We've been fans of Panasonic's "industrial" plasmas since they were first introduced, and we're not the only ones. These bare-bones, all-picture plasmas consistently top the most-popular lists of online plasma retailers because they don't make you pay for stuff you (as an enthusiast) won't use: namely speakers, a tuner, a gaggle of inputs, and a fancy remote. The TH-42PHD7UY, Panasonic's latest 42-inch high-resolution industrial plasma panel, has a picture that's head and shoulders above its "consumer" 42-inch cousins, such as the TH-42PX25U/P, and demonstrably better than virtually all of its competition in the 42-inch size category. We say "high-resolution" because despite having more pixels than the otherwise-identical EDTV TH-42PWD7UY, this plasma doesn't have enough resolution to display every pixel of true HDTV (then again, no other 42-incher does). If you can get over the lack of inputs and add-ons, the TH-42PHD7UY is hands down the best value in high-resolution 42-inch flat-panel TVs.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The design of the TH-42PHD7UY won't win it any awards, but it is an industrial model, so we don't expect too much in the looks department. It is remarkably clean looking: mostly glass surrounded by a dark-gray frame. Since this panel is strictly a monitor, there are no speakers, although you can purchase optional matching speakers.
Panasonic does include a stand for tabletop installations, and, of course, an optional bracket is available for wall-mounting purposes. Measuring only 40 by 22 by 3.5 inches (WHD) and weighing 64 pounds, the TH-42PHD7UY will fit just about anywhere.
The remote is small, simply laid out, and easy to use. The GUI, or internal menu system, is also quite basic and straightforward. Other than picture controls and some advanced picture controls in the advanced menu, there really isn't much to it.As we mentioned at the outset, this Panasonic's 1,024x768 resolution is what sets it apart from EDTV-resolution plasmas of the same size. Those extra pixels mean more detail with computer and high-def sources (more info). Of course, the TH-42PHD7UY can display just about everything you throw at it, including standard TV, VHS, DVD, and high-def.
Surprisingly the TH-42PHD7UY does offer PIP and POP for keeping tabs on more than one program at a time. Other than that, it has a 4X Zoom mode that splits the screen into zones and allows you to magnify the images up to 400 percent. As far as picture-enhancing features, it has the all-important 2:3 pull-down for the elimination of motion artifacts with film-based video sources (DVD movies). The panel offers three aspect-ratio selections with computer sources and four (plus one autodetect mode) with standard video and progressive-scan DVD, but unfortunately, it can't change aspects with high-def sources.
Otherwise, the TH-42PHD7UY is essentially featureless. In addition to shipping sans speakers, it lacks a built-in tuner of any kind, so you can't connect a cable from the wall (you need a box) or an antenna and immediately watch TV. While it does include picture presets such as Dynamic and Cinema, it's missing many of the dubious picture features (autocolor, and so on) found on consumer models. Happily, it does boast independent input memories as well as a variety of screensavers to help prevent burn-in--an overrated danger in our book.
As far as connections are concerned, the panel's back panel is a little sparse out of the box. It comes standard with one component-video input that doubles as an RGB input, one 15-pin RGB input that can also be configured for component video, one S-Video input, and one composite-video input. The component-video and composite-video jacks use BNC-type connectors, necessitating the purchase of inexpensive RCA-to-BNC adapters to allow connection of standard video cables.