolution is definitely the order of the day with some subtle design changes maintaining the distinctly Panasonic look of previous years.
While similar to the entry level X10 series, a sharper, slimmer screen surround makes a huge difference. Add excellent build quality and finish and in the TX-P42G10 Panasonic have managed to create a stylish, if not ultimately stunning, piece of audio visual kit.
With a huge range of Plasma and LCD TV's for 2009, Panasonic can certainly not be accused of resting on their laurels. While some of the lower end 2009 panels we have looked at demonstrate those familiar qualities of technical expertise, quality, value and performance, they have not exactly set the world of flat panel technology alight. The new G10 series plasma's are the first to bring with them some really exciting technical innovations and with those innovations the promise of ground breaking performance.
Screen: 42in 16:9 Tuner: Digital Sound System: Nicam Resolution: 1920 x 1080 Contrast Ratio (dynamic): 2,000,000:1 Other Features: V-real 4 Picture Processing, 100Hz refresh rate, 600Hz sub-field drive. Sockets: 3 HDMI, 2 SCART, Component Video, Composite Video, PC input, SD card reader.
By improving flat panel luminance efficiency, NeoPDP technology has the potential to give plasma screens a new lease of life by reducing power consumption by up to a half. NeoPDP actually focuses on and improves the efficiency of three different components of screen performance - materials and processes, gas discharge and cell design along with electronic circuit technologies.
While the overall picture performance of plasma compares favorably to LCD, relative power consumption of the competing technologies exposes plasma's Acilles heal in significantly greater running costs. NeoPDP technology not only reduces power consumption but paves the way for slimmer, lighter screens with improved picture performance.
With the TX-P42G10, Panasonic are giving users the option of achieving the same brightness levels as their 2008 plasma screens while using far less power, or else using the same power used on last year's screens to produce far brighter images.
Not only does NeoPDP bring with it the promise of far greater energy efficiency but also a vastly improved picture performance. A faster 0.001ms response time, improved colour reproduction, and greater contrast levels offer the potential for stunning picture performance.
Having just about digested the implications of NeoPDP, Panasonic hit us with another first - 600Hz Sub-Field Drive Intelligent Frame Creation Pro technology. Things are always not quite what they seem however, and the 600Hz as we shall see does not translate into 600 frames per second (which on the TX-P42G10 is 100 frames per second, or 100Hz).
Remembering that a video signal is actually a series of still images (frames) appearing so quickly that they trick the eye into believing we are watching a moving image (100Hz = 100 frames per second) - Sub-Field technology adds an extra step to the process. Sub-field drive is the method used to display (or 'flash') the individual image elements (dots) on a plasma panel, 600 times per second (600Hz) in the case of the G10. Panasonic are actually employing some clever technology to 'interpolate' this extra data. The number of frames displayed per second in the case of Sub-Field technology has not actually increased to 600, which is a little confusing.
Whatever the ins and out of Sub-Field technology, the process has the potential at least to produce significantly improved rendering of pictures and in particular a much smoother image.
With a built-in Freesat tuner the feature list just keeps on going up. Elsewhere there is an SD card which plays AVCHD movies or your digital still JPEG's. The TX-P42G10 come equipped with a Full HD (1920 x 1080) screen and a slightly disappointing HDMI count of three.
Panasonic's almost legendary V-real Picture Processing Engine now comes in the shape of V-real 4. Tweaks to the screens main picture processing circuitry have been designed to clean the incoming Standard Definition source as well as improving High Definition presentation.
Panasonic claim a 2,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio for the TX-42PG10, the Eco mode element of which dims the on screen image brightness automatically in response to the ambient light conditions surrounding the TV.
Viera Link uses the high-definition multimedia interface (HDMI) connections to automatically control similarly enabled devices using a single remote. Panasonic have now added support for their LUMIX range of digital cameras to Viera link. Viera Image Viewer is a new function for easy viewing of digital still photos. Pop in an SD card and a slide show begins automatically with, amongst other things, the option to choose from three preset background music tracks.
V-audio surround actually determines the measurement of the room the TV is in, via a digital signal. The sound coming from the TV is then customized for its environment.
It becomes immediately apparent that the TX-P42G10 is a more accomplished performer than the TX-P42X10 we recently reviewed. Panasonic have built a solid reputation for the motion handling capabilities of their Plasma screens with the TX-P42G10 set to enhance that reputation. The performance in this respect is not perfect, but enough of an improvement to suggest that 600Hz sub-field drive technology is much more than a clever marketing exercise. The improvement is most noticeable on faster motion sequences where even the best flat screens begin to loose an element of definition, clarity and sharpness. The TX-P42G10 ultimately suffers from a very small amount of juddering with fast camera pans, but its abilities place it into an elite group of performers in this respect.
Even more impressive are the black level abilities of the TX-P42G10. While not surpassing the legendary abilities of Pioneer's range of 'Kuro' screens the TXP42G10 can actually match the long time black level benchmark. Displaying the same deep rich luscious blacks of the Pioneer is one thing but achieving the same level of graduated detail in shadowy areas is a real achievement.
With excellent black levels producing a perfect backdrop for colour it came as a slight disappointment that the P42G10 was not quite able to take full advantage. While colours are as vibrant as any flat screen we have come across, this vibrancy seems to come at the cost of accuracy. While colour on the TX-P42X10 was as good as we have seen for an entry level plasma, the standard is not quite good enough for the step up G10 which shows no significant improvement. To put this performance into context, the problem is quite minor, and more of a reflection of the significant improvements other manufacturers have achieved.
Testament to further tweaking of V-real processing into V-real 4 and given that the circuitry has to upscale the 576 or so lines of Freeview pictures onto a 1920 x 1080 screen, the TX-P42G10 delivers an excellent Standard Definition (SD) performance. Inevitably, Freeview pictures are blighted by an element of on screen noise and some posturization (obvious steps rather than a smooth transition in colour) but these concerns are relatively minor. Improve the quality with a cable or satellite feed and you are rewarded with an SD picture which, for a relatively large screen, is excellent, serving as a great day to day platform for general viewing.
As we expected, the Full HD (1920 x 1080) panel produced some of the most accomplished High Definition (HD) pictures we have seen. Panasonic do high definition on Full HD panels as well as any other manufacturer, with the HD rendition of scenes from our 'Planet Earth' Blu-ray compelling you to reach out and touch - the impression of reality being so strong. Every imaginable nuance of detail is presented in a flood of vibrantly rendered colours, a truly involving and addictive experience.
Once again we were impressed with the acoustic ability of one of Panasonic's 2009 panels. While not comparable to a dedicated home cinema set up and despite some well hidden speakers, the acoustic performance is stronger than most. As with the X10 series, the base could be stronger, but this is nevertheless one of the few TV's that can really cope with the demands of the strongest soundtracks.
While there are a few minor glitches, the TX-P42G10 really delivers on the promise of some exciting new technological developments. Add further refinement in the shape of V-real 4 and the the TX-P42G10 joins an elite group of mid range flat panel TV's.