Panasonic had a hit in Australia last year with their stylish Viera range of flat panel televisions. The newest Vieras stick with the sleek design of previous models but come with an array of improvements, including high definition capability and HDMI connectors.

The 42" TH-42PV500A widescreen plasma leads the charge, and is instantly recognisable as a Viera thanks to the shiny black frame surrounding the large screen and the slightly curving bottom. The front of the TH-42PV500A is clutter free, having very few buttons or obtrusive logos to distract. The result is another design winner from Panasonic, and should look impressive in any living room whether wall mounted or on the supplied silver stand.

The TH-42PV500A can display high definition images, with a resolution of 1024x768 pixels and the ability to show up to 1080i signals. Panasonic says the new plasma has a high contrast of 3000:1, and from a brief view has had of the set we can attest that it certainly can display very dark blacks. Panasonic also boasts that the TH-42PV500A comes with proprietary processing technology called the Viera Colour Management System, which enriches colour depth. Also helping the picture is the company's sub-pixel controller which helps smooth out edges and contours in images.

Perhaps the most significant addition is the HDMI input, which allows you to use the all digital video/audio connector to hook the TH-42PV500A to other gear. Other inputs include four composite inputs, two S-Video, two components, and a PC input. It also has an SD memory card slot on the front. When it comes to sound, the TH-42PV500A features two tweeters each on either side of the screen, while two woofers are located below.

Unfortunately, despite the television's HD capabilities, Panasonic has only fitted it with an analog tuner. A digital tuner (whether SD or HD) is practically a requirement for a screen this size, so be prepared to pay a few hundred dollars extra for an external tuner.

At AU$5999, the TH-42PV500A represents good value for a high def plasma that features some impressive specs as well as good looks. The new range of Vieras should win more fans for Panasonic.