The Panasonic TH-42PHD8
is a bit "old", in technical terms, as the new generation 8 and 9 Viera
models start coming out soon. Still, this is an interesting display and
surely worthwhile to test, especially since this model will probably be available
at discount prices when the new ones become available.
This HDTV (1024 x
768 XGA resolution) plasma has a simple bezel, intended to be less
pronounced and flashy than its Viera counterparts. Instead of deciding which
inputs might be appealing or important for you, Panasonic simply implemented
a built-in VGA input (also capable of receiving RGsB and RGBcvS signals) and
three expansion slots. These slots are capable of hosting a large variety of
input terminals, including standard inputs (component, S-Video, composite),
digital inputs (HDMI, DVI, HD-SDI, SDI), and more exotic ones (wireless
connection, SCART input, BNC connections, etc.)
The user gets three
slots to use as he sees fit. Not all input terminal cards will work with all
slots (e.g., The HDMI module will only work in slots 1 or 2), and some
boards are larger and require two slots (the component/S-Video/ composite
board). In my case, I tested the unit with a dual-slot version of
component/S-Video/composite module board and a series 8 HDMI module.
This version of the
component module has five BNC connectors. Although series 7 displays could
configure this input to behave as a SCART RGBcvS
input, the PHD8 refused to do so.
It only allowed me to configure it as either component or RGBHV inputs.
A major flaw in
previous Panasonic HDTV displays was a lack of support for European HDTV
standards with its digital HDMI/DVI inputs. 720p50 and 1080i50 are now fully
supported on the HDMI input, and in my tests, showed a great image, with no
The 42PHD8 offers a
more advanced video processing solution than previous Panasonic displays.
SDTV did not comb, even in extreme situations. Unfortunately, this came at
the expense of sharpness for SDTV video content. As more and more content is
now provided in film mode (3:2 cadence) these days, I would not expect most
customers to be bothered by this. I believe Panasonic uses O-plus video
processing (recently purchased by Intel).
noise/grain created by Plasma's time modulation technique for creating
intermediate shades of gray was very soft here. The display is not noisy and
can be viewed even at extremely short distances without a problem.
Black levels for the
display measured slightly higher (lower is better) than competing displays
by NEC and Pioneer. I would expect equivalent Viera models to slightly
improve on this. Whites on this model measured somewhat lower than on other
displays, contributing to a low 550:1 measured contrast. This occurs due to
a protection mechanism in the Panasonic plasma which prevents bright whites
from being abused (and abuse is actually what we need to perform accurate
The panel appears to
be capable of 3000:1 contrast ratio, and this mechanism should contribute to
a longer panel lifespan and less burn-in situations. On the downside, the
panel is virtually incapable of being used in "retina-burn mode", which
means it is less than ideal in commercial situations with high ambient
A black area between
the panel and the gray bezel causes the display to appear quite dark,
particularly when the room is dim. The plasma uses an "air filter" like
previous models, which does cause a slight reflection when viewing sharply
contrasting content at an angle. I had to enhance the image you see here in
order to make it more pronounced.
This type of filter
is gone in newer plasma panels by other companies, which contributes to
higher viewing angles and less light being wasted. In normal conditions,
this type of problem would be unnoticeable at normal viewing angles.
The panel has the
typical XGA 1024x768 resolution laid out in 16:9 aspect ratio (pixels are
rectangular). This resolution could be accessed at native rate by an
external processor through HDMI, but only at 59.94Hz.
described, the internal processor in this plasma model tends to be overly
cautious and assumes video mode when possible to prevent combing. Combining
the display with a good DVD player (OPPO 971 or a Panasonic DVD player)
running at 720p through the HDMI input, the image is significantly sharper
and more detail is brought out. Black level details are pronounced and
The display really
shows off its capabilities when combined with an HDTV source. Both 1080i and
720p are handled beautifully by this set. The detail level on Lilu's face
in The Fifth Element (my camera and photographic skills rarely capture a picture that truly
illustrates the feel of a particular scene, but I think I succeeded this time)
was just plain incredible.
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