Panasonic, the leader in plasma TV sales in the United States, won its popularity through a combination of solid performance and aggressive pricing. The 42-inch Panasonic TH-42PX60U ($2,500 list), the most popular size of model in the company's least expensive 2006 line of consumer plasma TVs, seems destined to do the same this year. Compared to the 2005 TH-PX50U series, Panasonic lowered the list price of its 42-incher by $300, made it slightly more compact, gave it the ability to adjust aspect ratio with HD sources, and dropped the CableCard slot in favor of a second HDMI input--all changes we heartily applaud. In terms of picture quality, not much has changed: the TH-42PX60U does a lot of things well, although it's not quite the equal of its 42-inch industrial cousin, the TH-42PHD8UK. It still produces images that are demonstrably superior to that of most 42-inch plasmas--both name-brand and otherwise--and it does so at a relatively affordable price. It seems that the two-tone look has taken over popular plasma design. The Panasonic TH-42PX60U has a black frame surrounding the screen, while the rest of its cabinet, as well as the tabletop stand, is finished in silver. Left and right stereo speakers are located below the screen, keeping the width of the set to a minimum, and the grilles are slickly disguised so that you'll barely notice them. Overall, the TH-42PX60U's exterior doesn't stand out compared to that of other plasmas we've seen--a few CNET staffers that saw the set thought it was too bland, while others didn't mind the understated look, but most agreed that there was too much silver below the screen.
We appreciated that Panasonic shaved 1.5 inches from the overall width of the television compared to last year's model. The TH-42PX60U measures 40.2 by 30.3 by 12.7 inches (WHD) atop its stand, and the panel itself is 3.8 inches deep.
The remote is logically laid out and easy to use, with huge numerical keys compared to those of previous Panasonic remote designs. Unfortunately, it is not backlit at all for use in a darkened room, but it will control DVD players and cable boxes. The internal menu system, or GUI (graphical user interface), is a new design that more closely resembles the industrial model's design. We found it logical and intuitive to navigate. As with almost all high-resolution--as opposed to EDTV--plasmas available these days, the Panasonic TH-42PX60U has a native resolution of 1,024x768 pixels. While that's not enough to display every pixel of HDTV sources, no plasma of this size can make that claim. The set can accept and display HDTV, DVD, and standard TV sources, but it doesn't have a dedicated PC input--although adventurous users can probably get it to display computer sources via HDMI.
We wouldn't call the TH-42PX60U a feature-rich set by any means, but it has a few worth mentioning. As for conveniences, it lacks picture-in-picture, although it offers an SD card slot for displaying digital photos. It includes an ATSC tuner but does away with the CableCard slot found on last year's models--no big loss if you're fine using a cable box.