If you really couldn't give a monkey's about 3D TV, but still value picture quality highly, Panasonic's Viera TX-P42G30B might be right up your street. It's the most advanced 2D-only model in the company's current lineup of plasma sets, including BBC iPlayer, yet it's very reasonably priced -- you can currently pick up this 42-inch model for just over £700 online.
There are some important differences, though, between the G30 and some of Panasonic's higher-end screens. Obviously there's the lack of 3D support, but the TV is also lacking the company's Infinite Black Pro filter, which helps improve contrast performance when using the TV in a room with lots of background ambient light. You don't get the freesat tuner that's found on the VT30 models, either.and
Despite these omissions, the G30 is certainly not lacking when it comes to features. Its Infinite Black panel promises deep and inky black levels, there's Panasonic's Intelligent Frame Creation Pro processing onboard to help smooth out motion issues, and it supports a range of Internet services too.
The set may lack support for freesat, but there is, as you would expect, a Freeview HD tuner onboard, so along with the usual line up of standard-definition channels you'll also find HD ones lurking in the EPG, too. Interestingly, like many other models in Panasonic's current range, if you plug a USB drive into one of the two USB ports you can use it to record shows to disk to watch later.
Internet equals iPlayer
Around, the back you'll also find an Ethernet port. Hook the G30 up to your home network and you'll be able to access a range of services from the Viera Connect menu, including BBC iPlayer, Eurosport News, Facebook, Twitter and even Skype. All in all it's a decent line up of services, but not quite on a par with what Sony offers on its TVs.
The G30 also supports the playback of digital media, including MP3 files and a range of video formats such as DivX and MKV. Files can either be played locally from USB storage devices, or alternatively you can stream content across a network from your PC. The streaming was very easy to setup and the quality of the playback was excellent, especially on HD content.
Naturally, what makes or breaks a set like this is picture quality, and we have very few quibbles on this front with the G30. One of the strengths of plasma technology has always been the deeper black levels it offers, and this TV is no slouch in this department.
Black levels are important because they help a screen to deliver richer contrast levels that make movies look more cinematic. The G30's performance isn't quite on the same level as the VT30, but it's still hugely impressive.