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Panasonic Viera TH-46PZ81 (freesat) review: Panasonic Viera TH-46PZ81 (freesat)

The Good Typically outstanding Panasonic plasma picture quality; freesat tuner works a treat; easy to use; decent value.

The Bad freesat's limited HD content; weaknesses in some freesat broadcasts.

The Bottom Line With most of the hardware support for freesat coming from predominantly budget brands such as Bush, the new digital platform sorely needs some proper heavyweight action. This stunning TV from Panasonic fits the bill perfectly, giving us freesat in its most hassle-free form, accompanied by some of the finest picture quality the TV world has to offer

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8.8 Overall

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At long last, there's now a way to enjoy high-definition broadcasts without paying Sky's hefty HD subscription charge: it's called freesat. To underline the importance of this new subs-free HD revolution, Panasonic has gone innovation-mad to present us with the very first TV with a built-in freesat receiver. Available for around £1,400, it's also the first TV with a built-in HD broadcast receiver.

Although not the most glamorous TV in town, the 46-inch 46PZ81 exudes an understated confidence. We're sure many people will actually prefer it to the strident fashion shows of some rival brands.

It's well connected too, including three v1.3 HDMIs with Deep Colour compatibility, an SD card slot capable of playing JPEG stills and AVCHD movies, and a mysterious Ethernet port for -- at a guess -- allowing future BBC iPlayer functionality.

The 46PZ81's features are, of course, dominated by the freesat HD tuner. But the set also carries Freeview and analogue tuners, making it the UK's first three-tuner TV. Before you start questioning the usefulness of a tri-tuner arrangement, you should be aware that Freeview actually carries a few channels that freesat currently does not, including Sky Sports News.

On hand to get the very best from the freesat source material is the top level of Panasonic's V-Real 3 picture processing engine. It boasts impressive abilities when it comes to suppressing noise, boosting colours, enhancing resolution and loads more besides. As expected, the V-Real 3 engine, together with the 46PZ81's 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution and Panasonic's innate plasma quality, helps produce some really scintillating picture quality from freesat's BBC HD and ITV HD channels.

Particularly exciting is how sharp HD pictures look. There was detail galore in the recent broadcast of Raiders of the Lost Ark on BBC HD, with each jungle leaf and strand of Indy stubble immaculately rendered during the film's opening scenes.

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