Panasonic TH-42PD25U/P review: Panasonic TH-42PD25U/P

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The Good Excellent black-level performance; great video processing with 2:3 pull-down; sleek design; numerous inputs, including an HDMI port; CableCard and HDTV tuner built in.

The Bad Minor false-contouring artifacts; inaccurate color decoding with standard sources.

The Bottom Line Delivering true blacks and splendid shadow detail, this EDTV plasma is the king of the home-theater hill.

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7.4 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 7
  • Performance 8

Panasonic TH-42PD25U/P: EDTV champ

Note: The TH-42PD25U/P is virtually identical to its predecessor, the TH-42PA20U. The only difference is the addition of a CableCard slot, a built-in HDTV tuner, and an HDMI port (instead of a DVI jack). This review has been modified from the TH-42PA20U review to reflect those changes.

When you turn off the lights to watch a movie, you expect its letterbox bars and its other black areas to look, well, black. Sadly, you'll be disappointed by the majority of plasma and other nontube TVs, including bleeding-edge DLP, LCD, and LCOS designs. Among those technologies, only a few plasmas can rival traditional tubes in delivering realistic blacks and shadows. A prime example is Panasonic's least-expensive consumer 42-inch model, the TH-42PD25U/P. This EDTV plasma may not deliver as much detail as its high-resolution cousin, the TH-42PX25U/P, but it also costs a good deal less. It includes an HDTV tuner and a CableCard slot, for set-top-box-free high-def tuning, and it looks swanky enough for any wall. If those extra features seem superfluous and you want a cleaner, more industrial look, Panasonic offers the stripped-down TH-42PWD6UY for a few bucks less. No matter which of the two you choose, you'll receive a nearly tube-quality picture in a slim, swanky package.

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 TH-42PD25U/P comes dressed in fashionable silver, with a pair of speakers to either side of the glass. The thin, black screen border and the subtle logo look quite classy, although personally we prefer the minimalist style of the "industrial" models.

At 3.9 inches deep, the TH-42PD25U/P will fit nicely on the wall in the optional bracket. For more conventional installations, Panasonic includes a swivel stand and also offers a pedestal stand complete with shelves for your A/V gear.

The set comes with a beefy remote that can command other components. It has a big, well-placed cursor control and illuminated buttons. We found it easy to use, but smaller-handed people will have to stretch.

If, like us, you prefer the speaker-free, black look, investigate this set's industrial cousin, the TH-42PWD6UY version, also known as the TH-42PW6. This model has simpler cosmetics, a lower price, a skimpier input selection, and a different menu configuration. Image quality should be identical.

The TH-42PD25U/P includes a CableCard slot--making the set digital cable ready--and a built-in HDTV tuner. These features enable you to view digital cable and over-the-air HDTV without a separate set-top box. As with all CableCard-equipped HDTVs, you'll need to order pay-per-view movies via phone, and you won't be able to use the cable company's video-on-demand or electronic program guide (EPG) functions.

This is an EDTV plasma with 852x480 resolution, which means that it can display 1080i and 720p HDTV material but not in full detail (more info). Like all plasmas, the TH-42PD25U/P scales computer, HDTV, VHS, cable, and all other incoming video to fit the available pixels. Panasonic also sells a higher-resolution version, the TH-42PX25U/P.

The TH-42PD25U/P has all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a high-end set. The picture-in-picture feature offers side-by-side display of two sources, and a pair of standard NTSC tuners joins the HDTV tuner mentioned above. On the audio side, the 16 watts of onboard power won't rattle your windows but is convenient if you don't want to fire up your full system. Rounding out your sound options are a simulated-surround circuit and the ability to even out sudden volume increases.

You'll also find a decent array of features that affect performance, including 2:3 pull-down; four picture modes; three color-temperature presets; and four selectable aspect-ratio modes, which fit non-wide-screen material to the display. In 4:3 mode, you can adjust the color of the letterbox bars from black to gray, and the Just mode keeps the image's center somewhat normal-looking while still filling the screen. With 480p material, you don't get the Just option, and with HD material you can't change aspect ratios at all.

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