The remote control
is fairly simple and provides discrete access to most of the important
functions on the display. I found it a bit hard to navigate with the remote,
and it does require some getting used to.
The limit on three slots + RGB input literally puts the upper input limit of
the display at four inputs, which is not really enough. I would hope that
Panasonic either adds more slots or allows several inputs to use a single
slot (e.g., a dual HDMI input). HDMI switchers are still a bit expensive
(unless your A/V receiver comes integrated with this feature), and almost
everything works with HDMI these days.The remote allows for ID selection,
which means you can use more than one screen around your house without
worrying about causing mayhem when you switch to a particular input.
Audio wise, the
display allows for a set of analog stereo inputs for each of the source
inputs, but does not decode HDMI audio. In any case, I would strongly advise
against routing audio through a plasma display – use your A/V receiver
Aspect ratio control
is fairly standard. Panasonic's JUST aspect ratio for fitting 4:3 sources
onto its 16:9 frame, works quite nicely. It combines a bit of zoom with
non-linear distortion and some top/bottom trimming. The result does lose a
bit of detail above and below the image, but the screen appears to be very
natural and undistorted. Horizontal pans and tickers did not leave me
seasick, which is a good sign. Something strange with the JUST setting is
that it behaves quite differently depending on which input is being used.
For example, it was nearly unnoticeable with the S-Video input, but was much
more pronounced when the component input was in use.
PIP functionality is
pretty simple and generic, but I found the functions to control it overly
confusing, and I ended up continually press buttons until it somehow worked
and provided me with what I wanted. Panasonic should really rethink their
strategy on how to control this feature.
The color gamut test
was quite interesting. Blues are lacking (as usual with plasmas), but are
closer to the ideal than any other plasma I have tested thus far. Reds and greens
are further out than the ATSC/NTSC standards require, which is good. I'm
seeing some improvements to the blue situation with each generation of
plasma, but I am quite hopeful they can finally cover the entire ATSC color
The first graph
below shows the RGB levels before calibration, and the second one shows RGB
calibration. The third graph shows the color gamut.
to an S-curve gamma. This type of graph sacrifices black and white level
detail by emphasizing mid-level detail. This does bring out better looking
pictures (in most people's eyes), but is less accurate and not quite what
the video-editor/director of the movie intended.
The default color
temperature graph at S-box mode is in a word: terrible. It fluctuates all
over the place and requires a significant amount of effort to calibrate.
The gamma curve when
the display is set to 2.2 comes out at roughly 1.91. With color temperature
set to WARM, the display shows a nice gamma curve with two small bumps at 30
IRE and 50 IRE. The color temperature graph is also a lot more stabile when
S-Curve is not in use.
With the screen set
to gamma=2.5, I was able to measure 2.16 gamma before calibration and 2.19
The sharpness filter
on the screen should be set to zero, and I consider it this display's worst
feature. Using a simple 10 IRE bar graph (HDMI input), sharpness at any
point above 0 yields an unwieldy white edge line in between the shades. This
will translate into heavy edge enhancement artifacts in real world content,
so keep this setting at zero.
In summary, the
Panasonic TH-42PHD8 plasma TV is a good display, which can be viewed from
up-close, and provides great features at an attractive price point. Its burn
protection is smooth and non-intrusive, and delivers a good compromise
between functionality and picture quality.
- Ofer LaOr -