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Hands-on with the Panasonic TH-42PX80B: A sad story

When a TV goes to silicon heaven it's always a sad affair, but when you're in the middle of reviewing it and getting on like a house on fire, it's even more upsetting

Let's say first of all, that from the time we spent with it so far, we really like the 42PX80B, Panasonic's new 42-inch 720p entry-level plasma TV. It arrived on Thursday last week and like excited (and fairly dorky) children, we hooked it up straight away. For a while everything looked good, the picture was sharp, the setup was really simple and all was right with the world. Then it was home-time, so we switched the set off for the night...

The next day: disaster. The screen had developed some sort of crazy fault and now it was displaying its lovely picture with a row of brightly lit but totally useless pixels -- which is what the image on the right is all about. A quick consultation with electronics guru Rupert Goodwins and we began to understand the problem. Apparently one of the processors that controls that particular segment of the plasma panel has had a little whoopsie. And so ended a beautiful, but woefully short, relationship between us and the PX80.

Fortunately, it's pretty rare in the TV-reviewing game to get a dud TV and this one is going to where it can get the care and attention it needs to make a full recovery. With a bit of luck, it'll pop back to see us when it's feeling better and we'll inspect it fully for review purposes.

What we can say, from the time we spent with it, is that the TH-42PX80 is a lovely TV. It's going to cost about £800, at least to start with, but from what we saw of the untainted picture it's well worth it. Panasonic seems to have hit new levels of quality -- the picture was bright and colourful, with masses of detail. On-screen movement was dealt with brilliantly and there was virtually none of the traditional plasma noise in dark areas.

We also loved the menu system, which is clear and attractive. The fonts are all smooth as silk, which might sound like an odd thing to mention, but a pleasant menu screen inspires confidence in the overall product. There are also plenty of useful inputs scattered around on the set. At the rear you get a trio of HDMI sockets, and round the front there's an SDHC memory card slot, for photo slide shows and even AVCHD video.

For a fairly low cost, you also get a pretty stylish TV. Okay, there's none of the fancy styling you find on the premium models, but it's smart and clutter-free. There's only one button on the front of the set, and that's a power switch, something we're thrilled to see making a comeback.

We're hoping Panasonic will send us a new 42PX80 soon, and when that happens we'll be posting a full review. –Ian Morris

Update: We have now seen a working version of this model, and we rather liked it. Check out our Panasonic Viera TH-42PX80B review, along with our views on the 37-inch version of this TV in our Panasonic Viera TH-37PX80B review.