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Panasonic TH-42PD50U

Panasonic TH-42PD50U

Yes, you can find plasmas with a higher resolution or a bigger screen, but last year, our highest rating for a plasma TV went to an EDTV, the Panasonic TH-42PD25U/P. For 2005, Panasonic is releasing an updated version, the TH-42PD50U. It doesn't have any major feature upgrades, but it does have different styling and a lower price. The TH-42PD50U is currently available for $2,000 (list).

Upside: Although we have not yet tested this model, last year's was the best-performing consumer EDTV we reviewed. As with all sets larger than 36 inches this year, the TH-42PD50U has a built-in ATSC tuner, so no external hardware is necessary to receive over-the-air HD programming. Its connectivity is highlighted by an HDMI port, a digital audio output, and two component-video inputs.

Downside: The TH-42PD50U is missing a few features compared to last year's model. It lacks a PC input, which could be a drawback for those looking to surf the Web on their new big screen. It's not Digital Cable Ready, so cable users will have to keep their boxes. The TH-42PD50U has a native resolution of 852x480, which is significantly less than many other 42-inch plasmas (more info). Although a lot more than resolution goes into making a great picture, the TH-42PD50U is an EDTV, so it will never be able to display the same level of detail of higher-resolution sets.

Outlook: Given its low price, we expect the TH-42PD50U to continue its predecessor's wild popularity among flat-panel shoppers. Other options from Panasonic include the even-less-expensive industrial models, which offer excellent picture quality but even fewer features. And while EDTVs aren't necessarily for losers, those who can pay extra to get higher resolution may want to check out the TH-PX50U series.

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