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Panasonic VIERA TH-42PV60A review: Panasonic VIERA TH-42PV60A

Panasonic's third rendition of its popular 42-inch Viera plasma, the TH-42PV60A, is sharper in picture and much sharper in price, but it's not quite as sexy as it used to be.

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Pam Carroll
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Pam Carroll

Former editor of CNET Australia, Pam loves being in the thick of the ever-growing love affair (well addiction, really) that Australians have with their phones, digital cameras, flat screen TVs, and all things tech.

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4 min read

Design
When Panasonic first introduced its Viera range in Australia two years ago, we thought it was drop dead gorgeous. Call us jaded, but while this Viera is still a very nice, clean-looking TV, it's just not quite the show-stopper it once was.

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8.1

Panasonic VIERA TH-42PV60A

The Good

Housed in a very compact cabinet. Accurate, natural colour. Detailed blacks. Two HDMI inputs.

The Bad

Analog tuner only. Rather plain design. Basic functionality package.

The Bottom Line

Panasonic’s third rendition of its popular 42-inch Viera plasma, the TH-42PV60A, is sharper in picture and much sharper in price, but its not quite as sexy as it used to be.

The TH-42PV60A is a trim 705 x 1020 x 95mm, making it a quite compact unit for its 106cm screen size. The speakers no longer flank the sides of the panel, but are so well concealed under the screen that they're almost undetectable. It has a 2cm black frame surrounding the screen, but the rest of the cabinet and table top stand are finished in a plain silver -- gone is the suave black casing from the 2005 model. We're not particularly enamoured of the current rage for TVs with glossy black finishes, but without it, the Viera doesn't have the same pizzazz. Other than an unobtrusive Panasonic logo, the rest of the face is free of clutter. Perhaps it's because there are now so many more flashy models on the market, but design elements that previously made a Viera set look sleek, now leave it a bit on the bland side.

The remote is really nothing to write home about as it's faced with an uninspiring grey plastic. It's quite compact, but the most often used buttons are a bit small and can be hard to locate and press. There's no back-lighting of any kind; watching a movie in the dark, we once hit the Sleep button by accident, so of course the screen shut down during a crucial scene. On the plus side, it will control some other compatible Panasonic VCR and DVD equipment.

Features
Panasonic added HDMI to its 2005 Viera model, and this year goes one better again with two HDMI terminals. If you've got other Panasonic equipment that also has HDMI, its HDAVI Control function will let you do things like control the power on/off on a DVD recorder or the volume on connected home theatre speakers.

There are also plenty of other connections on both the front and back of the unit to hook-up just about any device you'd want to including amplifiers, speaker systems, set top boxes, VCRs, DVD players and recorders, game consoles, computers, camcorders and headsets.

There is not simply more of everything, however. Previously included SD memory card and PC card slots have been omitted this time around. Picture-in-picture capabilities have also been left out. And no, there's still no digital tuner onboard.

It does feature Teletext, a child lock system and an off timer, but other than that, the TH-42PV60A doesn't have a lot of tricks up its sleeve. For those of you still worried about burn-in or what Panasonic terms "after images", a screen saver automatically activates when there's been a still image or no signal or operation for several minutes. The screen saver automatically deactivates when a signal or operation resumes.

Performance
While this Viera could not be classified as feature-packed, Panasonic cannot be accused of skimping when it comes to enhancements where it really counts -- and that's picture quality.

The TH-42PV60A can display high definition images, with a resolution of 1024x768 pixels. Its digital re-mastering processor up-converts DVD video and analog broadcasts so you're not left watching terribly pixelated vision from sources that don't take full advantage of the screen's HD capacity. It also features what Panasonic calls "1080p Digital Processing" to convert some HD signals into a format suitable on the 1024x768 screen.

The testing period for our review unit coincided with the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which SBS broadcast in Standard Definition. The TH-42PV60A handled all the sporting action smoothly, with no blurring during fast moving play and good detail of the players' uniforms, the pitch and the stadium settings.

Part of this can be explained by the TV's boosted contrast ratio, which has been more than tripled from last year's 3000:1 ratio to a mighty 10,000:1, an enhancement Panasonic obviously felt warranted despite cutbacks in other non-image related areas. This yields very crisp images and dark areas in low light scenes are nicely detailed. Its strength in contrast shone through in the many dark scenes of the King Kong DVD, particularly in the gruesome T-Rex battle scene. Strands of Ann Darrow's wispy blonde hair clearly shone in the jungle sunlight, yet there was good detail to the black hair of King Kong's coat and the dark vines they get caught up in when they fall into the ravine.

In addition to detailed blacks, the colours are clear and accurate -- saturated without becoming garish as we've seen in a few large LCD panels lately. The rich colours were especially pleasing in skin-tone rendition, which was very natural.

With the speakers hidden underneath the screen as opposed to separated on each side, audio is not the TH-42PV60A's strongest suit. The sound is passable with the surround sound feature turned on, but you'd get a much better result hooking this TV up to an external speaker system.

Where Panasonic really scores points is in turning out an HD plasma with a high standard picture quality at a sub-AU$4000 price point. Given that two years ago the equivalent model listed for AU$8799 (we reviewed the 50-inch version) and last year's set was AU$5999, it's easier to understand the company's trade off of a few features and fancy finishes to come in at a price that will probably have this latest Viera selling like hot cakes.

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