I bought the 42-inch 720p plasma Panasonic TH-42PX80U for my mother's bedroom, where it has been hanging on the wall for the last 3.5 years (as of 03/2012). The TV was less than $700 delivered (after the Live! rebate). Obviously, it is smaller than the 50-inch 1080p Panasonic TH-50PZ800U I reviewed earlier, has slightly lower resolution and costs about 50% less, but is it much worse?
My other point of comparison is the Hitachi P50H401 50-inch plasma TV that I bought for $1,150 (delivery and taxes included) at about the same time.
The Panasonic TH-42PX80U is a 42-inch plasma HDTV with 720p resolution. It features 3 HDMI inputs (including one in front), 2 S-video (1 in front), 2 component video and 2 composite video inputs (1 in front). There is also an antenna jack and an SD card slot for viewing pictures.
The HDMI inputs are v 1.3 compliant and TV features Deep Color and x.v.Color support.
The screen has a widescreen aspect ratio of 16:9, Motion Adaptive 3D Y/C Digital Comb Filter, MPEG noise reduction and a built-in HD tuner. It also has a Game Mode, Cinema Mode, Standard, Vivid and Custom modes and features anti-reflective coating to reduce unwanted light reflections.
The TV weighs only 57 lbs without the stand or 62 lbs with it (included). The TV features 2 built-in speakers with audio output of up to 20W qt 10% THD at 70-17,000 Hz.
The TV also features VIERA Link, which allows you operate other compatible Panasonic devices connected to it via HDMI using one remote.
The TV comes with a stand that requires minimal assembly. As I mentioned before, I mounted this TV on the wall using a generic TV mounting bracket. The mounting was rather straightforward. I removed four plastic plugs on the rear panel of the TV, attached the two metal plates to the back of the TV with the supplied bolts using the holes exposed by removing the aforementioned plugs.
Then, I attached the bracket to the wall and hung the TV on it.
The TV is very nice looking and will match seemingly any decor. The 50PZ800U looks slightly better though. Thus far, I used the TV with off the air programming, as well as with the Philips DVP5990 upconverting DVD player. The player was connected to the TV using its HDMI input.
I also briefly tried the TV's component video connections (the image quality was almost as good, but slightly softer).
Unlike some other HDTVs (namely my Hitachi), the powering on and switching between channels (as well as menu operations) are rather fast. When switching channels, the sound appears within one second and image within two. The menus appear almost instantaneously. My Hitachi is almost infuriatingly slow in this regard, especially after using this Panasonic.
The menus are intuitive and the setup was easy. In fact, the TV offered me to select the menu language and scan for channels. After channel scan, you can select/deselect channels that will be stored or skipped.
The remote control is relatively intuitive with large buttons for primary functions. The buttons are not backlit, but the layout is intuitive and they have great tactile response.
One more feature that makes this TV better than my Hitachi is the fact that you don't have to enter the entire channel number, e.g. 4-4. If you hit 4 and Select and the TV goes to the first channel that is not unselected while setting the channels up.
Out of the box, the TV produced very good picture, but (as is always the case) had over-boosted color and sharpness. It has Cinema mode, which is better. With other TVs, I use AVIA calibration DVD, but I was able to find recommended settings for this TV online and they did work very well (I adjusted Custom setting).
The settings removed over-boosted color saturation, edge enhancement and contrast, making picture appear more natural and film-like.
The TV produces excellent image quality. It produces excellent contrast, great colors, shadow and highlight detail. The skin tones are very good also.
The colors are vivid, yet natural. The foliage is very natural as well and the textures are well-defined due to great shadow detail and dynamic range.
The off the air programming, especially 1080i sports broadcasts, look excellent. The TV has a good tuner that can pull in as many channels as my Hitachi's.
Thanks to the anti-reflective coating, the TV, unlike many plasmas, does not suffer from excessive glare and is even better in this aspect that a CRT TV. It is even slightly better than my Hitachi and unlike Hitachi it does not sacrifice black level. The black level of Panasonic TVs is excellent and is among the best in business (same as Pioneer Kuro without its steep piece tag).
In this aspect, as well as in natural colors Panasonic TVs are among the best plasma or LCD TVs and this TV is no exception. It also holds details perfectly in both shadows and highlights. No LCD TVs cannot compare to the color reproduction or smooth motion of this TV - the areas where LCD TVs are lagging plasma technology.
The viewing angle is also excellent. I can see the images on TV while watching it almost perpendicular to the normal angle of view, which is not something LCD TVs can offer either.
I use the DVD player set to 720p over HDMI connection as well as off the air HD programming. Each input remembers its own settings, so make sure you adjust contrast, etc. for all of them.
Despite being a 720p TV (as opposed to 1080p resolution of pricier PZ800 series), the pictures have excellent cinema-like appearance in either 1080i or 720p resolution. For the size and viewing distance (about 7 feet), the 720p is as high of a resolution as is needed. The detail level is excellent.
The standard-def programming is slightly fuzzy after watching high-def, but it is not something I would be concerned about.
Resolutions: The TV can display material at resolutions of up to 1080p (inlcuding 1080i, 720p, 480p and 480i). Standard-definition signal looks slightly soft comparing to high-definition signal, but resolution is great overall.
The TV has 2 speakers, which are definitely adequate for watching news or sports, but I would suggest using dedicated 5.1 or 7.1 speaker setup with a good receiver for movies and music shows.
Pros: Price, looks, features, picture quality, ease of use, good remote, great black level
Cons: "Only" 720p (but I don't care)
I am very happy with this TV. For the price, I can only find smallest issues with it, e.g. non-backlit remote. Its image quality is excellent, especially with high-definition sources. The excellent resolution, detail level in both shadows and highlights, black level, good color reproduction and ease of use are commendable.