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Fitting a 'Full HD' pixel count into a 42-inch plasma TV is tough. Very tough. So much so that it's only today, a decade after the first plasma TVs started to appear, that we've finally got a model that manages it.
That model is Panasonic's £1,000 TH-42PZ70 and to say our expectations for it are high would be an understatement.
With practically all of the UK's HD sources using a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, it's a real relief to find the 42PZ70 finally bringing a 1,920x1,080 native pixel count to the 42-inch plasma market. And the 42PZ70 builds on these HD credentials nicely by accepting the 1080p signals now output by some HD disc players and DVD upscalers.
Also contributing substantially to the 42PZ70's charms is its use of Panasonic's V-real Pro image processing system. Adding some of the most comprehensive noise-reduction systems we've seen and extensive colour management to the 1080p handling already mentioned, V-real Pro has impressed us greatly on previous Panasonic plasmas. But it seems particularly well-suited to the Full HD pixel count.
For instance, the processing combined with the extra pixel density of the 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution helps the 42PZ70 produce arguably the smoothest, most natural colour blends we've seen on a plasma TV -- a talent which also helps the picture look more three-dimensional and involving.
Colour tones are generally likeably natural too, partly because of the V-real Pro system, but also, we suspect, because the TV has some particularly fine black levels. The ability to show dark parts of a picture without the usual greying over that afflicts many flat TVs has long been a strength of Panasonic's plasmas, but it's still a relief to find that strength retained on its debut Full HD offering.
It's also a relief to find the image processing seemingly able to handle the considerable leap in power required when dealing with Full HD rather than 'mere' HD Ready resolutions. For instance, even fast-moving objects look crisp and clean, rather than blurred and noisy as they might if the processing was 'falling over' under the pressure.
One final strength is, as we'd expect, the crispness and detailing of the 42PZ70's images, as the Full HD pixel count helps it reproduce every pixel of the detail in a 1,920x1,080-pixel source, while also doing away with the sort of video noise that can occur when screens have to rescale Full HD sources to a lower screen resolution.
There's very little to be negative about from a performance point of view. The only actually problem is that some rich reds end up looking slightly orange on the 42PZ70.
It's also true that the difference in the image's sharpness compared with that of Panasonic's lower-resolution 42PX70 screen isn't quite as pronounced as we might ideally have hoped. This means that if money's tight, you may feel more inclined to go for the 42PX70 -- currently selling for as much as £300 less than the 42PZ70's £1,000 asking price.
The 42PZ70 is Panasonic's most accomplished 42-inch TV yet -- which is saying something when you consider how good its previous efforts have been. You just have to ask yourself whether the relatively small step-up in picture quality the 42PZ70's Full HD resolution delivers over the HD Ready resolution of the 42PX70 justifies the former's far higher price of £1,000.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire