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Panasonic CT-HX42 review: Panasonic CT-HX42

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The Good Inexpensive; wide-screen, anamorphic aspect ratio; 3:2 pull-down processing.

The Bad Inaccurate color decoder; no defeatable SVM; only one custom picture memory.

The Bottom Line In the hotly contested arena of direct-view HDTVs, the CT-32HX42 gets left in the cold.

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6.0 Overall

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The Panasonic CT-32HX42, a 32-inch television with a flat screen and the ability to display HDTV, looks pretty good on paper. It has most of the same high-end features as its competitors for a relatively low price. When put to the test, however, the CT-32HX42's picture quality just doesn't measure up. The Panasonic CT-32HX42, a 32-inch television with a flat screen and the ability to display HDTV, looks pretty good on paper. It has most of the same high-end features as its competitors for a relatively low price. When put to the test, however, the CT-32HX42's picture quality just doesn't measure up.

Design
The 32HX42 is a good-looking set with a perfectly flat screen and the popular all-silver finish. A flip-down door below the screen hides the front-panel A/V inputs as well as some commonly used function buttons such as Action (Menu), Volume, Channel, and Input Select.

Panasonic's redesigned remote is slimmer than the company's past offerings. However, its small buttons make it a bit awkward to use, and none of the keys are backlit or illuminated.

Features and connectivity
The 32HX42 can display both 1080i HDTV--when connected to an external HDTV tuner--and 480p progressive-scan DVD in wide-screen mode without sacrificing any of the resolution from anamorphic (enhanced for wide-screen) DVDs. Black bars appear above and below the wide-screen image.

Picture enhancements include 3:2 pull-down processing to improve the look of film-based sources such as DVD movies and a nice 3D-YC comb filter for composite-video sources such as VHS. You can select among normal, warm, and cool color temperatures. We recommend that you disengage the Natural Color setting since it actually corrupts color fidelity. There's just a single custom-picture memory slot, so you can save your contrast, brightness, and other settings for only one source.

The two-tuner, picture-in-picture feature will appeal to sports fans and chronic surfers trying to keep tabs on multiple programs at once. On the audio side, there's a 30-watt amp with simulated surround and A.I. Sound, which tames the peaks and the valleys in volume between shows and commercials.

The 32HX42's well-stocked rear panel offers two broadband component-video inputs; three composite-video A/V inputs, two of which have S-Video connections; one set of monitor outputs with composite video only; two RF inputs; one RF throughput; and left- and right-speaker outputs for use with external stereo loudspeakers. Front-panel A/V inputs with S-Video allow convenient camcorder or game-console hookups.

Performance
The 32HX42 did not perform well during testing. Even in Warm mode, its color temperature measured extremely blue, and the color decoder exhibited a heavy red push. As a result, we were forced to turn down the color in order to get a reasonable palette, which meant losing a lot of resolution and punch with component-video sources such as DVD and HDTV. Scan-velocity modulation (SVM), a nasty edge-enhancement circuit that mars detail rather than bettering it, was particularly severe.

Normally, these issues could be fixed by performing a professional ISF calibration, but this is not the case with the 32HX42. The service menu didn't allow us to tweak the color decoder or defeat SVM. Properly calibrating the grayscale (a.k.a. the color temperature) was also more difficult than usual, although we ended up with acceptable numbers.

Afterward, we checked out the results with some scenes from Lord of the Rings. The normally vivid colors in chapter 2, where Frodo meets Gandalf in the meadow, looked washed out. Sure we could have increased the color, but that would have seriously reddened the entire picture, especially flesh tones. Detail was good and sharp, but lack of color accuracy is the biggest negative here.

The Panasonic CT-32HX42 is a mediocre performer in the highly competitive arena of impressive, 4:3, HDTV-ready sets. We recently found it online for around $1,150. In comparison, the Toshiba 32HFX72, which we found for around $70 more, calibrates easily and has excellent color decoding and separate input memories. Unless you find a ridiculous bargain on this Panasonic and don't mind its performance issues, you should probably look elsewhere.

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